Trees for climate change and agroforestry: towards sustainable planting strategies in Africa

Trees for climate change and agroforestry: towards sustainable planting strategies in Africa

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus Tuition Fees

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 1st May 2020

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2020

To find out more please contact Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz


The extensive planting of trees is currently promoted as a measure to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, reverse desertification and land degradation, and provide opportunities for sustainable development. However, planting trees can increase fire risk, reduce water run-off and pastureland, lead to land degradation, and imperil sustainable development. The act of planting large areas also poses substantial biosecurity risks, with monocultures inherently susceptible to pests and disease.

The main aim of this interdisciplinary project is to provide support to ensure tree planting strategies in Africa are beneficial in the long term. Using afforestation and agroforestry projects in South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana, the project will work with all stakeholders involved and provide tested and workable solutions.

The project will evaluate the governance of existing projects and current global tree planting initiatives to understand the social, political and economic context onto which they are implemented. The results will support stakeholders and governments in developing sustainable practices (i.e. to limit negative long-term impacts while ensuring benefits are retained).

The project is a timely opportunity to research and influence climate change driven tree planting initiatives at a time when they are likely to increase in importance.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

The PhD will be a co-supervision with the Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The successful applicant will receive training at both Stellenbosch and Coventry in a wide range of topics of invasion biology, environmental economics, agroforestry and stakeholder engagement.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry Requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
    the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).


  • Strong interest in interdisciplinary research.
  • Background in relevant fields (e.g environmental sciences, ecology, environmental economics, environmental policy or agroecology).
  • Willingness to travel and conduct field research in Africa.
  • Good communication, presentation and writing skills.
  • Excellent team skills and able to work in a multi-cultural research group.

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz 

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Apply to Coventry University