Course code EDS352

EDS352 Agroecology and Development

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2020 - 2021 .

Course responsible: Ola Tveitereid Westengen, Jens Bernt Aune
Teachers: Lars Olav Eik, Trygve Berg
ECTS credits: 10
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Teaching exam periods:
This course starts in Spring parallel. This course has teaching/evaluation in Spring parallel.
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2007-2008
Preferential right:
Course contents:

This course is about the principles of sustainable agricultural development from the local to the global level. The course is divided into five interconnected modules:

  • Agriculture as social-ecological systems
  • Cropping systems and agricultural development
  • Livestock systems
  • Integrated soil, water, energy and farming systems
  • Genetic Resources and Seed Systems

From a basis in ecology and agronomy, the course provides an interdisciplinary perspective on agricultural systems. Across modules, we assess resource use and agricultural practices based on three dimensions: Environmental sustainability, productivity and social outcomes.

Across all modules, we present case studies that exemplify important agricultural practices and production systems, development pathways and debates about the role of technology and politics in agricultural development. Topics covered include sustainable intensification, agroecology, cropping systems, seed supply systems, management of genetic resources, crop and livestock breeding, integrated pest management, conservation agriculture, integrated soil fertility and water management, energy-flows, knowledge systems, knowledge politics in agronomy.  

The objective of this course is to provide knowledge about fundamental aspects and key debates about what in entails to achieve sustainability in agriculture.

The course is taught by a group of thematic agriculture experts at Noragric. 

Learning outcome:

Knowledge: The student is able to understand the farm as a system with emphasis on ecological principles (agro-ecosystems) with sustainability, productivity and social justice outcomes. The student shall acquire knowledge about key approaches to sustainable agriculture and their agronomic principles.

Skills: The student can analyze and deal critically with various sources of information and use them to formulate scholarly arguments about different approaches and methods. The student can apply this knowledge to carry out assignments and research projects (including a master thesis within the topic). 

Learning activities:

The modules include lectures, plenary discussions and seminars. Students are expected to be familiar with the core readings for each week, and further readings and videos will be provided for exploring the topics in greater breadth and depth.

Course readings and lecture notes in Canvas.

Mandatory assignments and lectures will be announced in class and in Canvas.  


Lecture notes + journal articles. Syllabus with full reference list and links to literature will be posted in learning platform.

Selected readings:

Evans, L.T. (1998) Introduction. Feeding the Ten Billion, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-6

Sukhdev P. et al (2016) Fix food metrics. Nature, 540: 33-34

Diamond, J. (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature, 480:700-707

Hart, R.D. 1980: A Natural Ecosystem Analog Approach to the Design of a Successional Crop System for Tropical forest Environments. Biotropica, Supplement to vol. 12 (2): 73-82.

Rockstrom, J. et al. (2017) Sustainable intensification of agriculture for human prosperity and global sustainability. Ambio 46(1):4-17

Foley, J.A. et al. (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478:337-342 

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) (2008). Global Summary for Decision Makers. 36 p.

Tester M & P. Langridge (2010) Breeding Technologies to Increase Crop Production in a Changing World. Science, 327(5967):818-822

Westengen, O. & T. Berg (2016) Crop Adaptation to Climate Change in SSA: The Role of Genetic Resources and Seed Systems. Climate Change and Multi-Dimensional Sustainability in African Agriculture. Springer Pp. 327-343

McGuire, S. & L. Sperling (2016) Seed systems smallholder farmers use. Food Security 8(1):179-195

Pretty, J., C. Toulmin & S. Williams. (2011) Sustainable intensification in African agriculture. International Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 9(1):5-24 

Harlan J.R. (1975) Our Vanishing Genetic Resources, Science, 188 (4188):618-621

Khoury, C.K. et al. (2016) Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283(1832)20160792. 9pp.

Esquinas-Alcázar, J. (2005) Protecting crop genetic diversity for food security: political, ethical and technical challenges. Nature Reviews Genetics 6:946-953

Brush, S.B. (2007) Farmers¿ rights and protection of traditional agricultural knowledge. World Development, 35(9):1499¿1514

Khan, Z. et al. (2011) Push¿pull technology: a conservation agriculture approach for integrated management of insect pests, weeds and soil health in Africa. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 9(1):162-170 

Tittonell, P. (2014) Ecological intensification of agriculture ¿ sustainable by nature, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 8:53¿61 

Méndez, V.E., C.M. Bacon & R, Cohen (2012) Agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory, and action-oriented approach. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37(1):3-18 

Eik, L.O. et al. (2008) Productivity of goats and their contribution to household food security in high potential areas of East Africa: A case of Mgeta, Tanzania. African Journal of Food Agriculture and Development (AJFAND), vol.8(3):278-290 

Msalya, G. et al. (2016) Public-private partnership for sustainable production and marketing of goat milk in light of climate change. Climate Change and Multi-Dimensional Sustainability in African Agriculture. Springer. Pp. 505-524.

Vanlauwe, B. & K.E. Giller. (2009) Popular myths around soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 116(1-2):34-46

Vanlauwe, B. et al. (2010) Integrated soil fertility management: Operational definitions and consequences for implementation and dissemination. Outlook on Agriculture 39(1):17-24

Scopel, E. et al. (2013) Conservation agriculture cropping systems in temperate and tropical conditions, performances and impacts. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development  33(1):113¿130

Mutambara S., M.B.K. Darkoh &  J.R. Atlhopheng (2016) A comparative review of water management sustainability challenges in smallholder irrigation schemes in Africa and Asia. Agricultural Water Management 171:63-72.

Sumberg, J. et al. (2013) Why agronomy in the developing world has become contentious. Agriculture and Human Values, 30(1):71-83

Reardon, S. (2016) Welcome to the CRISPR zoo. Nature 531:160-163 Gurian-Sherman, D. (2009) Failure to Yield. Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. Union of Concerned Scientists. 43 pp.  

Recommended prerequisites:
A basic course in ecology is recommended. Knowleged from introductory courses in environmental science, plant science and animal science will be an advantage, but is not required. 
Mandatory activity:
There are three mandatory individual assignments (1 page mini-essays). The topics/questions for the assignments will be announced in class and in the learning platform. 
Completion and pass in mandatory assignments is required in order to sit for the exam. Final written exam counts 100% of the grade. Exam in English only. Grades A-F.
Nominal workload:
300 working hours in total. 
Entrance requirements:
Minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway (generell studiekompetanse)
Reduction of credits:
EDS250: 8 ECTS
Type of course:
4 lecture hours/week for 14 weeks = 56 hrs.
The course is designed for an interdisciplinary Master degree programme where students could have different backgrounds including agricultural, natural, social or economic sciences.
There is one external examiner. Exam papers are graded independently by the teacher (course coordinator) and the external examiner.
Examination details: :