Doctoral Researcher (Multifunctional Use of Agricultural Landscapes Under Climate Change Conditions)

United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES)

Dresden, Germany 🇩🇪

POSITION: Personal Service Agreement – PSA
LOCATION: Dresden, Germany
CLOSING DATE: 2021•10•03

About United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in policy-oriented research, capacity development and dissemination of knowledge in furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

For the past four decades, UNU has been a go-to think tank for impartial research on human survival, conflict prevention, sustainable development, and welfare. With more than 400 researchers in 12 countries, UNU’s work spans the 17 Sustainable Development Goals’ full breadth, generating policy-relevant knowledge to effect positive global change. UNU maintains more than 200 collaborations with UN agencies and leading universities and research institutions across the globe.

United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES)

UNU-FLORES develops strategies to resolve pressing issues in the sustainable use and integrated management of environmental resources such as water, soil, waste, energy, and other geo-resources that are of concern to the United Nations and its Member States — particularly in developing and emerging economies. Based in Dresden, Germany, the Institute engages in research, capacity development, postgraduate teaching, advanced training, and knowledge dissemination to advance the Resource Nexus.

Doctoral Research

The ever-increasing demand for food means that securing agricultural production is of great importance. Simultaneously degradation of land quality and climate change may jeopardise food production and water availability. This calls for multifunctional and productive agricultural systems that produce not only food and fibre but also various non-commodity outputs and ecosystem services, i.e., preventing soil and water resources from overuse, degradation, and pollution, as well as preserving biodiversity in a landscape context. Africa’s Leaders recognise these challenges; therefore, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are calling for a boost in agricultural productivity through improved use of agricultural soils embedded in complex landscapes, as well as better management of land and water resources under climate change and in a watershed context.

The main objective of this project is to develop strategies for a multifunctional rural landscape with sustainable land management by considering the characteristics of pilot areas of Tanzania and Kenya in terms of ecological (e.g., soils, relief, crop types and climate) and socioeconomic (e.g., income) conditions, which are vital not only to economic growth (SDG 8), protection of water resources (SDG 6), and land ecosystems (SDG 15) but are also fundamental to reducing poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2).

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to conduct their doctoral research under the guidance of supervisors at both UNU-FLORES and Technische Universitaet Dresden. The candidate will also collaborate with fellow doctoral researchers and senior scientists in research, event organisation and participation, publications, and contribute to the Implementation Plan of UNU-FLORES and the mission of the United Nations. As a facet of the project, interested candidates must consider the impact of their research on communities, and the potential for their research to be transferred to their home country, Tanzania, or Kenya, upon completion of the doctorate.


Responsibilities of the position include:

  • conduct research work related to the project “Multifunctional Use of Agricultural Landscapes Under Climate Change Conditions”
  • research, write, and publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • develop a robust methodology to assess synergy and trade-off of selected ecosystem services
  • support the development of a Resource Nexus approach for Agri-food and Forestry Systems
  • develop strategies for the dissemination and transfer of knowledge to other regions that face similar challenges
  • organise activities such as workshops related to the research project
  • work closely alongside the supervising team, with the eventual goal of co-supervising master theses in the research field
  • report research progress to the supervising team and in the project management system of UNU
  • maintain the database of the research project
  • contribute to the Institute’s educational programme and events, such as academic seminars, Dresden Nexus Conference, Doctoral Symposium, teaching activities, etc.
  • perform other duties related to the doctoral research, as assigned by the supervisor and the director

Required qualifications and experience

Required qualifications and experience include:

  • an excellent academic profile including a master’s degree (at least grade 2.5 or equivalent) in environmental science, natural resource management, ecology, forestry, agricultural sciences, hydrology, geography, watershed management, rural planning, or a related field
  • proven experience of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and hydrological model application is required; knowledge of remote sensing and Soil and Water Assessment (SAWT) is highly desirable
  • proven skills in statistical analysis and experience of fieldwork
  • knowledge of the environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic conditions and challenges facing agricultural production and multifunction use of rural landscapes (watershed context) in East Africa
  • proven experience in inter/transdisciplinary research, including interactions with relevant authorities and stakeholders
  • demonstrated proficiency in English and one of the major languages of Tanzania or Kenya, with excellent writing and presentation skills is mandatory; knowledge of German would be an asset
  • must be highly motivated and committed with the ability to work independently and a willingness to spend at least six months conducting field research
  • experience in an East African and German research cooperation would be beneficial
  • knowledge of a programming language such as Python or R would be highly advantageous
  • strong planning, organisation, and time management skills, with the ability to communicate clearly and efficiently
  • must be flexible with the ability to establish priorities and work within prescribed timeframes
  • an excellent team player with strong interpersonal skills, as demonstrated by the ability to work in a multicultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity

Duration and remuneration

In collaboration with the Saxon State Ministry for Energy, Climate Protection, Environment and Agriculture (SMEKUL), UNU-FLORES will provide a monthly stipend of EUR 1,566 for the duration of the doctoral research (up to a maximum of three (3) years). The stipend is expected to cover all living and education expenses. While the doctoral programme is tuition-free, semester fees of approximately EUR 250-300 will need to be paid directly to TU Dresden for enrolment. For additional information on the programme and the admission procedure, please visit our website.

The duration of the initial contract is one (1) year. This is a Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) contract with UNU, with the possibility for renewal subject to requirements and satisfactory work performance. The combined duration on a PSA contract with UNU may not exceed six (6) years. The mandatory age of retirement for PSA is 65 years.

Please note that due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19 and the travel restrictions imposed by national authorities, the selected candidate may be required to start the appointment remotely and until further notice.

Starting date

As soon as possible.


Evaluation of qualified candidates may include a desk review and/or a competency-based interview, background checks and references.

Special notice

PSA holders do not hold international civil servant status, nor are they considered a “staff member” as defined in the UN Staff Rules and Regulations.

PSA holders may be assigned to any of the activities or offices of the United Nations University.

UNU is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities to apply and become part of the organisation. Applications from developing countries, and from women are strongly encouraged. Eligible internal applicants are encouraged to apply.

UNU has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNU, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination.

Information about UNU rosters

UNU reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNU at the same grade level and with similar job descriptions, experiences, and educational requirements.