Research Areas Funded by IFS

Research Areas Funded by IFS


The global population is growing at a rate of about 1% per annum and is expected to exceed ten billion by 2050. The challenges facing our growing global population are those of poverty, economic inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, dwindling water resources, need for employment opportunities, land and water conflicts, injustices and threats to democracy. Particularly the challenges are great in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to double its population by 2050 from today's 1.3 billion. 

It is documented by research that humankind is profoundly changing the planet, creating numerous and prescient problems. We live in a world that is more economically integrated and unequal and where the profound challenges posed by climate change are emerging on a global scale. While the relative number is decreasing, the absolute number of those needing to be lifted out of hunger and poverty, in particular in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are increasing.

These challenges and problems must be addressed by evidence-based research and development. Along with other regional and international organizations committed to increasing investment in science, technology and innovation (STI) to ensure a sustainable planet, IFS is contributing to the understanding and resolution of national and global problems by enhancing the science capacity of early career scientists in the IFS-eligible countries. 

IFS's Focus

The important contributions through STI development are often not fully realized by policy makers and politicians, leading to budgetary constraints that impede investment in the area. Although higher education has expanded in the regions supported by IFS, especially in Africa, research capacity and science literacy remain weak. Many early career scientists leave their home countries in search of better opportunities to undertake research. This weakens the possibility of LLMIC researchers influencing the setting of global research agendas related to poverty and hunger reduction.If able to conduct research in their home environments and institutions, early career researchers in LLMICs are and will be on the front line to assess the value and validity of research and innovation initiatives that focus on developing solutions.

There are many examples where research has been used by early career scientists that IFS has supported since its inception. With comparatively small levels of funding from IFS, these researchers have made modest but innovative contributions to addressing national and global problems. IFS's experience shows that enhancing the research capacity of promising early career scientists is an important approach through which scientists engage and contribute to research on local and regional aspects of global challenges. Beyond awarding individual grants to early career scientists, IFS also provides researchers with access to mentoring and contacts within broad scientific networks.

Applying for an IFS Grant

IFS welcomes applications from early career researchers in the natural and social sciences. Applications can be discipline-oriented as well as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary in character. We support original research proposals that are innovative and / or relevant to local or national development needs and problems, and that aim to generate fundamental and / or applicable scientific knowledge. Proposals may be submitted within the three thematic research clusters of: 

  • Biological Resources in Terrestrial Systems
  • Water and Aquatic Resources, and
  • Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Healthy Livelihoods


The Research Clusters

The three thematic research clusters are arranged to facilitate the applicant's identification of an appropriate framework for their submissions. Since many topical areas within the three clusters are overlapping, research topics that integrate or cut across them will also be welcomed and encouraged. The proposed research may only address a specific component of a particular research theme but awareness of its interconnections with other themes can help position the research within a broader perspective and provide a deeper contextual understanding for the study.

Before applying for funding under one or more of these three research clusters, applicants should carefully read their descriptions and rationales as outlined below so as to identify the cluster (s) that best suit their research proposal.

Biological Resources in Terrestrial Systems

This includes (but is not limited to) research on:

  • Biodiversity: Loss of biodiversity due to changes in land use resulting from population pressure or environmental degradation. This could include the effects of conversion of natural ecosystems into agriculture; the replacement of smallholders and indigenous people by large-scale mechanized agriculture or into urban areas; of the changes in frequency, duration or magnitude of wildfires and similar disturbances; and of the effect of introducing new species into land and freshwater environments.
  • Forestry: Innovative approaches to forest management and rural development in tropical forest areas that lead to sustainability and which curb deforestation. This could include innovative management practices, forest policy development, biometrics and mensuration, biotechnology, disturbance, terrestrial ecology, community ecology, forestry economics, ecosystem services, soil, silviculture, wood science and wood-based energy.
  • Animal Production: Promotion of sustainable livestock production systems, and efforts to eradicate and prevent the spread of animal diseases, including those that can be transmitted to humans (zoonoses); the impacts of expansion of livestock production on land use, forest composition, land rights and climate change.
  • Crop Science: A broad area that can include sustainable agronomy, eco-physiology, crop diversity, genetics, plant biotechnology, plant-microbe interactions, plant pests, soil fertility and plant nutrition, measures to reduce post-harvest and other food losses. and waste throughout the food supply chain, crop water use and soil water balance, crop quality, and soil contamination by heavy metals and organic pollutants.
  • Underutilised Species: Plants that are under research but are seen to have valuable uses locally and whose wider utilization could prove to be beneficial. A special feature is the many uses of human consumption products that are part of indigenous and local food cultures. Other species might be used for food, nutrition, fuel, fiber and fodder, for example.
  • Natural Products: The isolation, identification, characterization and synthesis of compounds from living organism with the potential for nutritional, medicinal, biological, industrial and pest control applications.
  • Renewable Energy: Biomass fuels (directly from trees and crops, or processed into fuel alcohol or biogas, for example), wind, solar (photovoltaic, heating and cooling), hydro power, wave power and geothermal energy; physical, social and economic obstacles in the transformation from fossil to alternative fuels.
  • Climate Variability and Change: Climate change will impact on all other sectors; causes of climate change and its impact on living organisms and the physical environment across sectors and geographical areas; understanding and impact of the different aspects of climate change such as temperature, rainfall patterns, and ocean acidification.


Water and Aquatic Resources

This includes (but is not limited to) research on:

  • Availability of Water Resources, and Their Conservation and Use: For example, Improving the existing availability and supply of water into rivers, lakes, reservoirs, aquifers and for households through improved Ways of water harvesting; Wastewater Treatment; groundwater banking control, issues related to pollutants, understanding land use changes, understanding and predicting the frequencies and consequences of severe weather (floods and droughts), impact on the hydrological regime due to global climatic, demographic and economic changes ;understanding the multiple uses of water, ie, determinants of water use in the agricultural, domestic, commercial, public and institutional sectors; promoting more efficient water use; optimizing the economic return for water used, for example, by developing improved crop varieties for use in dryland rainfed and irrigated agriculture.
  • Issues Associated with Water-Related Institutions: Roles and responsibilities of water institution, how water policy and legislation is drawn up, and how rights to water are enforced, for example, Developing legal regimes that Promote groundwater management and best use of surface water and groundwater, improving equity in existing water management laws, developing new methods for estimating the value of non-market attributes of water resources, and exploring the use of economic institutions to protect public policies and cultural values related to water resources.
  • Fresh water, Brackish and Marine Aquatic Organisms and Their Environments: For example, understanding the behavior of aquatic organisms and ecosystems; promoting, enhancing and supporting more sustainable management of aquatic resources in marine, brackish and freshwater environments; and providing livelihoods for coastal and freshwater riparian communities and their trading partners through sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.


Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Healthy Livelihoods

This includes (but is not limited to) research on:

How Agricultural and/or Livestock Production can contribute to rural development in a diversified and sustainable manner, economically, socially and environmentally.

How to promote and enhance Food Security for households and individuals, by addressing issues such as food production, nutrition, cultural factors linked to food consumption, food safety and hygiene, and various factors affecting access to food such as land tenure, food sharing, work opportunities, price variation / volatility, credit and other financial services; food security in both rural and urban settings, as well as linkages between rural and urban areas in the quest for enhancing food security; issues, processes and / or factors that may contribute to sustaining food security for households and individuals over time.

Primary Health Care and its role in promoting links among food, nutrition and health.

The role of Extension Services to help improve conditions through the spread and uptake of new techniques and crops to increase productivity; analyzes of various training and education initiatives of smallholders, men and women; and public, private or farmer field schools, as examples.

Enhancement of Irrigation through construction of dams or various types of water sources including reuse of treated wastewater and water, and harvesting and storage; organization of irrigation schemes to secure sustainability in terms of both access to water and cooperation among participating farmers, households and irrigation agencies.

Sustainable Agricultural Practices, rural infrastructure and storage, reduction of post-harvest losses and waste of food in the food supply chain.

Markets and Trading Systems, including strengthening of urban-rural linkages, traditional seed supply systems, developing appropriate agricultural cooperatives, and the role of public and private investment in sustainable agriculture.

Food Value Chains, from research to production, storage, packing transport and marketing; whose interests assert the most influence and control along the value chain? How can participants in value chains enhance their food security in sustainable ways?

Vulnerability and Resilience of agricultural systems and adaptation to climate variability.


> Back to top