Graduate Research in Agricultural Ecology

Lead Organization:

Charles Sturt University

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa


Tanzania Malawi




This project will operate in association with a three-year project that has been funded ($400,000) by the United Kingdom Government’s Darwin Initiative (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for International Development). Those funds support research that will investigate harnessing ecosystem services, especially pest regulation and pollination, to enhance sustainability and food security in Tanzania and Malawi. This request to the CCRP is for funds to support two PhD students to undertake their research within the wider context of the project.

Grant Aims:

To train two young African scientists (with the intention of at least one to be a woman) in an international, collaborative doctoral program that will involve them developing bean production systems based on ecosystem services (e.g., biological pest suppression rather than hazardous synthetic insecticides).  After graduating it is expected that the students will be able to serve as expert change agents for food security.
The project will therefore ultimately help to improve the food security and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Tanzania and Malawi and thereby contribute to the wider challenge of bringing about a world where all people have access to the nutritious food they need on the terms they can afford, and where food is sustainably produced to protect local resources and respect cultural values.


Outputs and Outcomes:

The project will survey biodiversity in bean production ecosystems in Tanzania and evaluate their ecologies.  These surveys will identify naturally occurring plant species that provide habitat for natural enemies of pests,  promote the activity of pollinator insects in crops that can be gathered to produce environmentally-benign ‘botanical insecticides’. This will involve a systematic analysis of roles and interactions of pest and biological control species and habitats. It will also support the development of management systems that increase productivity through strategic integration of biodiversity.
Based on the knowledge gained, the project will develop interventions that maintain and optimize these ecosystem services. The students will be registered at the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology and undertake their field studies in Tanzania and they will visit Charles Sturt University during the first year of the project to receive training in laboratory and field techniques. The studentships will generate new knowledge that can lead to enhanced productivity of beans and will acquire new skills in an emerging area of research and so the project will make an important contribution to the development of human capacity in the Southern Africa region.