• Class Number 5359
  • Term Code 3360
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic On Campus
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof John McCarthy
    • Prof John McCarthy
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/07/2023
  • Class End Date 27/10/2023
  • Census Date 31/08/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 31/07/2023
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:

  1. Demonstrate 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.
  2. Practice 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.
  3. Debate key perspectives on food and agricultural policy
  4. Consider the potentialities and limits of selected widely promoted and replicated rural development policies.
  5. Discuss the implications of policies for different actors and institutions concerned with or affected by rural policy through the consideration of particular cases.
  6. Practice 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 with a particular focus on the global south.

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

Akram-Lodhi, H et al (2021) Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies (available as ebook from anu library).

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 (2020) Food Polity Press, Malden 3rd Edition

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.

Other Information


The Crawford School of Public Policy has its own Academic Skills team dedicated to helping students to understand the academic expectations of studying at Crawford and succeed in their chosen program of study. Through individual appointments, course-embedded workshops and online resources, Crawford Academic Skills provides tailored advice to students keen to develop their academic reading, thinking, planning, writing, and presentation skills.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
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 Entitlements and Food Security 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 Nutrition transitions, Gender 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 Conceptualizing Vulnerability How should we conceptualize vulnerability to take into account the dynamic and multi-dimensional elements that affect livelihoods? What is the difference between outcome and contextual vulnerability? How might vulnerability analysis try to understand vulnerability in contexts such as those shaped by climate change?
5 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 and what shapes outcomes?
6 Food systems: the meatification of food systems What are food systems? How is the food systems framework being used to diagnose contemporary policy problems and pose policy solutions? How might the approach be used to analyse the changing food systems? Examples include shifts with covid 19 and the meatification of food systems in Asia.
7 Farming out of Poverty: boom crops What are the possibilities for farming out of poverty? What arguments do the advocates of commercialized small holder agriculture provide to support their model as the solution to poverty and food security? Are the arguments provided by advocates of this model supported? How are the lessons offered by crop booms?
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 Food Security through Social Safety Nets 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 Climate change transformations in agriculture: socio-technical transitions or maladaptation? What the prospects, obstacles and possibilities for socio-technical transformations or transformative adaptation in agriculture? What the emerging issues leading to maladaptive transformations? What might be done?
11 Relocalising: Food sovereignty, agroecology and regenerative agriculture What might a relocalization of social, economic and cultural activities around food like? How might such initiatives foster transformations of national and international food production systems? While encouraging examples are found in many domains, but what are the prospects for success?
12 Student presentations Students present their final essay plan and obtain feedback from their peers

Tutorial Registration

see wattle for link to MS Teams

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Reading responses 10 % * 01/12/2023 1,2,3,6
Survey of key concepts 30 % 03/09/2023 03/10/2023 1,2,6
Seminar Contribution 10 % * 03/10/2023 1,2,3,6
Discussion paper 50 % 05/11/2023 01/12/2023 2,3,4,5,6

* 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 activity 1 and 4.


No examination for this course

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Return of Assessment: 01/12/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,6

Reading responses

Students will be required to respond to simple question(s) for seven weeks (excluding their own seminar/reflective writing week) based on their readings. The response needs to submitted prior to the seminar. The activity is designed to ensure student participation and engagement with the readings prior to the Thursday or Friday seminar. Approximately 300-500 words for seven weeks.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 03/09/2023
Return of Assessment: 03/10/2023
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: 10 %
Return of Assessment: 03/10/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,6

Seminar Contribution

Students choose a week and act as a resource person for that week. Your participation in helping facilitate the learning for a particular week of your choice helps you prepare for the final assignment. We recommend that you do this activity in the first half of the course. This activity helps you build your expertise and contributes to the quality of student discussion and learning across the course. You will submit your 400-word summary to Wattle by the next Thursday. The review could do some of the following:

  • Clarify the particular key issue or question you set out to address.
  • include and build on the main perspectives from the seminar readings and discussion.
  • draw conclusions regarding key seminar topic questions or relevant to the particular key issues you chose to address.
  • underpin presented arguments with evidence, making sure to support the points and ideas with references.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 05/11/2023
Return of Assessment: 01/12/2023
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4,5,6

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 plus presentation summary. 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).
Prof John McCarthy

Research Interests

- Agricultural policy and food security- Resource rights, governance, and institutions with a focus on forestry, agriculture and land use - Politics, policy and natural resource governance in a developing context

Prof John McCarthy

By Appointment
By Appointment
Prof John McCarthy
02 6125 0494

Research Interests

Prof John McCarthy

By Appointment
By Appointment

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