ILRI supports early career agricultural researchers through the CIRCLE fellowship program

This post is re-posted with permission thanks to Joyce Maru from The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). For the original post, please follow this link.

The Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa (CIRCLE) program is an initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) that is developing the skills and research output of early career researchers in Africa in the field of climate change.

Started in 2014, the program runs until 2018 and is managed and implemented by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).

How ILRI participates in CIRCLE 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is a partner in the program and is both a ‘host’ and a ‘home’ institute for CIRCLE, which is integrated into ILRI’s graduate fellowship program.

At ILRI, the program is coordinated by the Capacity Development Unit and supported by the Livestock Systems and Environment (LSE) program and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

In 2015, ILRI, through the LSE program is hosting Abraham Belay, an MSc Fellow from Ethiopia’s Hawassa University’s Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources who is supervised by John Recha of CCAFS.

As part of the partnership with CIRCLE, the CCAFS program nominated Catherine Mungai, an emerging young scientist with the program, to study climate change and adaptation at the University of Nairobi for one year after which she will resume her employment at ILRI. ILRI will host more fellows for the duration of the program and nominate other interested emerging researchers undertaking research in climate change.

Why a focus on climate change in agriculture?

With about 70% of Africa’s population depending on agriculture and 40% of the continents total exports being agriculture-based, the impact of climate change on agriculture is a major concern and there’s urgency to focus and address the issues through research. Agriculture related research themes under the CIRCLE remit include:
  • Impact of changing precipitation on agricultural production
  • Development of new and climate-resistant crops
  • Climate-smart agricultural practices
  • Opportunities in new climate regimes
Why focus on early/emerging career researchers?

The aim of the program is not simply to produce a body of research, but to strengthen mechanisms for better research uptake and to support institutions develop and realize a holistic and more (developmental) strategic approach to climate change research.

On their own, the fellowships will have important but limited benefits but by concurrently strengthening the capacity of organizations and institutions to manage, organize and support the career development of ‘next generation’ researchers, it is foreseen that fellows will return to organizations with a more enabling and sustainable environment for further research.

This program is nurturing early career academics for the long-term future development of research, while also offsetting some of the common disadvantages they face in obtaining funding and time for scientific enquiry.

Catherine Mungai

Catherine Mungai (c) (photo credit: S Kilungu/CCAFS).


Host institute: Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Area of research: Climate change, food security, gender, policy


She says one of the unique features of the CIRCLE program is its mentoring and supervision structure which enables fellows to benefit from knowledge and experience from a wide range of researchers in different institutions.

‘In my case, I have a mentor from ILRI, two supervisors from University of Nairobi and an advisor from the University of Greenwich. I look forward to drawing a lot of inspiration and enriching my research experience by interacting with the entire team.’


Joyce Maru is a capacity development officer at ILRI.

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