Course code EDS352

EDS352 Agroecology and Development

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2021 - 2022 .

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 agroecology and sustainable agri-food system development from the local to the global level. The course is built around four interconnected modules:

  • Agriculture as social-ecological systems
  • Cropping systems
  • Soil, water, energy
  • Livestock systems

The first module lays out an interdisciplinary framework for studying agroecology and agricultural systems. The framework draws on ecology, agronomy, sustainability science, rural sociology, anthropology, and philosophy of science. Across modules, we assess social and environmental outcomes of practices and policies according to three dimensions: Productivity; Environmental sustainability; Social equality.

In 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 the environmental effects of agri-food systems, agroecology, sustainable intensification, cropping systems, agrobiodiversity, seed supply systems, crop and livestock breeding, integrated pest management, integrated soil fertility and water management, integrated crop-livestock systems, energy-flows, knowledge systems, knowledge politics in agricultural research for development, the political economy and governance of agricultural development.  

The objective of this course is to provide knowledge about fundamental aspects and key debates about agri-food system transformation.

The course is taught by a group of agriculture, agroecology and development scholars at Noragric. 

Learning outcome:

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

Skills: The student can analyze and deal critically with various sources of information and research literatures and use them to formulate scholarly arguments about different approaches and methods in agroecology/agricultural research and development. The student can apply this knowledge to carry out assignments and research projects (including a master thesis within the topic). The student understands the principles of a range of agroecological approaches and will be able to assess their appropriateness in different contexts.  

Learning activities:

The modules include lectures, plenary discussions and seminars. If possible, an excursion to local agri-food system actors will be organized towards the end of the course.

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.

There are three mandatory assignments (one-page essays). The students will discuss the assignment topics in seminars and individually submit the assignments as short term papers. The seminars, the writing and the evaluation will train the students in academic writing and argumentation related to core topics covered in the course. The assignments are graded and count towards the final grade.  

Teaching support:
The lecturers are available for questions and advise during office hours.

Lecture notes + journal articles. Syllabus with full reference list and links to literature will be posted on the Canvas site.


The syllabus contains bot required readings and recommended readings. Below is the list of required readings this year.

Lecture notes by Trygve Berg and co-authors

Journal articles and book chapters

Bellarby, J. et al. (2008) Cool farming: Climate impacts of agriculture and mitigation potential. University of Aberdeen. 43 pp.

Clapp, J., & Moseley, W. G. (2020). This food crisis is different: COVID-19 and the fragility of the neoliberal food security order. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 47(7), 1393-1417.

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

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 

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

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

Evenson, R.E. & D. Gollin (2003) Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution 1960 to 2000. Science,

300 (5620):758-762 

Geertz, C. (1972) The wet and the dry: traditional irrigation in Bali and Morocco. Human Ecology 1(1):23- 39 

Guthman, J. (2019) Ch.1 in Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry

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

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 

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

Liniger, H. et al. (2011). Sustainable land management in practice. Rome, FAO. pp. 21-31

Méndez VE. et al. (2013) Agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory, and action-oriented approach. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 37:3-18

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

Moore et al. (2019) Regenerating agricultural landscapes with perennial groundcover for intensive crop production. Agronomy 9 (458)

Mottet A. et al. (2017). Livestock: On our plates or eating at our table? A new analysis of the feed / food debate. Global Food Security 14: 1-8 S., Darkoh & Atlhopheng (2016) A comparative review of water management sustainability challenges in smallholder irrigation schemes in Africa and Asia. Agricultural Water Management 171:63-72.

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

Pretty J. (2018) Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems Science, 362 (6417): eaav0294

Raman R. (2017) The impact of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in modern agriculture: A review.  GM Crops & Food 8:4, 195-208

Robinson, RA. (1996). Maize in tropical Africa (ch. 20) from Return to resistance: breeding crops to reduce pesticide dependence. IDRC

Rockström J. et al (2020) Planet-proofing the global food system. Nature Food, 1:3-5

Rockström, J., J. Barron, & P. Fox (2003) Water productivity in rainfed agriculture: challenges and opportunities in drought-prone tropical agroecosystems. Water productivity in agriculture: limits and opportunities for improvements (eds. J.W. Kijne, R. Barker, & D. Molden). Wallingford, CAB International. Pp. 145-162

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 

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

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

Twomlow S. & R. Delve (2016) Lessons learned: Design and implementing conservation agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Rome, IFAD. 23 pp.

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 

Recommended prerequisites:
A basic course in ecology is recommended. Knowledge from introductory courses in environmental science, plant science and animal science will be an advantage, but is not required.
Three mandatory individual assignments during the course counts for 30% of the grade. Completion and pass in mandatory assignments is required in order to sit for the exam. Final written exam (3,5 hrs) in exam period counts 70% of the grade. Exam in English only. Grades A-F.
Nominal workload:
250 working hours in total. 
Entrance requirements:


Minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway

Type of course:
4 lecture hours/week for 14 weeks = 56 hrs. Seminars are integrated. 
The course is designed for an interdisciplinary Master degree programme where students could have different backgrounds including agricultural, natural, social or economic sciences.
External examiner on the exam. Exam papers are graded independently by the teacher (course coordinator) and the external examiner.
Allowed examination aids: A1 No calculator, no other aids
Examination details: Combined assessment: Letter grades