APS-50803 Sustainable Food Security: The value of systems thinking


Credits 3.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. EAM Bokkers
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. ir. IJM de Boer
dr. ir. EAM Bokkers
dr. ir. GWJ van de Ven
prof. dr. ir. MK van Ittersum
prof. dr. C Kroeze
Examiner(s)dr. ir. EAM Bokkers

Language of instruction:



Understanding and working with the complexity of sustainable food production systems requires training in different disciplines and an approach that can address this complexity at the system level. This course enables participants to apply the principles of a systems approach to food production systems with a focus on environmental sustainability. We analyze production systems at both ends of the spectrum: highly productive systems with relatively high inputs and emissions to the environment, and low productive systems with low input use and depletion of soil fertility. Crop-livestock interaction is a focal point.
The course includes an 1) introduction to the complexity of food production systems, 2) introduction to systems thinking, 3) analysis and comparison of the productivity of food production systems and the environmental issues, and 4) the assessment of environmental sustainability using indicators. This last topic allows students to integrate topics of previous modules.

More course information and instructions on how to register can be found on: https://www.wur.nl/Virtual-Exchange.htm or click on the top-right link on this page.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand the complexity and diversity of food production systems;
- use a systems approach in the context of food production systems;
- understand the principles of system analysis and how it can be applied in the context of food production systems;
- understand evaluation methods for environmental impact of food production systems in different agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts and at different levels (e.g. farm, regional and global);
- evaluate strong and weak points of different food production systems in terms of environmental sustainability.


The course is facilitated by moderators and there is limited online contact with the lecturers. It is intended for BSc-3 and MSc-1 students who are interested in the topic of the course and lack sufficient knowledge in integrating disciplines and/or systems thinking analysis from any study program within Wageningen University.


The examination contains the assignments for grading of the online course (40%; minimum 5.5 on average) and a written exam on campus (60%; minimum 5.5).
Students can take the on campus exam in Period 2 and in the re-exam periods in February and August.


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