The Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces Fellowship Programme

The University of Sussex joined The Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) fellowship programme, as a partnering, host institution in 2022. Launched by Cornell University in 2016, the programme pursues rigorous, policy-oriented research into structural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa, encouraging proposals in areas such as: agri-food systems transformation, and poverty dynamics and resilience against shocks.

STAARS is a collaborative and intensive programme that supports the professional development of early-career African researchers working in this field. By closely working with a small group of Fellows each year, STAARS broader, long-term goal is to help reinforce an effective policy research culture that consequently helps to develop and sustain the research capacity in Africa. More details about STAARS core themes and objectives can be found on Cornell's website.

Upon its launch in 2016, STAARS received support from various organizations and enjoys continued support from the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC). As a partnering institution, the University of Sussex Business School will further expand the STAARS community and broaden the expertise of its mentorship pool.  

Landscape of crop field in Africa

"We are thrilled to be joining the STAARS program, building on Sussex's decades-long tradition of working with African students and scholars" - Dr Annemie Maertens

Each Fellow is matched with a mentor from either Cornell University or the University of Sussex, to jointly author a paper on a topic relating to structural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa - previous research publications have appeared in leading, peer-reviewed journals. Professional development training is provided and the Fellows are supported in building their international research networks.

Read more about STAARS' history, its aims and its outcomes in this recently published study:‘Building research capacity in an under-represented group: The STAARS program experience.'

  • STAARS Workshop

    The programme included a three-week visit to Cornell University and the University of Sussex in which the Fellows presented their research work, participated in team-building activities, and met with faculty and students from the host universities. 

    Workshop participants sitting in seminar room facing speaker Dr Annemie Maertens
    On September 26 - 27, 2022, the STAARS workshop was held at the University's Falmer campus, led by organiser Dr Annemie Maertens. The workshop saw each fellow present on their research, as well as presentations by both Cornell and Sussex faculty, and a keynote speech by Dr Abebe Shimeles, Director of Research of the African Economic Research Consortium on 'Empirical research in Africa: challenges and opportunities for development economists.' 

    Of this year's six Fellows, the Sussex mentoring team supervises Muhammed Usman, John Maara and Gildas Kadoukpè Magbondé. Hear how Muhammed & Gildas found the experience at Sussex:

    "amazing and unforgettable [...] I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people while sharing research ideas, exchanging contacts, and discussing future opportunities" - Muhammed Usman
    "Being at the University of Sussex as a STAARS fellow gave me a unique opportunity to present my research in progress in front of well-established researchers" - Gildas Magbondé

    STAARS Workshop participants pose for group photo outside front of Jubilee building

  • Introducing the STAARS Fellows

    Selection into the STAARS programme is highly competitive with up to six Fellows being selected amongst up to 150 applications each year. As a partnering host institution with Cornell, the Sussex mentoring team has supervised three of the six Fellows: Muhammed Usman, John Maara and Gildas Kadoukpè Magbondé. Learn more about their research below. 

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, Muhammad Usman

    Muhammed Usman

    University of Bonn

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, Nneka Esther Osadolor

    Nneka Esther Osadolor

    University of Ibadan

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, Taye Tesfaye Fisiha

    Taye Tesfaye Fisiha

    Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, Gowokani Chirwa

    Gowokani Chirwa

    University of York

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, Gildas Kadoukpè Magbondé

    Gildas Kadoukpè Magbondé

    University of Cape Town

    Portrait of STAARS Fellow, John Maara

    John Maara

    University of Nairobi

  • Introducing the STAARS Mentors & Peer Mentors

    Meet the University of Sussex Business School academics that mentored and peer-mentored the STAARS Fellows below.

    Portrait of STAARS Mentor, Dr Annemie Maertens

    Dr Annemie Maertens

    Reader in Economics

    Portrait of STAARS Mentor, Prof Andy McKay

    Prof Andy McKay

    Professor of Development Economics

    Portrait of STAARS Mentor, Prof Barry Reily

    Prof Barry Reily

    Professor of Econometrics

    Portrait of STAARS Peer Mentor, Lilia Garcia Manrique

    Lilia Garcia Manrique

    PhD Candidate in Economics

    Portrait of STAARS Peer Mentor, Bridget Kauma

    Bridget Kauma

    Lecturer in Economics

    Portrait of STAARS Peer Mentor, Maika Schmidt

    Maika Schmidt

    Lecturer in Economics

  • Further Information

    To learn more about STAARS, visit the University of Cornell's website.

    Read the STAARS Research Proposal Call for information on applications.