Call for Application

Call for Application of Master Students for Field Research in Kenya

The Universities of Cologne and Bonn in Germany in collaboration with Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at USIU-Africa offer one stipend for six months field research and the writing of a Master’s thesis in Kenya.


The collaborating partners are conducting a research project on geothermal development entitled “Energy Futures: Infrastructures and governance for renewable energies.” The project aims to generate findings about how geothermal developments are envisioned and implemented, both at the institutional level and on the ground. What kinds of power relations, socioeconomic transformations, land-use changes and conflicts take place in the realization of the vision?

Rural counties in Kenya are expected to undergo massive social–ecological change in the coming years as a result of the government’s ‘Vision 2030’ with its large-scale energy and infrastructure projects, and associated special economic zones. Areas currently being developed are to a large extent, inhabited by pastoralists with mobile livestock-keeping livelihoods who are economically and politically marginalized. Despite being close to urban centres of Nairobi and Nakuru, many Maasai communities live in isolated and often inaccessible areas with few services from outside.

The Masters Dissertation will explore these issues in Mount Suswa, located on the borders of Narok, Kajiado and Nakuru counties. Mount Suswa is a spectacular 12km wide double crater dormant volcano with an extensive cave system, and is a tourist attraction for hikers and campers located around 80km from Nairobi. In the post-colonial period, Community land (formerly Trust land) of the Maasai was transformed into group ranches, which have later been subdivided leading to ongoing land privatization, enclosures and sales.

This is the case for Suswa crater and much of the adjacent lowland area which now consists of private land parcels belonging to individual community members. This has not been an entirely equitable process with some having larger or more strategically located parcels and some having lost out altogether. As of today, more than 100 Maasai households are facing the prospect of geothermal infrastructure development.

Kenya is the eighth highest country in the world in geothermal production, owing to its location along the Rift Valley. International financial institutions are assisting Kenya in its efforts to increase geothermal production, viewed as green energy. To push geothermal development, the Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC), a government owned company was formed in 2007.

GDC is responsible for developing the sector and selling the geothermal wells on to Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen) and private investors. The lower Suswa area has already been confronted with changes brought about by infrastructural development, such as the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Suswa town.

There is a plan to join this new railway to the old meter-gauge railway (to be refurbished) at Longonot station. Both these developments will serve an Inland Container Depot and associated industrial park in the area. Other developments converging upon the area include the termination of the KETRACO power line from Ethiopia, at Suswa substation. The wind power line and Olkaria geothermal power project line also terminate here and irrigation projects are among the many other developments in the area, which have led to immigration of non-Maasai and large-scale land-use change.

The Master’s thesis will focus on geothermal developments in Suswa (taking into account the other changes mentioned above) and explore some or all of the following issues: the relationship between communities and the GDC, particularly regarding land rights and possible compensation for land loss, communities perspectives, aspirations and local perceptions of geothermal power (“energy literacy”), intra-community conflicts regarding the approval or rejection of the project, and other socioecological impacts

Requirement for Applicants

  1. Candidates must be enrolled in a Masters course programme in International Relations in a Kenyan University.
  2. Education: Candidates must have a completed Bachelor degree in the social sciences or humanities, preferably with a focus in sociology, social anthropology, political science, international relations or geography.
  3. Language Skills: High level of fluency and experience with academic English is mandatory. Fluency in one or several of the local languages of Maasai is an asset.
  4. An outline of the planned research of the candidate (5 pages), submitted in English, which is linked to the overall research theme of the project (please make use of the project description attached to relate your own research ideas to the project).

Other Requirements

  1. Availability for approximately 3 months of fieldwork in Kenya, starting any time from October 2022;
  2. Ability and willingness to travel to and conduct research in South Rift-Narok based on the needs of the research project and considering carefully the security situation;
  3. Ability and willingness to conduct archival research in the Kenya National Archives in Nairobi.
  4. Previous experience with regard to conflict analysis and social science research;
  5. Proficiency in the use of computers and the internet, including MS-Office;
  6. Ability to work independently and be self-motivated but also to collaborate well with team members;
  7. Strong communication, interpersonal and social skills;
  8. Willingness and interest to receive extensive training and coaching with regard to an academic approach to research and to work towards contributing to academic publications.

Suggested collaboration of the Masters student with the project team

Successful candidates will be fully integrated into the empirical research work of the project and closely supervised by the principal investigators of the project. The research for the Master’s thesis will contribute to answer substantive aspects of the research questions as noted. The Master’s thesis will be co-supervised by Prof. Kennedy Mkutu, USIU-Africa, Nairobi together with Prof. Clemens Greiner, University of Cologne. In addition to producing his or her thesis the Master Student will contribute to a published journal article together with other team members.

Duration of the project and remuneration.

The Universities of Cologne and Bonn offer one stipend (for 6 months) for graduated BA students for field research and writing of a Master’s thesis. Please note that this is a stipend that acknowledges the work the students are doing in addition to their university commitments and therefore does not constitute a salary for a full-time position.

Application Procedure – Please follow all steps as described:

  • Carefully read the attached project description and, related to its content, write a research proposal for the Master’s thesis. Please limit your proposal to 2,000 words. 
  • In addition to the proposal, applicants need to write a motivation letter (explaining why they are suitable and interested to receive a stipend for field research related to this project, with reference to the requirements listed above and other reasons if applicable)
  • Applicants also need to submit an up-to-date and detailed CV, Bachelor degree document (diploma and/or transcript of completed degree), a reference letter from at least one university professor, official English test result certificates (TOEFL or IELTS), and any other suitable documents. NOTE: All submissions are expected to reveal an excellent command of English, in particular the letter of motivation, the proposal and the CV. •Applicants must submit documents certifying their current enrollment and status in a Masters Program at a Kenyan University.

Start Date and Period of Contract:

Successful candidates are expected to begin the research work at an agreed time after October 2022. For the candidate selected, participation in the CRC Kick-off Workshop in Nairobi and research training in Naivasha, 24-27 November 2022 as well as the participation in an exploratory trip to Suswa (30 November to 2 December) involving the whole team would be of advantage. The duration of the engagement of the Master’s student in field research will be approximately 3 months, with another 3 months for writing the Master’s thesis. Keeping close connection with the project and its team during this period, and even before and afterwards is expected. Interested candidates are asked to send their applications including proposal, CV, motivational letter, and other supporting documents to Prof. Kennedy Mkutu,, and Dr. Clemens Greiner ( by 21 October 2022. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview at United States International University Nairobi during the first week of October. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Guidelines for research proposal:

  • Problem statement and research question (1p)
  • Current state of the field of study (5-10 literature references; refer to key literature and the CRC project description) (1-1,5p)
  • Theoretical/analytical approach (if possible) (0,5-1p)
  • Methods of research (including ways of collecting information; which informants; which project site, if already known) (1p)
  • Tentative work plan (table) (0,5p)
  • References (0,5p)
  • (Mention own expertise in CV and cover letter.

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