A Masters bursary focusing on Agricultural trade networks in the Western Cape is available for 2020, based at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at Stellenbosch University. The CST (http://www.sun.ac.za/cst) builds on a strong history of transdisciplinary research and complexity studies and hosts leading scientists and students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, providing a vibrant hub for solution-oriented, transdisciplinary, sustainability science. The primary objective of the CST is to provide transformational knowledge on the dynamics of multi-scale social-ecological change, and strategic insights into the new modes of research and governance that can bring about a just transition to a more equitable and sustainable society, in southern Africa and globally.

Agricultural trade networks in the Western Cape.

Achieving sustainable agricultural transformation is an international policy development priority. Growing high-value crops for export has been shown to generate substantive positive socio-economic impacts for the producing regions. Most export horticultural production is irrigated and is increasingly using water drawn from rivers, dams and aquifers that would otherwise be available for supporting natural habitats and environmental flows, underpinning smallholder agriculture and urban development, and for hydropower and industry. While the direction of this MSc project is still very flexible, and we hope to develop the details of this project with the successful candidate, it will generally investigate how agricultural value chains increase or reduce resilience of the catchments and ecosystems and people within them, and whether increasing horticultural production can be met in a socially and environmentally equitable manner. The project will be embed within a larger project on agricultural value chains.

Call for applications

We seek motivated individuals interested to pursue a Masters, who have a keen interest in sustainability, an interest and ability to integrate across the social and natural sciences, and who enjoy collaboration and working in teams. Interested individuals should have a strong academic track-record, will be expected to be based at the CST and participate in Centre seminars and activities. Candidates should be interested in any of the following topics and concepts: social-ecological systems, resilience and risk, complexity thinking, tipping points and regime shifts, biodiversity and ecosystem services, social innovation and sustainability transformations. The candidate will be co-supervised by Dr Odirilwe Selomane, the Director of the international Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS, http://www.pecs-science.org/) and Prof Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, who holds the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Social-Ecological systems and Resilience.


Bursaries will be funded from the DST/NRF SARChI chair held by Prof Biggs, topped up to the following values:

  • Masters full-time over 2 years: R 120,000 pa (R 10,000 per month)
  • Tuition and reasonable running and travel expenses will be covered separately.


All students applying for a Masters degree should have completed an Honours or four-year undergraduate degree or equivalent to be eligible. All candidates should show evidence of strong scholarly performance. Undergraduate degrees in Agricultural Economics, Environmental Science, will be added advantages but are not required.

Based on the National Research Foundation’s funding guidelines, strong preference will be given to South African nationals and under-represented groups.

To apply

Interested candidates should send:

  • a motivation letter (detailing your previous experience, your general area of interest, as well as an outline of potential research topics of interest),
  • a detailed CV that includes your academic record, previous work experience, any scientific publications on which you have been an author, and the names of at least two academic referees,
  • transcripts of academic qualifications,
  • at least one example of recent written work (e.g. a paper, report, thesis chapter).

Please submit your applications electronically to Odirilwe Selomane: odirilwes@sun.ac.za

We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, but latest by 15 February 2020. Applications will be reviewed as they come.