PhD position 'New information technologies in agricultural water management and agrarian change'

Wageningen University & Research
Wageningen, Netherlands
Position Type: 
Scholarship
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)
Apply By: 
25 September 2020
4 days remaining

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We are looking for

Do you want to find out how and why new information technologies in agricultural water management have resulted in agrarian transformation processes? What are the economic, political, cultural and technological drivers for these processes? To whom, how and why do new information technologies provide new agricultural opportunities?

To further explore how these new information technologies are changing production systems and related processes of ‘de/re agrarianization’, the Water Resources Management group invites PhD applications for a 4 year long PhD project in this field of research. We seek creative and innovative inter/transdisciplinary ideas for research in our field of study that fit and align with the research focus of the group (see Research of the Water Resources Management Group).

Background

To increase agricultural production and secure water supply, new sensor and information technologies have widely emerged. These include precision drip irrigation systems with sensors (on the ground, on satellites and on drones) to monitor real-time crop growth, water availability, water consumption and the local climate, and machine learning to optimize water application. New technologies also facilitate large-scale data processing, sharing and commercialization of information from e.g. weather forecasts, satellite images and climate change data; informing farmers’ practices, but also enabling remote environmental monitoring.

Other examples of new technologies include: remote control of solar pumps to block functioning if fees are not paid; blockchain technology to register water use rights, irrigation advice through mobile phone applications and algorithms controlling irrigation water distribution. In general, use of big data, artificial intelligence and other information technologies are rapidly changing environmental and agricultural water monitoring and governance in many parts of the world.

These new technologies are changing irrigated agriculture in various ways. These technological transformations are spearheading the development and transformation of collective irrigation systems by national bureaucracies and water users’ associations as well as private (groundwater) irrigation. In many cases these transformations go hand in hand with a shift from classical peasant-family based modes of production to increasingly commercial modes of agricultural production and related financialization, corporatization and ‘de-agrarianization’.

At the same time, these same new information technologies have opened up new avenues for small-holder farmers’ and citizens’ groups to organize alternative modes of agricultural production and water management practices. Smallholder farmers are creatively using new technologies to improve water security; but also to find alternative markets and knowledge systems to develop viable agricultural production systems. These processes of agrarian change are widely observed in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America (see for example: Clar et al., 2018; Hall et al., 2017; Hebinck, 2018; Kinkaid, 2018). 

Clar et al. (2018). The Spanish path of agrarian change, 1950–2005: From authoritarian to export-oriented productivism. Journal of Agrarian Change, 18(2), 324-347
Hall et al. (2017). Plantations, outgrowers and commercial farming in Africa: agricultural commercialisation and implications for agrarian change. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(3), 515-537
Hebinck, P. (2018). De-/re-agrarianisation: Global perspectives. Journal of Rural Studies, 61, 227-235
Kinkaid, E. (2019). Embodied political ecology: Sensing agrarian change in north India. Geoforum, 107, 45-53

We ask

  • a MSc degree in a relevant field, preferably with a thesis and/or internship on a related topic;
  • the ability to do, and interest in doing, innovative research on new information technologies in agricultural water management and agrarian change
  • excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page

We offer

You will receive a PhD position, funded by the Water Resources Management Group of Wageningen University, and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year according to the Collective Labour Agreement (scale P). This is based on a full working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the remaining duration of the project (30 months) if you perform well.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance
  • a structural end-of year bonus of 8.3%
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions
  • flexible working hours that we determine together in good consultation
  • pension plan through ABP
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes, e.g. the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra for extra leave
  • a flexible model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan
  • a lively workplace on the Wageningen Campus
  • make use of the sports facilities on campus for a small fee.

Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with our internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for personal initiative in a learning environment. With us you get a versatile job in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere, with students and staff from over 100 countries around the world. You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 15th consecutive time.

More information

To learn more about this function you can contact Dr. Ir. Jeroen Vos, Water Resources Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, tel. (+31) (0)317-484267; email:

For more information about the procedure you can contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter, e-mail

Do you want to apply?
This can be done directly via the application button at the vacancy on our website so that we can process your personal data with your permission. Please upload the documents outlined below.
We invite interested candidates to submit the following documents in support of their application:

  1. CV,
  2. a letter of motivation,
  3. and a brief note (max. 2 A4 pages) outlining initial ideas on the proposed research on the topic. This should include the conceptual/theoretical approach to be used, research questions based on the main and/or sub-themes mentioned above, application to a case study/example, methodology to operationalize the research, and expected outcome of the research.

This vacancy is open up to and including 25 September 2020. We want to plan the first job interviews soon afterwards.

Equal opportunities employer
We are an employer that offers equal opportunities. We are happy to receive applications from all suitably qualified people regardless of race, gender, functional impairment, religion / belief, sexual orientation or age.

We believe that a diverse and inclusive working environment makes us a more relevant, competitive and resilient organization. Click here for more information about working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of our University is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. Nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6.500 employees, and 12.500 students, it is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the outstanding approach of Wageningen. We have been named Best Employer in Education category 2019-2020. Click here for more information about working at Wageningen University & Research. More information about Wageningen Campus you can find here.

The Water Resources Management (WRM) group is an interdisciplinary research and education entity focussed on the interactions of water, technology and society. We study integrated water resource management and governance questions in both the global South and North. Central in our study are questions about how patterns of access, allocation and use of water can be explained as the combined outcome of technological choices, socio-ecological dynamics and cultural, social and political negotiations and contestations.

We do the recruiting for this vacancy ourselves. Please do not contact us for sales purposes.