• Class Number 8714
  • Term Code 2960
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic Online
  • Mode of Delivery Online
    • AsPr John McCarthy
    • AsPr John McCarthy
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/07/2019
  • Class End Date 25/10/2019
  • Census Date 31/08/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 29/07/2019
SELT Survey Results

This course aims to:

  • provide a comparative lens for understanding key issues and responses in agricultural policy.
  • the means for understanding the challenges of agricultural reform in the context of agrarian politics.

Spikes in food prices and fears stirred up by a changing climate combining with increasing energy and water needs have heightened concerns regarding food security and the sustainability of agriculture in developing countries.  At the same time the convergence of pressures on agriculture has affected the purchasing power and food availability for the poor.  While spikes in food prices have led to social unrest in some places, commodity booms have led to rapid agrarian changes in other areas.  In this heated climate critical policy debates have emerged regarding how agriculture might develop in a fashion that diminishes environmental and social inequalities and vulnerabilities and, under what conditions, specific policies and projects can support an agriculture-for development agenda that is more friendly to the poor and to the environment. 

International policy approaches have sought to promote agricultural development while working to reduce the risks to vulnerable populations.  For instance, there are initiatives to use legal tools to empower the poor, to develop private sector smallholder development models that contribute to poverty reduction, to develop corporate responsibility processes and agendas that rework value chains to ensure a more equitable distribution of benefits from agricultural development, and now there are new programs to support adaptation to risk from extreme climatic events.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On successful completion of this course students will have:

• Demonstrated competency with necessary theoretical and analytical tools required to analyze key policy problems facing the agricultural and rural sectors and the livelihoods of rural dwellers in the contemporary developing world.
• Practiced professional skills using the key framework required for analyzing key agricultural and food security issues arising from a combination of economic, political, and natural processes.
• Debated key perspectives on food and agricultural policy
• Considered the potentialities and limits of selected widely promoted and replicated rural development policies.
• Discussed the implications of policies for different actors and institutions concerned with or affected by rural policy through the consideration of particular cases.
• Practiced professional skills to present ideas clearly, and facilitate the learning of others

Research-Led Teaching

This course is based on 20 years of research work related to topics of agrarian and environmental change, with a focus on livelihoods, non-agricultural economy, land grabbing, and so forth. It builds on my interest in analysing more broadly issues transforming rural society, such as the impact of climate change on rural livelihoods. Consequently, beyond a narrow focus on food security and the development of agriculture, this course also engages with a wider range of question converging on the livelihoods of rural population and question of poverty alleviation.

There is no set text. However, some key texts that you might consider buying for this course include:

Paarlberg, R. 2010. Food Politics. What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press.

Devereux, S., Vaitla, B. & Hauenstein-Swan, S. 2008. Seasons of Hunger: Fighting Cycles of Starvation among the World's Rural Poor. Pluto Press. 

Young, E. M. 2012. Food and Development (Routledge Perspectives on Development)

Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Wantson, D. D. 2011. Food Policy for Developing Countries. The Role of Government in Global, National, and Local Food Systems. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. 

Jennifer Clapp (2012) Food Polity Press, Malden

Ferguson, J (2015)   Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution, Duke University Press

Bill Pritchard, Rodomiro Ortiz, Meera Shekar (2016) Routledge Handbook of Food and Nutrition Security Routledge (available as ebook from library)

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Week 1: Introduction: Food Security and Agriculture In what ways has ‘globalized agriculture’ succeeded and failed? How is food security defined and how is it connected to agriculture and poverty? What is the big picture of global food security? What are the competing explanations and how might this shape how we understand and respond to the problem?
2 Week 2: Entitlements, Food Security and Food Sovereignty Sen’s seminal work on famines shaped understandings of how food security and poverty are understood. What do we mean by entitlements? How does the theory work as a theory of causation? Does it offer an adequate framework for intervention? What are the implications for how we think about food security and poverty?
3 Week 3: Nutrition transitions and Precarity How do livelihood, socio-economic changes and food system shifts lead to poor nutritional practices? What role does gender play in food and nutritional security? • What is precarity? How does the concept apply to the global south?
4 Week 4: Agrarian Transitions and Pathways out of Poverty What do we mean by the 'agrarian transition' and ‘structural transformations’? Are the World Bank concepts of ‘pathways out of poverty’ useful given that agrarian change can work out in different ways? How then do rural development trajectories impact on rural livelihoods? Does the intensification of agriculture and increasing agricultural productivity coupled with migration necessarily led livelihoods to become divorced from farming and from the land? Or have so called processes of ‘deagrarianization’ deepened the agrarian problems currently confronting the livelihoods of smallholders and rural workers?
5 Week 5: Global Value Chains and Rural Development What are global value chains and how can we analyse them? How has the organization and management of global agri-food supply chains been changing? What is driving such changes? How adequate is the value chain framework for understanding and intervening in ‘globalized’ agricultural processes? How well is the approach being used to pursue interventions?
6 Week 6: Land & Land Reforms What is the relationships between tenure security and livelihoods? How successful are policies focused on creating ‘secure’ property rights (individual ownership), land registration and land titling? What complexities do we need to take into account when evaluating land registration, the formalization of land rights, redistributive reforms and market led land reform? How might problems of insecure tenure be best addressed?
7 Week 7: Farming out of Poverty: agribusiness & contract farming What arguments do the advocates of commercialized small holder agriculture provide to support their model as the solution to poverty and food security? What role can agribusiness and contract farming play in reducing poverty and vulnerability? Are the arguments provided by advocates of this model supported?
8 Week 8: Food Security through the Non-agricultural Economy: Migration and Diversification People diversify their livelihoods through wage labour, off farm employment, and by migrating in order to reduce their dependence on their own-production. What determines their ability to do this successfully? What are the key debates? How might we think about impacts and how might policy makers intervene?
9 Week 9: Food Security through Social Safety Nets: Conditional Cash Transfers Why has social protection policy become a key means to deal with issues of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion? What are the main approaches? What are the key issues raised? How well do SPPs address the problems of vulnerability and insecurity? What shapes their effectiveness?
10 Week 10: Climate change, food and agriculture What are the implications of climate change for food security and agriculture? What are the key adaptive responses being considered by policy makers? Are they appropriate? Why or why not? What characteristics might appropriate responses have?
11 Week 11: Genetically Modified Food and its alternatives What are the trends shaping the uptake of GM? What are the key issues in the GM debate? How might we best appraise these claims? What are the impacts on food security & livelihoods of key GM crops? Is it wise to use GM innovations to solve food security problems? Do the GM innovations deal with underlying problems in the world food system? What are the alternative proposals for assisting smallholders and the rural poor?
12 Week 12: Agro-ecology and regenerative agriculture What is the regenerative and agro-ecology agenda for addressing the key problems in agri-food systems? Is this agenda feasible?

Tutorial Registration

see wattle

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Seminar facilitation (online students) 15 % 25/07/2019 28/11/2019 2, 6
Survey of key concepts 20 % 23/08/2019 28/11/2019 1, 2, 6
Discussion paper 40 % 31/10/2019 28/11/2019 4, 5, 6
Exam 25 % 01/11/2019 28/11/2019 4, 5, 6

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


see assessment task 1


see assessment task 4

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 25/07/2019
Return of Assessment: 28/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2, 6

Seminar facilitation (online students)

Forum posting and online facilitation (on line students). Students will be allocated to specific sessions. Online students need to participate in the online forum.

Student online discussion activity comprising assessed elements of: (1) assisting with online discussion activity by posing questions and (2) making contributions to the discussion, (3) seminar discussion summing up and conclusion completed within the activity week. Assessment dates above are indicative. Dates will be confirmed on wattle.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 23/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 28/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 6

Survey of key concepts

This is a 1200 word assignment.

The Survey of Critical Concepts aims to:

  • develop your understanding of some of the critical concepts in one key area of the agri-food policy field;
  • survey some of the key literature and to make evident your ability to comprehend critical arguments and communicate them clearly;
  • develop your analytical skills and mastery of critical concepts prior to undertaking your Discussion Paper assignment.

Students are to undertake a critical overview of the major concepts in the literature for one of the topics from weeks 2-6 of the course. The survey will be based on your critique and analysis of three set readings for your chosen topic. Assessment dates above are indicative. Dates will be confirmed on wattle.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 31/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 28/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 4, 5, 6

Discussion paper

This assessment task is designed to increase your skills in researching and analysing agrarian and food security issues, and thinking through possible policy implications and options. The discussion papers are to focus on an aspect of agrarian and food policy or a case in a particular developing country context. You will address one of the second half of the semester’s topics. Length: 2000 words. Assessment dates above are indicative. Dates will be confirmed on wattle.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 01/11/2019
Return of Assessment: 28/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 4, 5, 6


End-of-semester exam. The open book exam will be held online, with electronic submission through the course website - like a take-home exam.

The purpose of the test is to give you an incentive to review the material from the course. However, you do not need to cover every aspect of the course, as there will be a choice of questions to answer. It will test your familiarity with key concepts and debates covered in the course, and your understanding of the principles, implications and/or practical application of the course concepts in different contexts. Students who keep well organized notes, have attended lectures and have read widely tend to do best in the exam. Assessment dates above are indicative. Dates will be confirmed on wattle.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
AsPr John McCarthy

Research Interests

food policy and rural development

AsPr John McCarthy

AsPr John McCarthy
6125 0494

Research Interests

AsPr John McCarthy

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions