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Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA)

RIFA's catalog is now complete for our 3rd round starting March 2017 and the catalog will be live for viewing at the beginning of October. Thanks to all our applicants!

About the Program

The Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA) offers early-career professionals enrolled in agricultural and development-oriented graduate programs at UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz the opportunity to plan, engage and implement two to six-month-long international projects in developing countries.

RIFA Fellows collaborate with a host institution in the country they are working to develop robust projects that address global challenges in agriculture and food systems. Host organizations define the available opportunities and a fellow’s collaborative work contributes integrally to the success and sustainability of ongoing projects and programs. Faculty mentors at the University of California also play an integral role, serving as resources and helping guide Fellows in their projects.

RIFA is funded primarily by the United States Agency for International Development's Global Development Lab and by the University of California's Global Food Initiative.

For more information see our programmatic brochure

To learn about the broader Research and Innovation Fellowship program within USAID see: www.usaid.gov/RIFellowships.

Information for Student Applicants


Applications for the 2016 RIFA fellowships are closed! Applications for 2017 will open in the fall 2016. 

Application process (will be updated for 2017 applications): 

UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz graduate students are eligible to apply.

To apply download the fillable application here and send to [email protected] along with your host letter of support and a CV (2-page maximum).

Applications must include:

  • Completed application
  • CV (2-page maximum)
  • Letter of support from host institution*

Programmatic Expectations and Requirements:

  • Fellows must take project planning course (at UC Davis IAD 203) and complete implementation plans.
  • Fellows must attend January orientation.
  • Fellows should contribute to the RI Fellows blog or Facebook group.


  • Students will receive a $2,000 travel fellowship.
  • Students will receive a stipend of $1,000 for each month in country.
  • Health coverage


*Once you have identified an opportunity that you are interested in, you may contact the host institution using this function within the catalog (you will have to create an account). You then communicate with that host to determine if it is a correct fit. If so, the host will provide you with a letter of support, which is to be included in your application. You can learn more about communicating with hosts in the catalog's How it works section

Timeline 2015-2016

October-November Students identify a supporting host institution at rifellowships.org.

November 25 Applications are due by 11:59 pm to [email protected]

December 20  Students are informed of decisions.

January 15 Fellows are matched with faculty mentors and initial team meetings begin.

January 30  RIFA conference and orientation at UC Berkeley.

January-March Fellows develop project implementation plans in IAD 203 (if enrolled, or in a 1 unit seminar if not) and with their mentors and host institutions.

March 19, 2016-March 31, 2017 Fellows travel and complete projects and post-project evaluations.

January 2017 RIFA Conference and past Fellow poster session.

Program Sustainability

We envision the RIFA program as a challenge to our institutional development office to build an endowment that could expand and sustain this initiative. We will seek the opportunity to demonstrate during the next three years the importance of this program and to reach out to the private sector for support. To learn more see our support flyer.

Host Institutions

Hosts can be international NGOs, host country universities, research institutions, or non-US government agencies, as well as local not-for-profit development organizations.

Hosting of a RIFA Fellow entails providing them with overseas project or research opportunities with a UC-affiliated organization. These opportunities may be well-defined, or they may identify a broadly defined need within the organization from which the Fellow and the organization could jointly develop a project plan. Projects should address a specific challenge in the agriculture or food systems sector. Fellowships frequently contribute to students’ master or doctoral work. Basic internships where the student works broadly within an organization are not appropriate for RIFA Fellowships.

Learn more about hosting a RIFA fellow from our RIFA Host informational flier: 2017 RIFA Host flier.

RIFA is accepting applications for 2017 hosts now. Organizations interested in hosting a 2017 RIFA fellow should submit statements of interests to Elana Peach-Fine at [email protected] by Sept. 1, and complete the full Host Profile by Sept. 19.  


Mentors are an integral piece of the UC Davis RI Fellowship Program. Mentors may be professors, emeriti, or non-faculty academics affiliated with UC Davis. Mentors will work with students to create their implementation plans, build connections with their partners and follow their progress throughout the project cycle.

About Us

G. David Miller, program director, is a UCD lecturer and coordinator of several international development projects.

Elana Peach-Fine, program administrator, also works on several projects in Latin America.

Dena Bunnel, communications and partnerships coordinator, is currently getting her M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics and International Agricultural Development.

An external advisory board works with us to review our programmatic progress and to assist us in continual programmatic improvements.  For information about our board members see our external advisory board page.

Information for 2016 Fellows

Please be sure to fill out your keep your liability form up to date and start your funding request process 8 weeks prior to travel. Please see timeline document for further details.

1. Timeline

2. Travel Approval and Payment Form


4. Visa Requirements

5. Liability Form

6. External Communications.

Latest News

RIFA Fellow Kate Polakiewicz named to UC Global Food Initiative's 30 Under 30

2016 RIFA Fellows

Conference brings RIFA Fellows from four UC campuses together. On January 30, RIFA Fellows from UC Davis, Riverside and Santa Cruz joined the Global Development Fellows at UC Berkeley for the first Research and Innovation Fellows conference. This event facilitated collaboration between fellows at different universities and gave them an opportunity to share their projects. Find out more about the conference on our blog: https://ucdavisrifa.wordpress.com/

2016 RIFA Fellows announced! The 2016 RIFA Fellows have been selected. The new class of fellows includes 15 graduate students from UC Davis, 2 from UC Riverside and 2 from UC Santa Cruz. Check out more about our fellows in this piece from The Global Food Initiative in the UC Newsroom: http://universityofcalifornia.edu/news/going-global-graduate-student-fellows-tackle-international-development-projects.

GwenVarley_indonesiaGender in the Forest: bringing light to an understudied area. Spotlight on 2014-2015 RIFA Fellow Gwen Varley and her research on gender in forestry: http://tinyurl.com/hcoqekk


2015-2016 RIFA Applications have closed. Fellows will be announced Dec. 20.

Brought to you by the letter U. RIFA is part of the University of California Global Food Initiative's A-to-Z fight against world hunger: http://bit.ly/1LGAlVN

 RIFA's First Fellow Jumps into Action in South Africa

  Megan McCaghey is the first RIFA fellow to travel to her host country. Read more about the work she


is doing in South Africa on our blog: https://ucdavisrifa.wordpress.com/.


RIFA orientation

RIFA Fellows 2015 (Left to Right) Top: Gwen Varley, Jorge Berny, Gabriel LaHue, Ryan Byrnes, Carrie Teiken, Megan McCaghey, Kyle Anderson. Middle: Julia Shuck, Katerine Ramirez, Sara Tiffany, Owen Cortner, Elyssa Lewis, Emily Gousen, Emily Webster. Bottom: Elana Peach-Fine (Program Coordinator), David Miller (Program Director) />

 First Research and Innovation Fellowships for Agriculture Awarded

Students went through a selection and matching process that paired them with host institutions in five countries, working on a variety of projects in the agricultural development field. 

Six students will travel to Colombia. Sara Tiffany, will work on improving nutrient and water use efficiency, especially in agroforestry systems, at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Gabe LaHue will evaluate alternative water management strategies for Colombian rice farmers at CIAT. Jorge Berny will pursue innovative breeding strategies to accelerate genetic improvement and nutritional enhancement of crops at CIAT. Katerine Ramirez will study integrated territorial rural development with the International Organization for Migration. Ryan Byrnes, who will study nitrogen cycling in soils at CIAT. Emily Webster  will study the impact of agroforestry on relations between soil macrofauna diversity and soil physics also at CIAT. 

Five students will travel to South Africa. Elyssa Lewis, will design and implement a monitoring and evaluation process for tracking livelihood improvements of smallholder farmers with the SaveAct Trust. Emily Gousen and Kyle Anderson will study agricultural entrepreneurial innovations at the Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (SA RILAB). Julia Shuck will design and implement a web information portal to assist small and medium enterprises with information and communication technology decision-making at the University of Cape Town. Megan McCaghey will study fungal population genomics at the University of Pretoria, particularly of gray leaf spot on maize.

Carrie Teiken will travel to India to develop models for sustainable pest management through the integration of farmer attitudes, disease epidemiology, pesticide efficacy and economics at The Energy and Resources Institute.

Gwen Varley will travel to Indonesia and draw on critical gender scholarship as related to community forestry and sustainable development with the Center for International Forestry Research.

Owen Cortner will travel to Brazil to study intercropped tropical forages as components of integrated crop-livestock-forestry systems with the Universidade de São Paulo- Piracicaba.

Contact Information

  International Programs of CA&ES Environmental Horticulture Building Room #1103 University of California, Davis One Shields Avenue Davis, CA 95616

Phone: 202-833-4613 or 530-754 5410

E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]





Latest News

Stephanie Webb (2016) organizes tilapia taste test with 20 Egyptian top chefs: www.worldfishcenter.org/content/egyptian-chefs-put-farmed-tilapia-taste-test

RIFA Fellow Kate Polakiewicz named to UC Global Food Initiative's 30 Under 30!

RIFA is currently soliciting statements of interest from UC or UC-affiliated organizations to host a 2017 RIFA fellow. Learn more in our Host Institutions section below.

On January 30, RIFA Fellows from UC Davis, Riverside and Santa Cruz joined the Global Development Fellows at UC Berkeley for the first Research and Innovation Fellows conference. Find out more about the conference on our blog: https://ucdavisrifa.wordpress.com/.

RIFA Box logo