‘Thesis Fellowship’ for MSc Programme on Integrated Drylands Management - Call 2015-2016

Drylands management and youth[UNU-INWEH: YPARD: ICARDA]

Deadline for applications: July 30th, 2015

Proposed Master’s Thesis Topic: Research study on ‘Youth and Agriculture in the Drylands’

The lack of engagement of rural and urban youth in agriculture, compounded with the declining interest among young professionals in pursuing agricultural development related careers has resulted in an ageing system. Despite the recognition of the importance of engaging youth within the agricultural development community, a cohesive approach has not yet been defined and efforts remain fragmented and piecemeal.

While some research has been undertaken in this field, it is still emerging and more information is required to develop appropriate strategies, policies and programmes.  Youth remain a highly diverse group of people, with different backgrounds, drivers and experience leading to varying ideas, aspirations and challenges. To effectively capture their viewpoints, their aspirations, and their realities with regards to agriculture, well designed research is required to target different youths in rural, peri-urban and urban regions, at different levels of wealth and education. Youth are a critical component of this talent and are necessary for sustainable drylands systems in the years to come. We must harness youth talent for innovation and development for sustainable drylands management. 

Project description

This thesis will contribute to the development of youth targeted programmes in the drylands (or the drylands youth strategy). Additional research will be undertaken by YPARD and the master’s thesis is designed to complement and add value to the research team’s work which entails:

a) Diagnostic analysis including adapting multidisciplinary methods and tools to identify youth issues (by gender, socio-economic class, ethnicity, etc.), specific knowledge gaps and entry points, and improve targeting.

b) Analytical study to identify youth issues, specific knowledge gaps and entry points to improve targeting.

c) Review Study: benefits of improved participation and leadership by youth in integrated resource management.

The outputs of the thesis will feed into drylands youth strategy that aims to target youth who are active and/or employed in the agricultural sector and those who are unemployed, underemployed or working in the informal sector. The strategy is aimed to achieve the goal : ‘Youth have better access to and control over productive assets, inputs, information, and market opportunities and capture a more equitable share of increased income, food, and other benefits’.

The focus will be upon rural youth, but urban youth will be included for additional perspectives. Inclusion of elders and others in the community is also important to understanding context, attitudes and opportunities

Geographical Coverage

This study will cover the three agricultural livelihood systems in Drylands: Pastoral, rain-fed and irrigated land and will focus to examine:

  • Anticipating dryland futures: Research that enables youth to create opportunities and promote innovation in rural areas.  Recommendations  to ensure that there is a viable future for youth in the drylands;

  • Co-producing knowledge for win-win options: youth have knowledge that is not often collected in traditional research.  Additional input provides a more comprehensive understanding of the current situation and potential future for youth and employment in the drylands.

  • Facilitating policies, institutions and governance for scaling and enabling innovation: A research thesis will feed into the larger programme that will guide interventions to the needs and aspirations of young people in drylands. Subsequent programmes targeting the needs of young people support the potential for increased innovation.


a) To identify knowledge gaps in the literature and where additional knowledge can strengthen the research base specifically within the drylands system;

b) To collect rigorous and up to date data on country and culturally variable drivers, aspirations and challenges of youth which will inform and enable the development of appropriate youth focused programmes based on expressed youth needs;

c) To outline recommendations  for developing appropriate policies for youth in agriculture in the drylands project sites

Suggested Research Methods

  • Desk review study to discern trends and potential areas of youth development especially focusing on  drylands management

  • In-depth interviews to capture aspirations and past and planned life trajectories with young people of different typologies. 

  • Focus groups in local areas to obtain feedback on norms, aspirations, and methods for tangibly engaging young people.  Focus groups will target youth as well as influencers of youth.  Influencers are those who will influence attitudes and future decisions of youth in the community.  These may be community leaders, parents, teachers, religious leaders and local role models among other relevant individuals.   


  1. Undertake a literature analysis to assess the existing information related to youth aspirations and youth involvement with agricultural value chains with a focus on drylands areas and identify gaps where additional information is required;
  2. Identify the key questions for the surveys and focus groups.  These will be developed in collaboration with YPARD staff and resource persons and modified according to feedback from drylands CRP staff team as well as an additional experts on youth and agriculture issues;
  3. Connect YPARD representatives , ICARDA staff  and assigned  research supervisors   to obtain additional feedback on local study questions and areas of importance for youth engagement ;
  4. Compile data, information and knowledge for identified regions ( where possible referring to the  background outlined in Annexure 1*)
  5. Develop a review document on the findings; and suggest youth appropriate programme interventions.
  6. Disseminate the finding widely through media campaign to youth groups and agricultural development organisations ( in support with YPARD and other program partners)


  • Master’s thesis report fills knowledge gaps and provide a better understanding of the realities and potential futures of youth in the drylands;

  • Master’s studies reflects youth-expressed needs and suggestions on the development of appropriate and effective programmes targeting youth in the drylands;

  • Along with the thesis the candidate is required to deliver a  briefing note that will inform different stakeholders on appropriate actions to engage youth in the agricultural sector;

Expected Timeline Thesis: October 2015-March 2016

The thesis will be conducted under the supervision of:

University-The candidate will have to identify a supervisor in the University where he/she is registered

From the participating organisations the contact detail are as below:

YPARD – Ms Courtney Paisley, Director, YPARD

ICARDA – Gender and Youth coordinator, ICARDA

UNU- Dr Nidhi Nagabhatla [YPARD, SC Chair] & UNU-INWEH (

For inquires through YPARD, contact: Marina Cherbonnier:


The candidate should be applying following the instructions at

Apply by July 30th, 2015.

Please indicate in your application that you are applying for the ‘Thesis Fellowship” for Youth and Agriculture in the Drylands.

The candidate should ideally be registered in a master’s degree program in social science or agriculture science discipline in his/her university (generally the application is open to all related disciplines)

Application from YPARD members will be given preference 

Download this Thesis Fellowship announcement as a pdf file.