Food Security and Sustainability: Systems thinking and environmental sustainability

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 systems thinking to food production systems with a focus on environmental sustainability. This course is running as a MOOC on EdX from August 2016, but is now already available for Wageningen University students as a Capita Selecta.

Content of the course

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:

  1. an introduction to the complexity of food production systems
  2. an introduction to systems thinking
  3. analysis and comparison of the productivity of food production systems and the environmental issues
  4. the assessment of environmental sustainability using indicators. This last topic allows students to integrate topics of previous modules

What you will learn:

  • Understand the complexity and diversity of food production systems
  • How to use a systems approach in the context of food production systems
  • Understand the principles of systems 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)

Information for Wageningen University students

This course is offered as a Capita Selecta. The course is offered as an online course and is open from April 1 until the exam. The course contains no scheduled activities, students can follow the course anytime between April 1 and June 20, 2016 The course is facilitated by moderators and there is limited online contact with the lecturers. It is meant for 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 course is ready to start from April 1 2016 onwards. Registration is already open and can only be done via SSC. In case of problems please send an email to

Meet the instructors