Postgraduate Scholarship by The Bentley Cropping Systems Fellowship

The Bentley Cropping Systems Fellowship

This Fellowship (a bequest from Helen S. Bentley and C. Fred Bentley) provides assistance to Canadian and developing-country graduate students with a university degree in agriculture, forestry or biology, who wish to undertake postgraduate, applied, on-farm research with cooperating farmers in a developing country.

In principle, IDRC supports research on all parts of the developing regions of the world. At this time, Fellowships and Awards is not supporting awards which involve research in Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

Projects should evaluate and/or promote the use of fertility enhancing plants, such as leguminous forages, shrubs, cover crops, and grain legumes in small farms. The intent is to seek ways to increase the yield of food crops, improve farmers` livelihoods, and improve soil fertility.

The research should seek cropping system changes that will lead to: sustainable and increased crop yields; production of more and improved animal feed; improved soil and water conservation; improved weed control, and/or biological fixation of nitrogen. Projects should be planned and executed in cooperation with an international agricultural research centre, or with a developing-country institution involved in agricultural research that has an applied on-farm orientation.

The proposal must present plans for on-farm experiments on small-holder farms that have potential to improve the lives of farming households, and to preserve or improve crops yields.

1. Applicants
Applicants must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents of Canada, or citizens of a developing country who are currently enrolled full-time in a graduate program (Master`s, doctoral, post-doctoral) at a recognized university in Canada or in a developing country for the duration of the award period.

2. Key Selection Criteria
A. Focus of the Research:
Proposals must focus on very simple cropping systems research that can benefit smallholder farmers in developing countries, especially rural women farmers.

B. Participatory Research:
Applicants must use simple experiments executed by cooperating farmers under guidance by the researchers (see details about the location of individual on-farm experiments), and conduct their research with the active participation of the farmers, including women farmers. This requires that farmers be involved in all stages of the experiment on their land, including all the stages of land preparation, seeding, and harvesting.

Research proposals must include details of the comparisons envisioned between the traditional cropping practice of cooperating farmers and the side-by-side alternative cropping practice, which must include some type of leguminous crop or plant. Please consult the attached diagram that shows how a simple on-farm experiment might be compared to either one or two alternative cropping systems. Thus, experiments must compare crop yields from traditional unicrop practice with yields of the same crop combined with some kind of leguminous plant grown either simultaneously with the traditional crop, or perhaps in some cases, grown before the traditional crop is planted.

Similar experiments executed in rural school gardens, conducted with the help and advice of the Fellowship holder, and with the participation of both students and teachers, are also encouraged.

The research procedures must include extensive dissemination of the research results. Smallholder farmers, including rural women farmers, should be the major focus of such publicity:

a. The results should be presented in formats that can reach the various stakeholders, such as field days, farmer visits, briefs for policy-makers;
b. Dissemination will actively involve farmers, extension workers, local development initiatives, and agricultural organizations by addressing other smallholder farmers, especially rural women farmers;
c. The publicity should include farmers` visits and farmer-to-farmer teaching and learning.

The applicant must:
– Provide evidence that a large part, or all of the research, will be carried out on the farms of resource poor or smallholder farmers. The award will not support research carried out on the farms of large land holders or on research stations;
– Provide evidence that farmers will actively participate in the experiments. Thus, the development of simple on-farm experimental designs with appropriate controls to determine the practicality and profitability of introducing a leguminous crop in their cropping system is essential;
– Scholarship applicants must provide explanations of how they will make the frequent trips from the `home base` to the villages of the cooperating farmers. This is essential for successful execution of on-farm tests;
– Explain how the research data was collected and how the introduction of leguminous plants in their cropping systems is expected to improve the economic benefits to farmers;
Applicants should suggest anticipated benefits/improvements and sustainability of their proposal.

C. Sustainability:
The applicant must:
– Provide evidence that he/she is or will be supported by local institutions that have a good working relationship with target communities, farmers and/or extension agencies;
– Indicate that he/she will seek cooperation, help and support from the local `extension officers` and/or NGOs in the identification of individual farmers who are likely to be suitable and cooperative.

Award tenure corresponds with the period of field research. In general, this will be between eighteen months and twenty-four months.

The value of the award is up to CA $30,000. If there is strong evidence of significant potential benefits, the award may be extended upon re-application.

Progress Reports
Fellowship holders will commit to provide IDRC with three brief progress reports per year.

October 1, 2010 (awards will be announced by mid-December 2010).

Tenure must be undertaken by December of the following year.

A letter of support must be included in the application package from a legally recognized institution in the country of research with whom the applicant will be affiliated. This letter must endorse the proposal, confirm the locale of work, and outline the types of institutional support they will provide to the student. The letter must specifically include details of transportation arrangements to experimental plots. The applicant`s host research institution will be expected to certify that the research protocol has been reviewed by a qualified statistician and that it meets an internationally high standard, in terms of experimental and survey designs.

Applicants are encouraged to contact member institutions of The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) ( to explore the possibility of conducting their research in conjunction with one of the member institutions.

Applications will be evaluated according to IDRC priorities and criteria, such as relevance to sustainable and equitable development, as well as quality of the research proposal and suitability of the candidate.

Re-applicants, whose research proposal was reviewed and was unsuccessful, must explain, in a covering letter, what changes have been made since the last application and specify where to find the changes in the proposal. Please note that Centre policy stipulates that an individual cannot apply more than twice, if unsuccessful, for the same IDRC award. However, this policy does not apply for Internship Awards.

If there are ethical questions connected with the research, the applicant may, at IDRC`s discretion, be required to submit the appropriate approval from the Ethic`s Committee of the university.

Please submit all documents listed in the List of Supporting Documents to be Submitted. Complete applications must be received at the Centre by the deadline. Incomplete applications will NOT be considered for the competition. Applications must be sent to the following address:

By regular mail, Canada Post Priority Post or XPRESSPOST:

The Bentley Fellowship
Fellowships and Awards
International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
PO Box 8500
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 3H9 – Canada

By courier services:

The Bentley Fellowship
Fellowships and Awards
International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
150 Kent Street, Mailroom Suite 990
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 0B2 – Canada
Fax: (1 613) 236-4026
Telephone: (1 613) 236-6163 ext.: 2098

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