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MSc Fellowships (2 Positions): Characterize mixed livestock systems in Ethiopia (closing date: 28 February 2019)

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to recruit two MSc students for interdisciplinary natural and social science research under a BMZ-funded project entitled “Programme for Climate-Smart Livestock (PCSL)”. The Project focuses on increasing the three main pillars of climate-smart agriculture: (1) increased agricultural productivity, (2) mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and (3) adaptation of livestock systems to climate change. One aim of the project is to characterize and baseline mixed crop-livestock systems to identify potentials and constraints for climate smart agriculture.

ILRI works to improve food and nutritional security and reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock. It is the only one of 15 CGIAR research centres dedicated entirely to animal agriculture research for the developing world. Co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, it has regional or country offices and projects in East, South and Southeast Asia as well as Central, East, Southern and West Africa.

The position

The position will investigate livestock characteristics in agricultural production systems with a major focus on ruminants (small and large) and aims at collecting a suite of data required for establishing accurate Tier 2 GHG emissions baselines across different agroecological zones for the duration of one year. A standardized protocol that was already successfully applied in Kenya and Tanzania will be followed, following its adaptation to the regional context.


Dietary changes and growing populations in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are leading to major increases in the demand for livestock products. In East Africa, livestock is a major source of rural income and food security. Livestock production provides between 40 and 55% of household incomes and 26% of dietary protein intake. Across East Africa, livestock production is predominantly managed by smallholder farmers. In mixed crop-livestock systems, half of the agricultural workforce is employed in livestock production; in extensive dryland livestock systems this figure exceeds 90%. Thus, growth in demand for livestock products is an important opportunity to improve incomes for smallholder livestock producers.

At the same time, livestock is a major contributor to anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is estimated that livestock-related GHG emissions represent over 70% of total agriculture emissions in developing countries. In more detail, GHG emission intensities (i.e. GHG emissions per unit of product) are assumed to be much higher than found in production systems in developed countries. The increasing growth in demand for livestock products is an urgent concern as this in turn could result in an increase in GHG emissions. Implementing mechanisms to remunerate smallholders to increase productivity and simultaneously contributing to reduced GHG emissions intensities requires accurate baseline data on GHG emissions from livestock in the first place and national policy support and engagement of the private sector in a second step. Currently, the development of Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) is increasingly prioritized by East African governments and donors, and the livestock sector is a promising target given their high emissions contributions and vital role in household incomes and food security. However, the lack of reliable estimates on GHG emissions associated with different practices and productivity levels for different systems is a barrier to the implementation of LEDS.

Scope of the MSc assignment

The MSc students will directly contribute to Activity A1 “Setting up GHG emissions baselines and performance indicators for adaptation interventions” of the project entitled “Programme for Climate-Smart Livestock (PCSL)”. Activity A1 aims particularly at characterizing livestock systems in terms of productivity and its environmental footprint by generating accurate Tier 2 GHG emissions baselines. This is necessary first step towards establishing and evaluating mitigation options from livestock production while also providing pathways to enhancing the productivity and sustainability of livestock systems. The MSc students will contribute to this by undertaking the following research activities:

  • Categorize the livestock production systems currently used in the dry Afar region as well as in the highlands around Debre Berhan (size of available pastures, household size, number and type of animals etc.).
  • Gather livestock production-related data (i.e. liveweight gain, milk production), activity data such as distance travelled and feedstuff-related data (i.e., plant cover, chemical composition of feeds and forages) to enable better estimation of year-long energy expenditure as well as feed availability and quality.
  • Perform behavioral observations including feeding behavior, diet composition and activity pattern of target animals.
  • Carry out household surveys to derive important changes in farm activities over the course of one year.
  • Collate and analyze the collected data under supervision of ILRI supervisors.

Qualifications and skills

The ideal candidate for either of the position will have:

  • Obtained an honors Bachelor’s degree in animal production or animal (ruminant) nutrition.
  • Is enrolled in an accredited MSc program in an Ethiopian university and be near completion of coursework.
  • Experience in East Africa and/or with agricultural production systems in developing countries.
  • Willingness to work extended hours in field, flexibility and a high degree of independence if required.
  • Familiarity with statistical software such as SPSS or R. In-depth knowledge of Microsoft Excel for data entry and common practices of data quality control and data quality assurance.
  • Ability to supervise and train research assistants and provide necessary advice.
  • Excellent written and spoken English. Ability to converse in Amharic or a local language is a major asset.
  • Ability to effectively communicate in a multicultural context, present findings to diverse audiences, and support facilitation of multi-stakeholder workshops.
  • Good ability to integrate into an international interdisciplinary team of researcher and practitioners and ability to collaborate with social scientists in a multidisciplinary project.

ILRI Program: Sustainable Livestock Systems

Project Location: Ethiopia

Duration: 1- year

Terms of appointment: ILRI will offer a competitive stipend to cover living expenses in the project location, medical insurance and cover research expenses. The fellowship will NOT cover tuition or any other university fees. The successful candidate will be supervised jointly by an ILRI scientist and the university/academic supervisor. The ideal candidate will be able to develop a full proposal under guidance of the university supervisor and the ILRI Mazingira Centre supervisor. It is anticipated that fieldwork will begin in July/August 2019.

​​​​​​​How to apply: Applicants should send a cover letter and CV expressing their interest in the position, what they can bring to the job and the names and addresses (including telephone and email) of three referees who are knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience to the Director, People and Organizational Development through our recruitment portal on or before 28 February, 2019. The position title and reference number REF: SLS/MSC PCSL ETH GF/02/2019 should be clearly marked on the subject line of the cover letter.

We thank all applicants for their interest in working for ILRI. Due to the volume of applications, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

ILRI does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process (application, interview meeting, processing or training). ILRI also does not concern itself with information on applicants’ bank accounts.

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ILRI is an equal opportunity employer.

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