Applications are invited for a full-time PhD fellowship at the Department of Soil Science of the School of Agriculture, University of Cape Coast in collaboration with Aarhus University, Denmark. The position is available from September 2020 to October 2024.

Improving soil health and carbon sequestration with oil palm empty fruit bunch

Project background

Vegetable production in Ghana is increasing in many rural and peri-urban areas because of excess local demand. Vegetable production, therefore, plays important socio-economic roles such as income generation, while at the same time providing much-needed nutrients for rural and urban dwellers. Thus, it has a high potential for reducing food and nutrition insecurity, and also to generate employment for smallholder farmers in Ghana. Despite these advantages, vegetable production is constrained by several factors including declining soil fertility, drought and heat stress, and prevalence of pests and diseases. The PhD will focus on restoring the soil fertility, while other aspects of the project will focus on crop yield improvements, increased resilience to pests and diseases, etc.

For resource-poor areas, using local organic resources such as empty fruit bunch (EFB) of oil palm to improve soil fertility is a more sustainable option compared to inorganic fertilizers. Palm oil plantation produces huge amount of biomass waste in the form of empty fruit bunches (EFB). In Ghana, local artisanal processors produce about 60% of the nations’ palm oil, generating huge volumes of EFB. EFB has high moisture content and it could be milled and used as an alternative and cheaper organic fertilizer in vegetable farms. However, until now the fertilizer value of EFB has not been investigated in Ghana. Such knowledge is important for large-scale implementation of EFB as a soil conditioner. EFB can also be pyrolyzed and applied to enhance soil water and nutrient retention. Thus, producing pyrolyzed EFB can promote more sustainable management and utilization of EFB in Ghana. However, the application of EFB potentially increases soil carbon storage but the benefits may be offset by increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and this also needs to be investigated. 

The PhD project will, therefore, focus on the potential of EFB as a soil amendment to improve soil functional properties, restore ecosystem services, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon quality and storage.

The profile of the potential candidate should include:

•    MPhil / M.Sc in Agriculture, Soil Science, Environmental Science or related disciplines
•    Experience in an academic or a research institution with a strong motivation for academic learning and scientific excellence;
•    Evidence of agriculture-related skill training will be an advantage
•    Enjoy working in an international and interdisciplinary context;
•    Good English writing and presentation skills and the zeal to develop further;
•    An understanding of basic statistics will be an advantage.

Interested candidates should submit a motivation (maximum 2 pages), copies of their CV, certificates, transcripts and 2 references to the Head of Department of Soil Science by e-mail: by March 20, 2020.

The position is part of the project “Building vegetable farmers resilience to climate change” funded by the DANIDA. 

Age limit is 35 years

Only shortlisted applicants would be contacted for an interview.