Closing date for applications: 28 November 2020

Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University

The Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST),, builds on a strong history of transdisciplinary research and complexity studies at Stellenbosch University, providing a vibrant hub for solution‐oriented, transdisciplinary, sustainability science that hosts leading scientists and students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds in an interactive state‐of‐the‐art research centre.

Research topics

  1. Post doc: A comparison of governance of WEF nexus in Cape Town and a Mpumalanga

Project background: Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience in the Cape Town Metropolitan Region

The South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and NWO granted funding for a 3 year project (starting in January 2021) within the Cooperation South Africa-The Netherlands research programme, NWO website. This funding programme falls under the Merian Fund at NWO. The Merian Fund is a fund for international cooperation with important (emerging) science countries. The common thread within the Merian Fund is international research to promote the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals worldwide.

The project targets solutions that balance trade-offs and amplify synergies between the food, water, and energy sectors while simultaneously preserving the environment. The principal investigators for this project, Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience in the Cape Town Metropolitan Region include CST Co-Director, Prof. Mark Swilling.

This research is concerned with improving the capacity of urban residents, the economy and public authorities to prepare for, cope with, and learn from, the resource crises affecting Cape Town. An ongoing water crisis has led to citywide water rationing. The city has witnessed several power blackouts due to an energy crisis, and food insecurity is endemic in low-income areas. These challenges are increasingly complex and require better coordination among multiple stakeholders from the energy, water and food sectors. Applying a ‘Water-energy-food nexus approach’, this project explores how such coordination may be organized to support Cape Town’s resilience strategy.

This research project proposes to develop a water, energy, and food nexusing approach that increases resilience capabilities in the Cape Town Metropolitan region. The water-energy-food nexus will be critically examined through three main points of departure: (1) understand the multi-dimensional interaction of water, energy and food systems, (2) assess how the water-energy-food nexus materialises in selected socio-spatial contexts in Cape Town, and (3) understand the wicked governance challenges of mitigating, coping with, preparing for, and adapting to urban resource crises. Finally, the project will develop multi-scale procedural guidelines and policy briefs to inform and coordinate nexusing practices and resilience strategies.

To achieve these objectives, the research adopts a complex systems approach which systematically addresses the multi-dimensional nature of the water-energy-food nexus. Through a multi-disciplinary approach and in close collaboration with academic and societal partners, WEF nexusing will be explored as a broader process-oriented approach to how resources do, and can, interact and be governed across siloed domains.

With collaborating academic and social partners, a cross-disciplinary examination of WEF interactions using a mixed-methods approach will be designed consisting of:

  • material-flow analysis,
  • integrated socio-metabolic flow analysis,
  • a set of facilitated dialogues with public-private-community partners to review Cape Town’s transition management processes,
  • case study methods and micro-economic analysis,
  • household-level econometric data regarding household nexusing practices, and
  • policy and institutional analyses.

Specific requirements:

Applicants should have a keen interest in sustainability, food, water, or energy systems, and the ability to integrate across the social and natural sciences. The candidate must enjoy collaboration and working in teams. In addition, the candidate will be expected to work closely with the project social partner, the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, in carrying out some of the research activities. Experience in conducting interviews and running focus groups will be advantageous.

The following MPHIL courses will be an added advantage to the applicant:

  • Food Security and Globalised Agriculture
  • Food System Transitions
  • Development Planning and Environmental Analysis
  • Sustainable Cities

Opportunity for a Postdoctoral student 

We seek motivated individuals interested to pursue a Postdoc linked to this project.

Applicants should have a keen interest in sustainability and sustainability transitions, in interest in food, water, or energy systems, an interest and ability to integrate across the social and natural sciences, and enjoy collaboration and working in teams. Experience in conducting interviews and running focus groups will be advantageous. Interested individuals should have a strong academic track‐record, participate in the events and activities of the CST, and be interested in developing a career around topics such as social‐ecological systems, resilience and risk, complexity thinking, social innovation and sustainability transformations.

Call for applications 

We seek motivated individuals to contribute to exploring how WEF crises interrelate, how they materialise differently across socio-spatial contexts and how governance complexities are and can be addressed.

Successful candidates will be registered at Stellenbosch University and co-supervised by Prof Mark Swilling and Prof Scott Drimie at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at Stellenbosch University. Degrees will generally be registered within the Faculty Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University, but other options can be considered. Successful candidates are expected to commence their degree at Stellenbosch University in January 2021.

Bursary value 

Postdoctoral full-time over 3 years: R220 000/annum.


Applications are invited from Southern African nationals from the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Female BCIA applicants will be considered first.

The Postdoc the candidate should already hold a PhD degree or in the process to be awarded.

Students need to be able to communicate and write in English. Preference will be given to students who can work independently, are well organised, and who will be willing to participate in the regular activities of the CST at Stellenbosch University.

To apply 

Interested candidates should send:

  • a motivation letter detailing why you are well-suited to undertake this project, including your previous experience, your general area of interest, as well as your specific interest in this project and project-related ideas,
  • a 2-page CV that includes your academic record, previous work experience, any scientific publications on which you have been an author, and the names and contact details of at least two academic referees,
  • transcripts of university-level academic qualifications,
  • at least one example of recent written work (e.g. a paper, report, thesis chapter).

Applicants possessing the prescribed minimum qualifications are invited to submit the above required documents electronically to Amanda Gcanga at CST: and Merin Jacob at CST: with the subject line:

  • Postdoc applicants:
    • “Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience in the Cape Town Postdoctoral Research”

We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, but closing please ensure your applications are in before the closing date: 28 November 2020.

CST and Stellenbosch University reserve the right to not fill the post if there are no suitable candidates who meet the requirements.