The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2012 | Tree product resources and food security in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso: assessing sustainability, seasonality and patterns of food consumption
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Tree Product Resources and Food Security in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso: Assessing Sustainability, Seasonality and Patterns of Food Consumption

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nigel Poole (SOAS)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Alan Dangour (LSHTM)


Tree resources in West Africa contribute significantly to seasonal patterns of diet of poor rural peoples, often at crucial hunger periods. Natural resource dependence is increasingly vulnerable to environmental degradation and other politcal and economic shocks. However, the impact of seasonal fluctuations on food availability and 'entitlements' among rural poor people is not well understood. International organisations concerned with natural resource systems (Center for International Forestry Research and UN Food and Agriculture Organization) have not crossed into the seasonal assessment of tree food use at the intrahousehold level, and nutrition and health researchers have not crossed back to the socioeconomics of natural resources production and consumption. This research will create a better understanding of the contribution of tree foods to the diets of vulnerable groups - the old, the young, women - within seasonally fluctuating diets in risk-prone natural environments.

Using quantitative and qualitative methods, nutritional studies in the same environment have evaluated food security using experienced-based food insecurity measures, economic status, dietary, and anthropometric measures. Recent SOAS research in Burkina Faso has assessed the contribution of tree products to household vulnerability and resilience. The knowledge gap concerns the contribution of tree foods to diets and livelihoods in the Sahel.

Burkina Faso has been chosen because of prior work, an appropriate but challenging research context and pre-existing institutional contacts. Burkina's Human Development Index is low, and some measures of the gender related development index show considerable gender disparity. Complex ('polygamous') households are common where social structures give rise to high levels of stratification in food and economic entitlements.


The aims of the research are to assess the contribution of tree products to seasonal patterns of food consumption, and to estimate social and economic livelihood impacts of variable access to tree resources due to natural, political and economic shocks on vulnerable population subsectors.


  • Identify the inter- and intraseasonal patterns of consumption of diverse food sources
  • Quantify seasonal patterns of food consumption among different socioeconomic groups, in particular vulnerable sub-groups
  • Estimate the equity impacts of differential access to natural, social and economic resources, and social, economic and natural shocks, on livelihoods and consumption of foodstuffs of vulnerable sub-groups.

Assessment of foodstuffs will include all contributions to diets sourced, through hunting, gathering, farming, purchase and family or reciprocal gifts and in-kind payments.


The student will begin the MPhil/PhD programme in October 2012. A period of fieldwork will be required in the second year (probably extending to four terms) to ensure adequate preparation and data collection throughout one calendar year.

Submission of the thesis is expected by the end of 2015.


Applicants should normally possess a UK Masters degree (or a qualification deemed equivalent) in socioeconomics, natural resource management, nutrition, or a related livelihoods studies discipline. A willingness to spend a significant period undertaking field work under rigorous conditions in Burkina Faso and a working knowledge of French are also pre-requisites. Specific training will be given where needed in qualitative and social analysis, in livelihoods and nutrition studies.

The researcher will undertake a PhD for a term of 3 years, with fees at the Home-EU level plus a maintenance stipend covered by the Bloomsbury Colleges. Applicants paying fees at the Overseas rate will be required to meet the additional cost of overseas fees.

Key References

Idonaba, M., Kalame, F., Nkem, J., Blay, D. and Coulibaly, Y. (2009). Climate change and non-wood forest products: vulnerability and adaptation in West Africa. Unasylva 60(1-2): 231-232

Frongillo, E.A. and Nanama, S. (2006). Development and validation of an experience-based measure of househoold food insecurity within and across seasons in Northern Burkina Faso. Journal of Nutrition 136(May): 1409S-1419S.

UNDP (2009). Human Development Report. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). New York. Accessed 11 October 2010.

FEG Consulting and Save the Children (2008). The Practitioners' Guide to the Household Economy Approach. Johannesburg, Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Nigel Poole ( and

Co-Supervisor: Alan Dangour ( and

Further information about PhDs at SOAS and the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP) is available from:

PhDs at SOAS:

CeDEP - This studentship is run by the Center for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP). CeDEP is based within the Department of Finance and Management Studies.

How to apply

Applicants must complete the attached Bloomsbury College PhD Studentship application form.

The completed Studentship application form should be returned to:

Miss Alicia Sales

Scholarships Officer, Registry


Thornaugh Street

London WC1H 0XG

For any queries regarding the Studentship application form, please email

Applicants must also make an application for MPhil/PhD at SOAS:

IMPORTANT: As the Studentship is run by the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), which is based within the Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS), applicants must choose FINANCIAL AND MANAGEMENT STUDIES RESEARCH as the programme of study for their application for MPhil/PhD.

The application for MPhil/PhD should be returned as soon as possible but no later than the Studentship's closing date as Studentship applicants must be accepted for the MPhil/PhD.

Closing date for applications: this studentship is now closed.