PhD position: Spatial inequality in Water-Energy-Food security and Health in South Africa (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Uren per week: 
28 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Geowetenschappen
GEO / Dept SD
Uiterlijk reageren op: 


The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University and the Department of Primary and Community Care of the Radboud University Medical Center invite applications for a PhD position on WEF nexus and Health in South Africa.

South Africa is one of the most unevenly developed countries in the world. About 33% of South Africa’s population lives in rural areas with limited access to basic services such as clean and safe water, affordable and clean energy, and balanced and nutritious diets. This is exacerbated by climate change and has direct and indirect impacts on public health and wellbeing. This project will assess spatial inequality in water‐energy‐food (WEF) security and the implications for public health in rural South Africa and how this will be affected by climate change, and will identify future‐proof interventions to enhance the resilience of vulnerable rural communities to health crises.

This PhD project will build on a social and health science perspective, with a focus on the interface between epidemiology and a livelihoods approach to the WEF security, which includes social, economic, and health conditions of rural households embedded in particular biophysical, policy and infrastructural conditions. By linking epidemiology and the livelihoods approach, the PhD will determine vulnerability and resilience of people to changes that affect their health conditions in particular places and spaces in South Africa.

This PhD project will include:

  • acquiring relevant data and mapping vulnerability and spatial variation in health status at the national level;
  • exploring the relationship between the spatial distribution of WEF-security and health statuses by comparing maps and conducting advanced statistical analyses between WEF security and vulnerability levels;
  • cross-examining the national level mapping and statistical analyses and the relationship between WEF security and health conditions observed in the several case studies;
  • projecting climate change impacts on WEF security and health;
  • identifying local and national future proof interventions to improve WEF-security and health of vulnerable rural communities across South Africa.

The PhD candidate will work in a highly interdisciplinary and international research project consortium with social, geo and health scientists from both the Netherlands and South Africa.


We are seeking an outstanding and a highly motivated candidate with a deep interest in the WEF nexus, public health, livelihoods and sustainable development. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary scholars with strong intercultural skills.

We gladly receive applications from candidates who:

  • Have a MSc in Human Geography, Development Studies, Environmental Epidemiology, Planetary/ Public Health, Health Sciences or related field;
  • Have strong affinity with sustainable development and public health;
  • Have experience in linking health, environmental and social sciences;
  • Have ample experience with statistics and preferably GIS;
  • Have excellent communication skills;
  • Have proficiency in English;
  • Have experience with working in South Africa and/or are keen to travel to South Africa and collaborate with South African consortium members and local experts;
  • Have experience with and enjoy working in an interdisciplinary and international environment.


You will be offered a temporary position (0.8 - 1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour 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, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

The Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised into four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The research will be carried out within three departments of the Geosciences faculty: the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Human Geography & Spatial Planning and Physical Geography, at Utrecht University, as well as in the Department of Primary and Community Care of the Radboud University Medical Center. Practically, the PhD candidate will mainly be based in Utrecht with the opportunity to work at Radboud UMC on a regular basis.

Aanvullende informatie

For more information about this position, please contact: Dr. Floor van der Hilst via or Kei Otsuki via


As Utrecht University, we want to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation, via the ‘apply now’ button.

Uiterlijk reageren op 10 december 2023.