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Scholarship details

RTP2021 R2 Coffee, pests, and people: examining livelihood vulnerability and resilience, PNG

Status: Open

Applications open: 15/07/2020
Applications close: 1/09/2020

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About this scholarship

Coffee is a major agricultural export in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and an important income source for c.500,000 households. This is threatened by the recent arrival of a pest, Coffee Berry Borer (CBB). PNG smallholders are vulnerable because they typically adopt a low-input production approach. In this context, a similar pest devastated the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and the cocoa industry in PNG. CBB represents a similar threat to coffee farmers and the coffee industry. This project will examine the vulnerability and resilience of coffee smallholders, and from a socio-economic perspective explore adaptation and pest management approaches in the PNG smallholder context.

The PhD student will join the Pacific Livelihoods Group (Sustainable Livelihoods, DBE). The Pacific Livelihoods Group is a strong and expanding research program which examines, and seeks to improve, the livelihoods of export cash crop smallholders in Papua New Guinea (see The student will work alongside a multidisciplinary team of researchers working on an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project titled ‘Improving Livelihoods of Smallholder Coffee Communities in Papua New Guinea’ (ASEM-2016-100) (see involving researchers from Curtin University, CSIRO and PNG’s Coffee Industry Corporation. When this project commenced, Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) had only very recently arrived in the country, and so an examination of the potential impact of CBB was only a minor component of the funded project. It has however become clear over the first year of the project that CBB is a major threat to coffee-supported livelihoods, and there is a real need for research to help us understand the potential impact this pest may have on smallholder livelihoods and the coffee industry, and the examine how it may be best managed. The PhD student would contribute to the present project, and expand on the scope of the research with an eye to future grant applications. Findings from previous projects have directly contributed to the development of policy and practices in the private sector, and similar outcomes are anticipated from the present project. This project will run through to the end of 2023, and will remain a focus of the research group beyond this date.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,092 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years.

Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

·         English language IELTS level of: 7

·         Future Higher degree by research applicants

·         A Research Masters degree, or a Bachelors degree with first class honours, or equivalent, in geography, anthropology, development studies, agricultural studies or another relevant discipline. (Essential)

·         Willingness to undertake long-term fieldwork and to work at the community level in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and to learn Melanesian Pidgin. (Essential)

·         Demonstrated ability to work independently and within a team. (Essential)

·         Demonstrated research experience in a relevant field. (Essential)

·         Demonstrated fieldwork or work experience (or equivalent) in a developing country or cross-cultural context (Desirable)

Application process

To apply for this project opportunity applicants must submit an email to the contact Project lead listed below. The email must include their current curriculum vitae, a summary of their research skills and experience and the reason they are interested in this specific project.

The Project Lead will select one preferred applicant for this project and complete a Primary reference on their behalf. 

After confirmation from the Project Lead that they will receive a primary reference for this project the applicant must submit an eApplication for admission into the applicable HDR course no later than 1st September 2020.

All applicants must send an external referee template to their chosen external reference. 

All references are confidential and must be submitted by the referee directly to no later than 1st September 2020.

Scholarship applications submitted without a primary reference or a completed application for admission will be considered incomplete.

For further information on the application process or for more RTP2021 Round 2 scholarship project opportunities visit:

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2021


To apply for this project opportunity email your current curriculum vitae, a summary of their research skills and experience and the reason you are interested in this specific project to:

Name: Prof George Curry


Contact Number: +61 8 9266 3310

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