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Call for Early Career Researchers

Call for Early Career Researchers

Apply now to be an early career researcher

The Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) will establish its African Futures Research Leadership Program in Fall 2019. The competitive visiting scholar program will target early career female researchers from the eight AAP member institutions to be jointly supervised by faculty members from MSU and their home institution in research for impact, writing of scholarly and/or policy publications, dissemination of research results and grant proposals. Early career researchers will also participate in a structured academic advancement program while building bridges and lasting connections with MSU and across their cohort. They will also participate in the Future Africa Research Leadership Program at the University of Pretoria, which will provide them with training in the areas of thought leadership, team development, research development, engagement and collaboration, while building south-south collaboration with other African researchers. The home insitution mentor will visit MSU for one week of collaboration discussions. Towards the end of the program, MSU faculty mentors will spend one week at the early career researcher’s home institution to continue research collaboration with the researcher and their African co-mentor.

For more info, including eligibilty and application requirements, see the call for early career researchers

The AAP has identified six highly interrelated thematic areas to focus on:


1. Agri-food Systems
2. Water, Energy, & Environment
3. Youth Empowerment

4. Education
5. Culture
6. Health & Nutrition


All of our potential faculty mentors are working in one of these six areas. Click below to learn more about their projects and select one that best aligns with your interests.

Agri-food Systems Mentors

Agri-food Systems

Humanity depends on agri-food systems for its survival and development. Agri-food systems constitute the institutions and people involved in getting food from farm to fork – from suppliers of inputs and services, to farmers themselves, to traders, processors, retailers and all others involved in putting food on peoples’ tables. Agri-food systems are increasingly multi-functional, often providing renewable sources of energy, ecosystem services, materials for construction, and many other resources that support human livelihoods. The evolution of agri-food systems are increasingly intertwined with energy, food, water and land policies.

Dana Infante - Mapping African Great Lakes fish value chains

Dana InfanteThe research project has been developed by the mentoring team in collaboration with LUANAR and the UN FAO (Devin Bartley and Simon Funge-Smith) following the recommendations of a stakeholders’ workshop on fish value chains that took place 8-11 October, 2018 in Mangochi and Lilongwe, Malawi. The project combines social science survey research with GIS methods to analyze flows of fish and economic value across space. Surveys with fishers, fish processors and traders, wholesalers, and retailers will gather information on exchanges of fish along the value chain, including data on quantity and type of fish exchanged, input costs, price, net earnings, amount of fish directed to household consumption, gender, property rights, and access to capital and resources. The GPS coordinates of each survey will be marked to allow spatial analysis of the data. The results will illuminate the landscape of fish value chains at a new level of social and economic nuance, which is important for assessing policy interventions and tradeoffs. This project builds on a pilot study on Lake Malawi fish value chains currently underway by Dr. Bennett’s postdoctoral research associate, Park Muhonda, in collaboration with Emmanuel Kaunda at LUANAR. More




Laura Schmitt Olabisi - Resilient Urban Food Systems in the Growing South and the Shrinking North

Laura Schmitt Olabisi

Urban food systems have become a major topic of interest in the rapidly urbanizing nations of Africa, and in the post-industrial cities of the United States. As an increasing portion of the global population resides in cities, the question of how to design urban food systems that are ecologically sustainable, equitable, accessible, resilient to climate impacts, and which support human health, grows ever more pressing. Proposed solutions include integrating agriculture into the urban landscape through community gardens, urban livestock rearing, or indoor agriculture; or conceptualizing urban centers as an integral part of a ‘foodshed’ which includes urban consumers, productive agricultural lands, and the ecosystems which support them. Yet the scientific research behind these potential solutions to the problem of urban food sustainability remains surprisingly sparse when set against the pressing need for policy implementation.  Moreover, cities are inherently dynamic, complex, and uncertain environments, which complicates the process of planning around urban food systems. A research approach to urban food systems should therefore emphasize resilience to larger-scale drivers (demographic change, climate change, global economic shifts, etc.) and employ integrative systems methods. More

Eric Benbow - Insect Farming of Food Waste to Produce an Alternative Protein Source

M. Eric Benbow

As the global human population approaches nine billion, the associated demand for food products will double in the next 40 years. However, increasing agricultural commodities to meet the demand for global food products exacerbates several issues of human concern. For example, there is concern about adequate, nutritious global food production (e.g., shortage in available protein) with continued population growth, due negative impacts from climate change, natural resources depletion, deceased livestock production, and conversation of land use from cultivation to residential areas. Presently, land use for livestock production directly or indirectly represents 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the world’s surface land area. Limitations of these social, economic, and natural resource will further manifest into amplified social pressures, such as, but not limited to, increased rates of disease and a lack of agricultural entrepreneurship in the following generations, which further weakens the global economy. More




Sieg Snapp - Agroeconomic systems in Malawi and Tanzania

Sieglinde Snapp

Smallholder farmers play a key role in food security and agricultural development around the globe, yet yield gaps remain stubbornly high. Achievable crop yields are often three fold higher than attainable yields. It is urgent that this gap be narrowed – particularly in sub Saharan African rural communities. Agronomic research and extension may be missing the mark with recommendations that do not take into account local environments and farmer practices. Farmers of Central Malawi practice mixed maize rainfed farming systems that are broadly typical of smallholder farmers, thus we have established a study site with over 600 farmers and 1200 fields, where we are monitoring socio-economic, farm management, farmer preferences, soil properties and crop performance all to provide novel insights into how to support productivity gains in sub Saharan Africa. The agroecology research group I lead uses multidisciplinary research approaches, and collaborates with geographers, agricultural economists, statisticians, nutritionists, environmental and soil scientists to better understand Agri-Food systems, a key theme of the Alliance for African Partnerships. To learn more about my research group check out the research learning lab website that describes our on-going research in Malawi and Tanzania: More

Water, Energy, & Environment Mentors

Water, Energy, & Environment

The resources of water, energy and the environment are interdependent and require integrated approaches to research and implementation that recognize the cross-sectoral nature of both challenges and solutions. Achieving sustainability and wise use of these globally essential resources requires an understanding of the synergies among them as well as the trade-offs among competing demands.

Frederi Viens - Africa's Great Oasis: Attribution of Lake Chad's Variability to Human & Environmental Factors

 Prof. Viens has been leading a group of scholars and students since 2013 to understand interactions between the complex hydrology of Lake Chad in the Eastern Sahel, its potential for ecosystem services, the impact of smallholder farmer irrigation in its basin, and the possible connections to global climate change. Beyond the computational data analysis and coordination work summarized above, the early-career researcher will also help Viens with writing publications as a co-author, composing grant applications, and will have opportunities to participate in other Africa-centric data-science activities. More




Elizabeth Mack - Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

My mentee will be involved in writing peerreviewed scholarly journal articles and white papers to disseminate findings to the policy community. I am a co-PI on a Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) grant with Dr. Erin Bunting about water scarcity and conflict in Africa which provides funding for a network of U.S. and African-based scholars and policymakers to work collaboratively. The research activities associated with the SESYNC grant fall into multiple AAP priority areas through most prominently: water, energy, and environment. The objectives of the SESYNC grant would be the focal point of research with my mentee. She will synthesize, analyze and write publications and related grants on the themes listed below: (1) Multi-scaler analysis of drivers of water scarcity (e.g. physical, political, socioeconomic, and demographic factors). (2) Strategies for mitigating the risk of conflict in times of water scarcity. More


David Skole - Sustainable Landscapes and Ecosystem Valuation in Woodlands, Savannas and Systems of Trees Outside of Forests in Malawi, Kenya and Senegal

David SkoleI am currently working on several projects related to Land Use and Land Cover Change and Ecosystems. These project are focused on i) Tools, Techniques and Methods (TTM), ii) Knowledge and Data Management (KDM) systems, and iii) Training and Capacity Building (TCB) models to address Sustainable Landscapes, Carbon Management and Ecosystem Services Valuation. These projects build upon prior work and experience with support from USAID, GEF/UNEP, World Bank Forest Investment Program (FIP Monitoring and Reporting Toolkit) and NASA (LCLUC). We have worked extensively in Malawi, Kenya and Senegal. We have worked with LUANAR and UCAD extensively, hosting faculty from these institutions and graduate students from these countries. In Kenya we have worked extensively with KEFRI and ICRAF. The focus of the TTMs is support for national and subnational (district and community) technical means for National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS), sustainable forest management (SFM) and ecosystem services valuation (ESV), applied at the landscape level. These TTMs are embedded in a capacity building model, also used in these previous projects. More


Meredith L. Gore - Exploring the gendered dimensions of wildlife trafficking in Africa

Meredith Gore

Illegal wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking create risks to species and societies in which they occur. These environmental risks have implications beyond species extinction and animal welfare, although those risks can be substantial. Wildlife trafficking is associated with corruption, money laundering, degradation of the rule of law, national insecurity, spread of zoonotic disease, undercutting sustainable development investments, erosion of cultural resources and convergence with other serious crimes. Although wildlife trafficking is occurring in at least 120 countries around the world, Africa is home to many high-profile species, protected areas, and people involved in the global criminal economy. (e.g., pangolin scales to Asia; African gray parrots to Europe; cheetah cubs to the Middle East; African vulture brains from Cameroon to South Africa). Studying wildlife trafficking in Africa is underscored by the cross-border and transboundary nature of the crime, diversity of wildlife populations, and community-based management regimes. More

Youth Empowerment Mentors

Youth Empowerment

Young people in Africa face economic and social and challenges including equitable access to economic and educational opportunities. At the same time, youth seek more equal opportunities to engage in civic, economic, social and political participation. Research and programming for youth empowerment addresses these and other aspects of youth livelihoods through research and action that is led by, and inclusive of, young people themselves. Through youth empowerment initiatives young people will be included in effective and democratic leadership; build economic and social resiliency; and participate in policy reforms that will address their own future development.

Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz - The Determinants and Effects of Youth Engagement

Increasing opportunities for youth—and harnessing their civic potential—is therefore a crucial component of building better governance in Africa. Realizing this, local organizations are devoting considerable resources to youth-oriented programs involving civic education, capacity-building exercises, and development of virtual civic spaces that can enable information sharing and collective action. Engaged youth have the potential to agitate for more-inclusive policy-making, improve service delivery, and combat corruption, both in terms of how resources are allocated and how democratic institutions function. More





Leapetswe Malete - Using Sport Based Life Skills Programs to Enhance Entrepreneurship and Academic Outcomes in Youth

Leapetswe Malete PhotoDespite the rapid growth of African economies, significant youth development challenges persist. These include high rates of unemployment (estimated at 35.6%; ILO, 2017), stressed education systems, socioeconomic disparities, and unsustainable patterns of internal, regional, and global migration. Nonetheless, young Africans have demonstrated that they have the tenacity to thrive under these challenging circumstances. The youths’ capacities to optimize the digital revolution, sports, and other artistic endeavors are excellent indicators of their potential to transform themselves and their communities. Yet this potential remains largely untapped, less appreciated, and less developed. More

Education Mentors


Education is at the core of human learning and development. Societies and individuals learn through education at all levels to develop critical thinking and make responsible decisions that affect lives and livelihoods. Education includes all processes of human learning and development including policy and implementation so that the contexts for learning and teaching are sustainable and equitable.

Stephen Esquith - Peace Education

I have worked with students, faculty, and administrators at the Universite des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Bamako (ULSHB) since its opening three years ago.  The focus of this work has been on peace education. With AAP support alongside teachers at three NGOs in Mali (Institut pour l’Education Populaire, Right to Play, and International Sports Alliance), ULSHB faculty and a group of ULSHB students have participated in the peace education curriculum that we have designed. This includes our picture books, political simulations, and other active learning pedagogies. The ULSHB students kept a teaching journal and participated in several community forums with the young students they have worked with.

 One of the needs of ULSHB is professional development for its faculty, many of whom do not have a terminal doctoral degree, and those who do, have not had the opportunity to do more advanced research in their fields. The research project that I think would be of value to ULSHB post-doctoral faculty would be in the area of the scholarship of engagement, with a focus on youth empowerment.  The research project would address how young people, especially young women, can learn how to participate in peace building activities and use these skills in local community forums and other practical ways in Mali. More

Culture Mentors


Cultural heritage and cultural activities are essential resources for society and for human development. In the face of global challenges, cultural values and practices provide opportunities for creative innovation and make a connection with the experiences and wisdom of past generations. Creative cultural practices allow societies and individuals to foster human dignity, well-being and sustainability. Through culture communities can creatively identify and explore new approaches and frameworks in, for example: conflict-resolution and peace-building activities; youth empowerment; inter-generational dialogue; and human-environment sustainability.

Jualynne Dodson - Religion, Research & New Transatlantic Learning: Africa and the African Diaspora of the Americas

# The scholar and I would jointly conceptualize, design, and hopefully investigate a select Africa inspired religious tradition and practices. In the African Diaspora of the Americas there are many such traditions from which to choose. Also, given the growing migration of African citizens to the Americas, there is an equally increasing number of religious practices that have contemporarily transferred from the continent with at least one published volume (Manglos-Weber 2017) on the phenomenon. With guidance, the scholar will accomplish independent reading before we embark on conceptualizing and designing a research project on religion and African and/or African descendants. More



Deo Ngonyani - Digital Archiving of Data from Undocumented Languages

CD116-0036- Sibanda scaled.jpgThis proposal seeks support for a postdoctoral fellow to collaborate with the mentor to (a) build a digital archive of language data collected from fieldwork including Dhaisu and Kisi and other East African languages; (b) co-author and co-present linguistics papers; and (c) write a grant proposal for Documenting Endangered Languages program of NSF. More

Health & Nutrition Mentors

Health & Nutrition

Nutrition is key to human well-being. Poor nutrition can lead to negative health outcomes that are widespread, and therefor to persistent development challenges. These range from under-nutrition due to deficiencies in energy, protein, and micronutrients (and high rates of infections) to problems of overweight, obesity, and non-communicable diseases, which result from poor quality, energy-dense and micronutrient-poor diets and low physical activity. Research in this area addresses all forms of malnutrition and the overall goal is to generate a rich body of evidence on what works to improve nutrition and health – and what does not – and how nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific interventions, programs and policies can be better designed and implemented to maximize impacts. Nutrition researchers often work in partnership with program implementers and policymakers to foster collaboration and integration across the health, agriculture, social protection, education, water, and sanitation sectors.

Lorraine Weatherspoon - Addressing Malnutrition in Uganda and Malawi

Lorraine Weatherspoon 

This proposal addresses the triple burden of malnutrition in Africa including stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, and diet-related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), such as Type 2 diabetes, with a focus on experiences in Uganda and Malawi. Despite global efforts to address the problem of maternal and child under-nutrition, especially in conjunction with infectious diseases such HIV/AIDS in many developing countries, the challenge persists.  Juxtaposed is the nutrition transition encompassing the proliferation of an obesogenic food environment in most cities and towns that has led to an escalation of NCD (Popkin, 2015). There is hence a critical need for nutrition research to inform policies that recognize the need to focus on malnutrition prevention and management in all its forms. More



Masako Fujita - Investigating associations between maternal multiple nutrient deficiencies and breast milk nutrients using samples from Ariaal women in northern Kenya

 The positive health impacts of breastfeeding on children are well established. Among breastfed children, however, morbidity and mortality vary considerably. Variation in the nutrient or immune contents in milk may contribute to these differences. The existing literature is inconclusive as to the effects of maternal malnutrition on breast milk nutrient contents. This may be due, in part, to the covert nature of some aspects of maternal nutrition, such as micronutrient deficiencies, that may not be captured by a global measure such as Body Mass Index, typically utilized to quantify maternal nutrition. Inclusion of specific aspects of maternal nutrition may help clarify nutritional influences on maternal nutrient delivery to milk. In food-insecure environments, breastfeeding mothers may also suffer concurrent subclinical (asymptomatic) deficiencies in multiple micronutrients without exhibiting overt signs of malnutrition. The impact of concurrent multiple maternal nutrient deficiencies (e.g. iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency) may differ from the impact of a single nutrient deficiency. This introduces further complexity for understanding the variation of milk content attributable to maternal nutrition. More


Jennifer Fenton - The Morbidity Contribution of Micronutrient and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Deficiencies to Growth falthering and Neurocognitive Disorder in Perinatally HIV-exposed and Unexposed Ugandan Children

Jenifer FentonIncreasing access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in low and middle income countries (LMIC) has resulted in large reductions in number of perinatally HIV (PHIV) infected children, and earlier time of HAART initiation for current PHIV compared to their pre-HAART era peers.[5] At same time, at least 1.5 million children per year are perinatally HIV exposed but uninfected (HEU). [6]  Majority of HEU are exposed to HAART during highly sensitive developmental windows -including the first one thousand days of life, with poorly understood long-term consequences. Perinatal HIV exposure and punctuated/chronic HAART exposure for children of female PLWHA will persist for the foreseeable future and large numbers of these HIV-affected children are expected to survive into adulthood. The evidence that these vulnerable children are developing/thriving in the long-term, particularly with respect to neurodevelopment and quality of life (QOL), is limited. More


Michael Boivin - BPG (Brain Powered Games)

staff member photo

Opening a window into an HIV-affected child’s developing brain with African Brain Powered Games (BPG) training in at-risk children ( How can BPG be both an intervention and an assessment? We will use BPG as a neurocognitive “stress test” or medical “challenge” test, in order to evaluate brain/behavior functional integrity in HIV-affected children. This dual use of BPG is a key innovative feature.

Aided by NIH funding, we have developed an open access African BPG, a non-proprietary CCRT digital games package for HIV+ and affected school-age children living in the sub-Sahara. Mobile coverage for internet access is extremely high in this region (100% in Uganda and similarly widespread in Malawi, our test countries). More


Please contact Jose Jackson-Malete at jacks184(at) or 517-884-8587 with any questions.