Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)

About Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies

  • 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.

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.


Within the MA programme students have an option to specialize further. Take a look at the current specializations on offer.

Webinar on Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)

Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies 2024

What is the AFES major all about?

Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)

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Classes are generally kept at small sizes so the lecturers can answer questions in detail and tailor their lessons to the students’ interests
Jane Miller Canada

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