169009 Sustainability transitions in agro-food systems

Lecture and seminar
Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Spaargaren, Gert
Centre for Development Research
Offered in
Wintersemester 2017/18
Languages of instruction


Current agro-food systems degrade natural resources (soil, water, biodiversity), contribute to climate change, and widen social inequality.

Because these adverse effects are symptoms of dysfunctional systems, isolated solutions and incremental changes will not suffice. Instead, comprehensive transitions towards sustainable agro-food systems are necessary – and research on sustainability transitions is quickly gaining momentum.

Sustainability transitions are multi-dimensional and long-term processes, ideally leading to a deeper transformation of system dynamics. Different frameworks and approaches are used in transition studies. These include the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP), the Social Practices Approach (SPA), Strategic Niche Management, Transition Management and Innovation Systems. This course focuses on the contribution of the social practices approach (SPA) to sustainability transition. Social behaviour and practices are of particular importance to understand and foster sustainability transitions in agro-food systems.

Prof. Gert Spaargaren is one of the most prominent scholars in the field of the Social Practices Approach. As a professor of “Environmental Policy for Sustainable Lifestyles and Consumption” at Wageningen University, his main research interests are environmental sociology, sustainable consumption and behaviour, and globalization of environmental reform. Therefore, the lecture of Prof. Spaargaren offers a unique opportunity to understand social processes and practices determining impacts on the environment in general and the footprint of agro-food systems in particular.

Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

Participating in this course will enable students to:
# Describe sustainability transitions in agro-food systems with a particular focus on actor/stakeholder practices and behaviour;
# Explain causes of unsustainability of current food consumption patterns in different contexts (developed and developing countries);
# Analyse real-world case studies applying the acquired knowledge on agro-food sustainability transitions;
# Recognise emerging challenges to agro-food system sustainability;
# Debate the implications of emerging challenges such as climate change and natural resource degradation for their field of study.
You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.