Terms and Dates:

  • Summer 2019
One Time Opportunity


Andrew Ofstehage

Cornell Affiliations:

Air Force ROTC


Applications submitted by March 27, 2019 will be prioritized in the selection process. Applications may be continue to be accepted after that date until positions are filled; feel free to inquire.

Opportunity Description

A.  Intensive Week-long Workshop: Land Management in Theory and Practice (May 19-24, 2019, Cornell Campus)

B. Optional: Paid Summer 2019 Research Internships with Partner Organizations

Do you work on a topic related to the land – such as agriculture, colonial plant science, biodiversity conservation, water resource management, agroecology, infrastructure, urban planning, property relations, energy or natural resource extraction? Our spring 2019 workshop will bring these topics in relation with integrated perspectives on land and agribusiness accountability through engaged lectures and hands-on discussions. Following the global food crisis, a global land rush has brought issues of land access, farm worker rights, and agribusiness governance to the attention of farming communities, non-governmental organization, and academics. Land is fundamentally multi-faceted and multi-functional, and so management draws on a variety of disciplines, skills and knowledges – and yet, as researchers, we often approach our work through the narrow lens of a single chosen discipline, scale or socioecological problem. Cornell’s initiative in Integrated Land Management is offering a weeklong workshop and an internship program to help Cornell graduate students build these skills led by Cornell professors Wendy Wolford (DSOC), Steven Wolf (Natural Resources), Todd Walter (Engineering), Rachel Bezner Kerr (DSOC), and Natalie Mahowald (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences).

Weeklong Workshop:

In this integrative workshop, we dedicate one week to developing an integrated perspective and toolkit in conjunction with Oxfam America’s Behind the Brands campaign. We bring together a diverse group of faculty, development practitioners and community members to provide students working on any topic an overview of the latest methods, theories and approaches. This hands-on immersive workshop will feature demonstrations and discussions of global value chains, land tenure and titling, water management, governance and accountability, research rigor, gender, and worker rights applied to cutting-edge questions of sustainability, justice, science and economic development. In addition to contributions from a broad range of Cornell faculty, there will also be presentations and discussions with Oxfam America representatives. Participants in the week-long workshop will be organized into small discussion groups to emphasize active learning and provide feedback on participants’ written work. Time will be budgeted in the schedule for writing and discussion. Depending on the type of their enrollment each participant will produce either a research plan for a summer internship (for those enrolled as summer interns), an essay to analyze the supply chain for a specific company or commodity (for those enrolled for credit), or a short essay to apply the lessons of the week to their own work (for those taking the course not for credit).

In addition to the program leads, workshop speakers are likely to include Kathleen Sexsmith (Rural Sociology at Penn State), Gary Gareffi (Sociology at Duke), Mary Jo Dudley (Development Sociology at Cornell), and several other faculty.

Internship Program:

Our internship program includes the May weeklong workshop, a paid summer 2019 research experience, and a one-day workshop in the fall (date TBD). We plan to fund up to 9 interns to conduct research with our partner community organizations (abroad or domestically) under the guidance of a Cornell faculty member. Students will work in interdisciplinary teams with local community members and organizations on themes related to the May workshop. Project assignments, as described below, meet three objectives. They implement integrated land management perspectives, collect case studies for Oxfam America’s Behind the Brands campaign, and meet the needs of local Oxfam America partners. We seek applicants with cross-cultural competencies and the capacity to work independently and in teams in unfamiliar contexts.

Workshop and Internship Program Goals:

The workshop will allow participants to deepen and broaden their engagement with an integrated approach to land management. The experience is designed to provide new insights on the specific questions that structure participants’ academic and professional work and to allow them to contextualize their work in an integrated appreciation of the larger dynamics that characterize land management.


These opportunities are open to Cornell Masters students (MS, MPS, MPA, etc.) and early Ph.D. students (1st-3rd year) from any related Cornell program (including but not limited to natural resources, development sociology, earth sciences, engineering, applied economics, law, history, atmospheric and earth sciences, hydrology, soil and crop sciences, ecology, etc.)

  • The May workshop is open to Cornell students of any nationality, including students graduating in May 2019. (Non-Cornell students will be considered as well; please contact us.)
  • The internship program is open to Cornell graduate students who are U.S. citizens/nationals or permanent residents who will not graduate before August 2019. Students graduating in May 2019 are not eligible for ILM internships.
Application Instructions:

To apply for the workshop or internship program, please complete these two steps:

  1. Fill out this online application form:
  2. Submit the following documents in one email to program manager Andrew Ofstehage at
    1. A 1-2 page application letter (M.S. Word or PDF document) with the following information: an explanation of your reasons for applying, relevant prior experience, and career goals
    2. An unofficial graduate transcript or list of graduate courses taken
    3. A CV
    4. For students applying for paid summer internships, please also include:
      1. 1-2 writing samples of any length
      2. Description of international experience, discussion of cross-cultural competencies, and evidence of capacity to work independently and in teams in less-than-familiar contexts.
      3. Contact information (phone number and email, and their relationship to you) for a Cornell professor who knows you and can speak to your ability to successfully complete this research internship program.
Applications submitted by March 27, 2019 will be prioritized in the selection process. Applications may be continue to be accepted after that date until positions are filled; feel free to inquire.

Please address questions to Andrew Ofstehage at Participants will be selected by a team of Cornell faculty and partners. Selection criteria emphasize correspondence with the call for applications, evidence that the workshop will add value to the students’ academic/professional program, and diversity considerations including student discipline, background and gender. We are committed to diversity and encourage applications from American students from ethnic backgrounds that are underrepresented in agricultural majors in the U.S. (African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, etc.)

Acknowledgements: This workshop and internship program were funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge (USDA HEC) Grant (PIs: Wendy Wolford, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Ray Craib, Steven Wolf, Tammo Steenhuis) and by Oxfam America, with support from Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

About Oxfam

Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. We help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters. Our mission is to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions.

About the Research Internships

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands initiative encourages more inclusive, fair and sustainable agricultural sourcing by major agri-food companies. Our aim is to shift agrifood company sourcing away from exploitative models and instead to models that advance rural transformation, the fight against poverty, sustainable agricultural development and global food security.

Oxfam launched its international Behind the Brands campaign in February 2013. The campaign ranked the biggest international food and beverage companies, the ‘Big 10,’[1] on the strength of their policies on farmers, transparency, women, agricultural workers, land, water and climate change. The aim of the campaign was to create a race to the top, encouraging the Big 10 to improve their policies and practices.

Oxfam then built trust and credibility with its target companies, based on its appropriate, constructive “critical friend” approach. Resulting from this trust, companies have continued to engage with Oxfam on implementation of commitments. Oxfam now seeks to drive transformational change and create new models in target countries. The purpose of this country-level work is to ensure implementation of commitments through public monitoring of companies’ efforts, to leverage BtB companies commitments to further agendas around equitable agricultural investments, land reform, inequality, gender equity in the agricultural sector and transparency in value; and to strengthen the capacity of local civil society to influence the private sector. Target countries include: Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Malawi, and Thailand.

The internship positions below are designed to support this country-level work, where land management is an essential component of creating more inclusive value chains.

  1. Land rights and the Guatemalan palm oil sector

Internship location: Guatemala City, Guatemala

Supervisor: Susana Gauster and Juan Pablo Ozaeta, Oxfam en Guatemala

Cornell faculty mentor: TBD

Project background

With rapidly accelerating global demand, palm oil production in Latin America has doubled since 2001. In Guatemala, the land dedicated to cultivation of oil palm has quadrupled in the last decade, and the country is now the biggest exporter of palm oil in the region. The large-scale palm oil production in the country is threatening the rights of local communities, including their rights to land, and putting forests and other ecosystems at risk. Traditionally, this highly concentrated sector has operated with limited oversight and accountability.

However, heeding civil society calls, global buyers committed to ensuring their palm oil supply chains are deforestation-free and exploitation-free, which is beginning to impact the policies and practices of Guatemalan palm oil companies. In order to comply with the social and environmental sustainability requirements of their buyers, Guatemalan palm oil growers are taking initial steps to revise their policies and practices, and are recognizing the importance of engaging with civil society stakeholders.  

A notable example is the case of the palm oil company Reforestadora de Palma del Petén SA (REPSA), part of the HAME Group, which concentrates about 40% of Guatemalan palm oil production. REPSA has been the subject of strong criticism for the severe contamination of the Pasión River (2015) – the lifeblood of Sayaxché in Petén, the illegal detention of civil society organization members opposing its operations, intimidation of others, and so on. This led Oxfam, together with other civil society allies, to demand that global traders push REPSA to adopt policies and practices for socially and environmentally responsible palm oil production. Significantly, actions taken by buyers such as Cargill, Wilmar and Nestle have resulted in some improvements in REPSA’s approach to environmental and social sustainability, though the company still has a long way to go.

In addition, Oxfam is working to bring Guatemalan civil society organizations together to develop a coherent response and strategy to influence the palm oil sector overall. Together, we are creating a larger opportunity to positively influence the human rights impacts and social and environmental practices of the entire palm oil sector in Guatemala.

Oxfam in Guatemala’s work, over the next 18 months, includes: carrying out trainings for community-based organizations on monitoring, documenting and influencing work related to palm oil production; emphasizing the role of women in monitoring company activities and compliance with socially and environmentally responsible policies and practices; engaging and advocating directly with REPSA and three additional palm oil companies on the same; releasing a substantive report on the activities of palm oil companies, highlighting land, deforestation, and human rights risks associated with palm oil expansion; and developing a medium-term advocacy plan with other CSOs for influencing the palm oil sector in Guatemala.

Key responsibilities

Interns will work with Oxfam in Guatemala staff to carry out monitoring and research activities on the country’s palm oil sector and support strategy design for advocacy and engagement with palm oil companies in the region. Some fieldwork for meetings with communities and partner organizations in Sayaxché is anticipated. Deliverables will include: shadow reporting on palm oil company progress (Oxfam verifications of company-self reporting); gathering data for Oxfam in Guatemala’s MEL framework; and input on strategy documents. All deliverables include a focus on women’s empowerment and gender equity in the palm oil sector.

Desired student qualifications
  • Spanish proficiency (written and spoken)
  • Strong writing skills
  • A commitment to fighting poverty, gender justice, supporting inclusive value chains, and alignment to Oxfam’s mission and values is also necessary.
  • Prior experience (including through previous graduate coursework) in protecting land rights and private sector engagement/advocacy work would also be helpful.
  1. Engaging multi-stakeholder Initiatives (MSIs) on land rights

Internship location: Boston, Massachusetts

Supervisor: Sarah Zoen, Oxfam America

Cornell faculty member: TBD

Project background

As a result of the global expansion of the agri-food industry, governance has become more global and diverse. Agrifood governance includes multiple actors (public and private) and scales (global, regional, and national). It is the space where the rules, standards and norms are defined that determine trade flows, market access and sustainability criteria. The social side of sustainability issues such as land rights, gender, and smallholder farmers is often missing or underdeveloped in these spaces, as the standards are developed with primarily environmental criteria in mind (e.g. deforestation, conversion).

Oxfam and the Behind the Brands campaign have engaged in the agrifood governance space through work on trade, international rule-setting bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and sector-level multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), such as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Bonsucro. MSIs have great influence on overall commodity production: for example RSPO is approaching 25% of global palm oil production. Building on these experiences, Oxfam seeks engage and influence governance actors within the wider agrifood industry, with a focus on highlighting gaps and raising the bar.

Key responsibilities

Interns will research existing social impact principles and criteria in MSIs, with a focus on Bonsucro, RSPO, and Rainforest Alliance and Utz (recent merger), identifying gaps and making recommendations for implementation and reporting. The interns will also document existing evidence of MSIs taking up BtB thematic issues (land, climate, gender, and smallholders), analyzing progress to date and identifying opportunities for Oxfam collaboration, engagement and influencing. The team should address, among others, the following questions:

  • What are the existing grievance processes for these MSIs (based on publicly available documentation), and how might they be strengthened? What evidence exists of MSI certification reporting on BtB issues (land, climate, gender, smallholders), and how might reporting be improved?
  • Based on a comparative analysis across the MSIs and benchmarked against international standards for best practice, , where are the gaps and opportunities for stronger social impact standards, audit/implementation guidance, and measurement (focus on land, gender, climate, and smallholders)?

This research will inform Oxfam’s strategy for engaging MSIs on land rights. The purpose of this engagement is to strengthen the potential for communities to use multi-stakeholder initiatives to prevent and address land-related grievances.

Desired student qualifications
  • Strong writing and research skills
  • A commitment to fighting poverty, gender justice, supporting inclusive value chains, and alignment to Oxfam’s mission and values is also necessary.
  • Prior experience (including through previous graduate coursework) in protecting land rights and private sector engagement/advocacy work would also be helpful.
  1. Land rights and the agrifood sector in Brazil

Internship location: Brasilia and Sao Paulo, Brazil

Supervisor: Sérgio Sauer, University of Brasilia and Gustavo Ferroni, Oxfam Brazil

Cornell faculty member: Wendy Wolford

Project background

In Brazil, Oxfam focuses on the land commitments made by Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever, with an approach of corporate monitoring and accountability. In addition to engaging these companies, Oxfam Brazil also works to strengthen community-based organizations and to contribute to the public debate over land rights and inequality.

Land concentration is worsening in Brazil; less than 1% of farms occupy 47.5% of land. The concentration process is driven not only by land grabs, but also through the concentration of credit, technology, irrigation, training, tax breaks, and irrigation in big agribusiness. Rural Brazil is permeated by conflicts that are often very violent. The country holds the shameful distinction of having the highest number of killings of land and environmental defenders for 2017, 2016 and 2015, accounting for a quarter of defenders killed worldwide. Most conflicts are over the grabbing of public, unassigned land. Oxfam Brazil expects to see an increase in these conflicts under the new presidential administration

A focus of Oxfam Brazil’s work is to make clear the relationship between land rights and supply chain responsibility – and to mobilize companies to take action.

Key responsibilities

In 2016, Oxfam Brazil commissioned research examining land, agriculture and inequality in rural Brazil, which then formed the basis of a public report. Interns will carry out research on an updated version commissioned to examine land concentration and inequality in Brazil, but with a focus on regions where there is concentrated commodity production (e.g. especially for fruit, cocoa and coffee). In addition to interviews with key stakeholders, the interns will also analyze newly released data from the 2019 agrarian census, conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

The interns will also generate a series of written products, including a policy brief for external publication, making clear the relationship between land concentration and specific supply chains and private sector actors. The latter will advance Oxfam’s goal of contributing to the debate about land rights and inequality in Brazil.

Desired student qualifications
  • Portuguese proficiency (written and spoken)
  • Experience analyzing administrative data
  • Strong writing skills
  • A commitment to fighting poverty, gender justice, supporting inclusive value chains, and alignment to Oxfam’s mission and values is also necessary.
  • Prior experience (including through previous graduate coursework) in protecting land rights and private sector engagement/advocacy work would also be helpful.
  1. Gender, cocoa and land in Ghana

Internship location: Accra, Ghana

Supervisor: Martha Mensah and John Nkaw, Oxfam in Ghana

Cornell faculty member: TBD

Project background

As part of the first phase of the BtB campaign, Oxfam secured commitments from Mars, Mondelez and Nestle, which collectively control about 40% of globally traded cocoa. The three companies publically committed to strong practice on women’s economic empowerment, completed independent assessments in cocoa communities, published action plans, and are implementing activities to address gender inequality and empowering women cocoa farmers and communities. As Ghana is the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa, Oxfam in Ghana is focusing Behind the Brands implementation efforts on sustainability in the country’s cocoa supply chain.

One component of this work is evidence building, through scoping and research studies of BtB companies’ and traders’ footprints (activities of the BtB companies and their traders and the impact on land, climate, women and small-scale producers), that will enable Oxfam and companies to understand what goes on in their supply chains and will help other stakeholders to see this in a more transparent and independent way.

Key responsibilities

The interns will carry out research related to women’s economic empowerment in the cocoa value chain, examining barriers and opportunities and identifying content that is relevant for policy influencing and reform processes at company and governmental level.

Note that this work fits into a larger research agenda, including a recently commissioned initiative to examine evidence of implementation of commitments made by cocoa industry actors, and how companies might support training, access to finance, and other pathways to women’s economic empowerment within the cocoa sector.

Desired student qualifications
  • Strong writing and research skills
  • A commitment to fighting poverty, gender justice, supporting inclusive value chains, and alignment to Oxfam’s mission and values is also necessary.
  • Prior experience (including through previous graduate coursework) in protecting land rights and private sector engagement/advocacy work would also be helpful.
5. Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities in Malawi

Internship location: Malawi

Supervisor: Rachel Bezner Kerr

Cornell faculty member: Rachel Bezner Kerr

Project background and key responsibilities

This internship would be based in Malawi, with the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities organization, or SFHC ( This is a non-profit, farmer-led organization which does participatory research with smallholder farming communities in Malawi on agroecological approaches to addressing food security and nutrition. The student would participate in one of two ongoing research projects which SFHC is co-leading, depending on the research skills and interests of the student. The first, FARMS 4 Biodiversity, involves studying the impacts of agroecological approaches on wild biodiversity (birds, bees and beneficial insects) on a landscape scale. The internship might involve ecological or social science data collection, data entry and preliminary analysis, in collaboration with several collaborating institutions. The second project is ‘Mapping agroecology, nutrition and gender equity in Malawi’ involves doing participatory mapping and interviews with farmers who have previously worked with SFHC, to learn what practices they are still using and what information they have shared with others. The internship would involve doing interviews and mapping activities, and preliminary data analysis in collaboration with SFHC staff and farmers.

Required qualifications

Good communication skills (writing and oral); experience working in new cultural environments, some qualitative or quantitative data skills in the social or natural sciences, comfortable working in rural setting with people from a wide range of backgrounds, able to work independently but also coordinate with a diverse team.

Desired qualifications

Either background in conducting in-depth interviews, use of GIS/mapping, or ecology (birds or insect knowledge).

6. Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods in South India

Internship location: South India

Supervisor: Steven Wolf

Cornell faculty member: Steven Wolf

Project background and responsibilities: We seek to recruit two graduate students to conduct research for 8 weeks in cooperation with Keystone Foundation and the Nilgiris Field Learning Center - - in Tamil Nadu, India. The work centers on an environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods program in the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve. The intervention we are studying is funded by Conservation International under their Conservation Agreements program.  Keystone has been working with these communities for over 20 years. Under the Conservation Agreement, communities agree to alter their land uses in exchange for goods and services of value. Our research is centered on the implementation of this program; effects on forests, livelihoods, and people. We are specifically interested in the data streams that support monitoring and verification of ecological and socioeconomic dynamics. We aim to analyze and compare the design/representation of monitoring and verification procedures with the on-the-ground practices. We expect there to be differences, and we want to understand and bridge these differences.

Desired qualifications: Students that pursue these internships will need to be comfortable working independently and in the conditions they find in the field and on the Keystone campus in Kotagiri. Students interested in conservation science, sociology, planning, resource economics, information science, and other relevant fields are encouraged to apply.