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Department of Development Studies

Food Security and Livelihoods

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

In many ways, access to food represents one of the most basic development problems. This course considers food security as the desired outcome of not only local livelihood choices and strategies, but also government policy, development strategies, and global distributions of power. All of these factors impact the range of possible steps that can be taken to ensure a reliable supply of food. As such, food security is considered to be the lens through which wider livelihood and human security is achieved.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of a module, a student should be able to:

  • Discuss the historical development of theoretical approaches to food insecurity, from Malthus to Sen to contemporary livelihoods theory;
  • Identify the main components of food security and the mechanisms that must be in place to ensure equitable and sustainable access to food;
  • Describe the political and economic processes by which food insecurity has led to famine in several historical examples from around the world.
  • Recognise the main indicators of food insecurity and describe their use in early warning systems currently being used.
  • Identify coping and distress strategies that food insecure people commonly employ to mitigate risk and withstand shocks.
  • Explain how the international food aid system typically works, the role that political considerations may play in relief, and the shortcomings of these systems.
  • Apply knowledge of hazard impacts, coping strategies and assistance frameworks to thinking about potential kinds of assistance that might not only relieve immediate food needs but promote recovery in the longer term as well.


Teaching will take the form of a two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial each week.

Scope and syllabus

Topics to be covered include:

  1. Food Security: Basic Concepts and Definitions
  2. Malthus and His Critics
  3. Entitlement Theory
  4. Livelihoods Approaches to Food Security
  5. The Household Economy Approach
  6. Food Aid and Other Kinds of Aid
  7. Conflict, Politics and Famine
  8. The 2008 Global Food Price Crisis and Prognosis for the Future
  9. HIV/AIDS, Health and Food Insecurity
  10. Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security

Method of assessment

One two hour written examination which will constitute 60% of the final mark, with the remaining 40% consisting of marks from an assessed essay. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 4000 words. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply to this module.