Call for Concept Proposals for the Structural
Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) project


The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Cornell University are calling for concept proposals for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Fellows program. The STAARS project is a collaboration between Cornell University and the African Development Bank (AfDB) to advance in-depth, rigorous, policy-oriented research on the causal determinants of productivity and income growth, asset accumulation, rural employment and risk management in African agriculture and rural spaces. PIM has established a collaboration agreement with Cornell University to provide technical mentorship and support for selected early career African researchers.

STAARS Fellow Mumina Shibia (left) with her mentor John McPeak, professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University.

STAARS fellows will be selected through this competitive call for proposals. Once selected, STAARS fellows will be paired with mentors at Cornell University with whom they will jointly author a paper on a topic of mutual interest relating to structural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa. PIM will support the publication of resulting research findings in high quality journals and as working papers. In addition, PIM and Cornell will facilitate fellows’ participation in scientific and policy conferences.

The STAARS Fellowship began in 2016 and to date has supported 18 fellows from diverse backgrounds. Learn about past fellows here.

Select STAARS Fellows' Publications

Scope of Research and Geographic Focus

Prospective STAARS fellows are invited to develop proposals in the following thematic areas.

  • Dynamics of agriculture input use, technological change, and productivity growth in Africa south of the Sahara.
  • Rural factor market performance, labor exits and productivity in Africa south of the Sahara.
  • Food security, nutrition and health linkages in Africa south of the Sahara.
  • Poverty dynamics and resilience against shocks in Africa south of the Sahara.

STAARS fellows’ rigorous policy analysis should use existing data, such as the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) or similar datasets from sub-Saharan Africa.


The call is open for early career African researchers, either Ph.D. students in their final year or those who completed their Ph.D. in 2014 or later. Priority is given to researchers based and working in – or soon returning to – Africa, with priority given to proposals relating to the research themes indicated above. Qualified female researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. STAARS encourages applications from fresh Ph.D. graduates who can benefit from a mentorship and additional training to become highly competent researchers. Fellows are expected to complete the proposed project by publishing findings as a working paper and submitting to a peer-reviewed journal by December 15, 2019.

The selected applicants will receive funds to cover travel and participation in a three-week mentorship program at Cornell University. No funds are available to support an individual’s time, so written permission from one’s supervisor will be required. No funds are available to support data collection or other research expenses.

The 2019 STAARS application process is now closed. We expect to release another call for proposals in early 2020. Please check back for updates.

From left to right: Joanna Upton, Soumaila Gansonre, Chris Barrett, Liz Bageant, Garrick Blalock, Mumina Shibia (front), Brian Dillon (back) Margaret Jodlowski, John McPeak, Colleta Gandidzanwa, Khadijat Busola.