ENP thesis opportunities with field work in Southeast Asia

Published on
October 28, 2016

Impactful horticultural extension support systems in the global south

There is an opening for three MSc students (MID, MOA, MDR) to conduct case based thesis research in Myanmar, Philippines and Cambodia on the impact of private sector knowledge transfer to small holder farmers. Read more about the project below.

Context: Social impact is becoming more important for private sector enterprises in sustainable business development. The international tropical vegetable breeding company East-West Seed (EWS), is a leading example in this field. EWS is a seed company active in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa. Through its specialised breeding programs for tropical vegetables in combination with localized approaches in market development, EWS ranks #1 in the global access to seed index. Small holder farmers are at the core of their business. It is estimated that by 2050 the world needs 70% more food to feed a population of nine billion, within a context of decreasing resources of land and water. Small holder farmers in emerging economies are considered key to ensuring worldwide access to nutritious food.  However, their current difficult conditions in cultivating small plots of land, in which they lack access to information and to good quality seeds and other inputs, are expected to worsen with climate change.

Dedicated to empower these farmers by equipping them not only with high quality (hybrid) seeds, but also with greater knowledge, an important pillar of the EWS approach is its extension support system. Through its network of field representatives EWS obtains first hand understanding about the challenges local small holder farmers face and actively promotes innovative, problem-solving cultivation techniques.  EWS strongly believes that private vegetable seed companies engaged in knowledge transfer catalyse the development of local economies.  The combination of high quality inputs and knowledge transfer is believed to improve climate resilience, to benefit local farmer livelihoods, to increasing local access to nutritious food and to contribute to local sector development. However, to date objectified evidence on the impact of its activities beyond farmer income is merely lacking. EWS wishes to obtain more in-depth understanding on the impact of their small holder extension support activities beyond farmer income and beyond the farm gate. Such information will be instrumental for developing future oriented small holder extension models based on high quality inputs.

The EWSF extension support activities are experienced based and include activities of different breadth and depth, ranging from tailor made face to face collaboration, to standardised and more anonymous large scale knowledge transfer. This project aims to document three situated extension support models and uncover their (implicit) logics of change and development; providing comprehensive descriptions of contextualised extension support activities, indicating how and why which desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.

Objective: The goal of this research is to use Theory of Change (ToC) in practice; uncover the implementation ToC of vegetable extension support activities that speak closely to the diverging realities in three countries in SEA; Myanmar, Philippines and Cambodia. The analysis should be about both how change in a given context occurs and what ongoing role individuals and organisations can play in realizing more sustainable futures.

 In this thesis you will:

  • Make explicit and critically appraise assumptions of change processes for the extension support interventions at work
  • Conduct local fieldwork, site visits and interviews, to include the practices and views of local stakeholders to ground causal assumptions in local realities.
  • Expand your analysis making use of sociological theories of change


  • You are registered in one of the following Msc programmes: MID, MOA, MDR
  • You have some knowledge on theories of change
  • You are fluent in English
  • You are willing and able to conduct field work in Southeast Asia and present results during seminar in WUR towards the end of 2017
  • Start dates: Flexible, but within the period February-June 2017; for Myanmar fieldwork in February is preferred
  • East-West Seed will support travel and local expenses throughout the study period
  • Contact persons: Peter Oosterveer ( and Sigrid Wertheim-Heck (