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Doing it for the kids - Advancing agricultural growth and food security in Africa


"The Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn is at the forefront of the development research frontier, where students are encouraged and guided to pursue solutions to current pressing global challenges. ZEF’s dedication to providing the best learning environment and all the necessary resources for students to succeed in their studies is unparalleled." (Photo: Volker Lannert)

Zero hunger: “Through my research I am able to contribute to sustainable agricultural growth and food and nutrition security in Africa and India.”


5. wheat Farm_intext.jpgLand degradation is a major challenge in Eastern Africa. Communities rely on using their natural resources for income and food, but through various causes – such as overgrazing by cattle, deforestation, urbanization and desertification – over time, land and resources become depleted or damaged. This downward spiral often affects the poorest of the poor in rural areas.

Dr. Oliver Kirui is senior researcher and post-doctorate fellow at the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research (Zentrum for Entwicklungsforschung, ZEF). He is from Kenya and studied Agricultural Economics in Nairobi and Pretoria before completing his PhD at ZEF in 2016. He now works with the Program of Accompanying Research for Agricultural Innovation (PARI) to support innovations that advance sustainable agricultural growth and food security in Africa and India.

“Through my research, I contribute to core topics and research priorities set out by African Union’s CAADP - Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security & nutrition, economic growth & prosperity for all. My research also advances the UN’s recently ratified Global Goals for Sustainable Development.”

More specifically, Oliver’s current research work involves identifying and supporting the scaling of promising innovations along the agricultural food-value chain in 14 countries in Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Mozambique) and India. Additionally, he is involved in the assessment of sustainable agricultural intensification and mechanization, and the assessment of vocational education and training (VET) programs for agriculture in Africa.

Going back a few years, during his PhD studies, Oliver examined data to assess the state of land degradation in four African countries (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi) from 1982 to 2006 (see image below). In his research, he was able to establish that acting towards sustainable land usage was far less costly than not, with an average return of US$4.28 on every US$1 spent on controlling or preventing degradation.


Land Degradation 1982-2006

In red are areas where land has become degraded from 1982 to 2006. In green are the few areas were land has improved.

Training this generation for the next

To enable sustainable land and resource usage and to attract young people into agriculture, requires a reform of the agricultural vocational and training systems. Technical knowledge and entrepreneurial skills are needed at the farm level as well as along the entire agricultural value chain to help businesses be economically and environmentally sustainable as well as competitive.

Oliver is assessing several initiatives and priorities asking questions such as: Why is the focus on rural youth in Africa so important now? What could be the proper pathway to agricultural / rural transformation in the era of rapid technological change? What can government, development agents, private sector, donor and research communities, NGOs etc. do to address the enormous youth unemployment in Africa?

"I work with different stakeholders to analyse the economics of land degradation, i.e. its social costs, and to use the results of this analysis to determine cost-effective actions against land degradation. I try to quantify and see the resources in the eyes of the community. Most times the communities see only the things they can harvest (food, firewood, timber, charcoal etc.) but not always the greater good, such as clean air, soil formation and pollution control."

Find out more about his research, in the photo gallery of his latest research trip. 

Photo Gallery


Find out more about Oliver Kirui's research trip to Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi in 2016. (c) Oliver Kirui

Selected Publications and Conferences by Oliver Kirui




Meet Poornima Thapa, ZEF Doctoral Candidate

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Center for Development Research's (ZEF) Doctorate Program

"We all have the goal to help shape a sustainable future." - Dr. Günther Manske, Academic Coordinator. Find out more about ZEF's Doctorate Program.

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