Job Opportunity// Postdoctoral Researcher on Social Justice of Water, Energy and Food Governance in South Africa (1,0 fte)

Job description

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University is looking for a Postdoctoral Researcher to join our research project ‘Water-Energy-Food communities in South Africa: multi-actor nexus governance for social justice?’. The project is led by Dr. Marjanneke Vijge, Assistant Professor of Sustainability Governance in the Developing World at Utrecht University, and Prof. Willemien du Plessis, Professor of Law at the North-West University in South Africa. Partners in this project are the University of Groningen, the University of Fort Hare and WWF South Africa.

The project studies the consequences of implementing the so-called water-energy-food nexus, or decision-making around synergies and trade-offs between the use and production of water, energy and food, in South Africa. We focus on social justice questions around whether the nexus can benefit all, who makes decisions and at what level. We study the challenges and opportunities of a socially just nexus implementation from the bottom up, focusing in particular on the role of the poorest and women.

As our new colleague you will analyse how water, energy and food resources are allocated, used and produced at the household and community level in South Africa, how multilevel decision-making on synergies and trade-offs between these resources takes place, and the challenges and opportunities of relevant governance frameworks in advancing social justice.

Research methods include household surveys, focus group discussions and multi-stakeholder workshops and fieldshops in two communities in the Eastern and Northern Cape. In addition to community-level research, you will study the governance of the water-energy-food nexus in South Africa by analysing policy documents and conducting interviews with policymakers at national and subnational levels.

You will be based at Utrecht University and closely collaborate with fellow researchers in South Africa. As long as there are travel restrictions, you will provide training and guidance to researchers in collecting data in South Africa. When it is possible to travel again, you will personally conduct field work in South Africa. Besides conducting research, you will also be partly responsible for the coordination of the project and the organisation of research and outreach activities in South Africa.


Successful candidates have a PhD degree and/or postdoctoral experience in the field of sustainability governance, natural resource management, development studies, human geography or a related field. As our successful candidate, you have experience in qualitative and quantitative research methods such as surveys, focus group discussions, interviews and/or workshops. You are willing to travel to South Africa to conduct field work (if the COVID-19 situation allows), and have experience with field work, preferably at community level and/or in developing countries. You are an independent worker and highly motivated to produce high-impact academic and policy-relevant outputs. Apart from possessing excellent research and academic skills, you need to have strong affinity and/or experience with transdisciplinarity to engage societal actors in research and outreach. Because you will also be involved in the coordination of the project, you need to possess strong organisational, coordination and communication skills and be a good team player with affinity to work in an international research environment.


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for a period of one year. In case of good performance, the contract will be extended with another two years to a total of three years. The gross salary – depending on previous qualifications and experience  – ranges between €2,790 and €3,746 (scale 10.0 – 10.7 according to the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Click here to apply. Please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation and include the following in your application:

  • a motivation letter explaining your interest and suitability for the position;
  • a full curriculum vitae (CV), which includes a list of publications;
  • the contact details of three references.

The application deadline is 17 June 2021.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact: 
Dr. Marjanneke Vijge (Assistant Professor), via or +316 1081 0191.

For the original announcement, click here.