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Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)

Can we feed the world and achieve economic development while conserving ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of peasants and the rural poor? How do we understand and tackle the interlinked agrarian and environmental crises? What types of policies create sustainable development that guarantees justice, equality and autonomy for poor and marginalized communities?

Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES) offers an interdisciplinary approach – combining political economy, political ecology, and political sociology – to understanding and confronting the impacts of global capitalist development on agrarian structures and environmental systems. The focus of the AFES Major is on the social, political and economic dynamics of rural and agrarian change and environmental degradation, seen from a wider perspective of rural and rural-urban links, and across the Global South-North divides to include emerging international actors in agro-environmental terrain, such as BRICS.

The focus of the Major is on the social and political processes around the dynamics of agrarian change, rural-urban poverty and environmental degradation, (inter-) governmental intervention, and emerging popular alternatives such as food sovereignty and agroecology and the (trans)national social movements that spearhead these. It offers a balance between theory, policy and practice. Specifically, the Major addresses themes including: land, water and natural resources use, access, property relations & conflict; climate change, environmental degradation; and extraction, use, management, and distribution of natural resources; rural poverty, social exclusion and marginalization; emerging popular alternatives such as food sovereignty and agroecology; as well as global agrarian and environmental politics, including (trans)national agrarian and environmental justice movements as well as food movements.

After completing the Major, participants will have developed a critical understanding of key processes facing the agricultural and rural sectors and the livelihoods of rural people, as well as the structures and processes that influence sustainable development. They will be familiar with useful tools in analyzing policies and strategies of governments, NGOs, social movements and private companies.

A new course beginning 2013-2014 school calendar! The Political Economy/Ecology of Hunger and the Global Food System. For detailed information about this course please see our specialization pages.

Message from the Agrarian, Food & Environmental Studies (AFES) Team


Agriculture and Rural Development

Environment and Sustainable Development

Target group

This Major targets professionals and students who have worked on or are interested in rural development and environmental issues. They can be recent graduates, or come from international development agencies, national governments, donor organizations, NGOs, social movements, trade unions, and from wider constituencies such as journalists, community-based workers, and agrarian-environmental activists. Find out more about the ISS student body


Download the prospectus

Download the Prospectus