SDC-51806 Food Crises: the Big Picture


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work17
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)dr. BJ Jansen
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. LA de Vries
dr. BJ Jansen
Examiner(s)dr. BJ Jansen
dr. ir. LA de Vries

Language of instruction:



Since time immemorial, people have been plagued by food crises. However, the nature of food crises has changed. Where pre-industrial famines were caused by natural disasters and exhaustion of existing production capacities, fossil fuels and technical science have relaxed these constraints. Modern food crises thus tend to be caused by a combination of natural conditions, failing policies and man-made conflicts. The thinking about what governments and international organisations can do to prevent or alleviate food crises has also evolved during last decades. Amartya Sen's entitlements theory has been particularly influential, shifting the attention from food supply to poverty and stressing the importance of democratic institutions for preventing famines. Sen's theory also played a major role in the criticism of the Green Revolution. The course focuses on these important debates and its shifts over time in order to understand, for instance, why famine has largely been eradicated in much of Asia, and why it has remained endemic in large parts of Africa. The lectures start with a general introduction in the physical and social aspects of food crises, and how we measure them. Then we chart the history of famines and economic development, and discuss the main debates around Sen's entitlements theory and the Green Revolution. Next we examine the specific causes of contemporary and continuing food crises and the ways in which international organizations approach this problem. In the practical sessions student groups will examine contemporary policies towards intervening in an actual food crisis.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to identify, analyze and critically reflect on the following aspects of food crises:
- discourses on famine and scholarly debates on food crises through time and its effects;
- debates on the governance and interventions on current cases of food crises;
- the socio-economic and political implications of and on food crises;
- concerns and debates about the quality and effectiveness of interventions during food crises.


- classroom lectures with active participation of students;
- weekly practicals.


- written exam with open and multiple choice questions (66.6%);
- group reports on practical assignment (33.3%).
To pass the course both components require a minimum mark of 5.5.


Will be made available in Blackboard at start of course.

Compulsory for: WUFFHBSc Minor Freedom from Hunger1MO