Hunger defeated? Long-term dynamics of global food security

Dates: 27 September - 3 October 2013

(Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands)


Since the 19th century, science and the fossil fuel revolution have changed global food scarcity into abundance. Nevertheless, serious challenges remain. Some regions still wrestle with resource depletion and hunger induced by poverty. Others are faced with new welfare diseases and pollution. Meanwhile, mankind remains highly dependent on organic materials from current or past photosynthesis. Peak oil and continued growth may cause biomass demand to meet new and harder limits. Science is called upon for solutions for these problems, but realizing them is complicated by poverty traps, myopic expectations, and evolved predispositions of humans.

To take on these constraints requires an understanding of the complex spatial-temporal dynamics in which they are rooted. This is quite a challenge. To tackle it, this course adopts a trans-disciplinary perspective that transcends the traditional division between beta- and gamma-sciences. Humans are seen as social animals with brains that enable creativity and symbolic communication. Accordingly, the evolution of human societies is seen as driven by mechanisms pertaining to three dimensions: population-resource dynamics; collective action; and techno-institutional change. In this course, this perspective is used for analyzing the long-term dynamics of food security in an international-comparative framework and for discussing possibilities to meet current and upcoming challenges.

The course is integrated with the First International Conference on Global Food Security (Noordwijkerhout, 29 September - 2 October). It starts 3 days before the conference and ends with a final synthesis day on the 3rd of October. Participants of the course also participate in the conference. They meet for discussions during the conference and prepare a presentation for the conference closing session.
COURSE SET-UP The course consists of the following elements:
- Lectures by Wageningen researchers and leading international experts
- Discussion after each lecture led by participants
- Group work involving key issues to be tackled to solve challenges at stake regarding global food security
- Daily linking lectures to keep the overall picture in mind
- Participation in the First International Conference on Global Food Security
- 15-minutes presentation in conference closing session
- Post-conference sum-up and take-home messages of the course


Target group: PhD candidates

Group size: 30 participants

Course duration: 7 days (including 3 days of conference)

Language: English

Number of credits: 2 ECTS

Location: Stay Okay Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands


Part I: Pre-conference course (26-29 September)

26 September (evening): Arrival of international participants

27 September: Food & evolution of human societies - a long view
• Course introduction. Niek Koning
• Poster carousel in which participants present themselves with a poster
• Lecture: Bio-dependent society and its challenges / Introduction to lectures guest speakers. Niek Koning

• Agriculture, energetics & human societies. Holger Schutkowski, Bournemouth University (CONFIRMED)
• Secular cycles. Peter Turchin, University of Connecticut (CONFIRMED)
• Why some were in the Stone Age while others entered the Machine Age. Ewout Frankema, Utrecht University (CONFIRMED)

Group work
• Start-up / introduction to group work
• What can we learn from the past to understand challenges for global food security in our century?

28 September: Food & development in the industrial era
Introduction. Niek Koning

• Agriculture, growth & backwardness. Peter Timmer, Harvard University, University of Copenhagen (CONFIRMED)
• Government, agriculture & development in different parts of the world. David Henley, Leiden University (INVITED)
• From government support of agriculture to liberalization, value chains & local alternatives: a critical view. Aurélie Trouvé, Institut national supérieur des sciences agronomiques, Dijon (CONFIRMED)

Group work
• Question: What do recent policy changes mean for global food supply in our century?

29 September: New challenges
Introduction. Niek Koning

• Global food security in our century and the energy economy. Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba (CONFIRMED)
• Towards a soft landing? Cees Leeuwis, Wageningen University (INVITED)

Group work
• Discussion on how to prepare a 15-minutes presentation on 2 October
• Selection of 3 participants who prepare the presentation with support of the others

Part II: Conference on Global Food Security (29 September - 2 October)

30 September + 1 October (evening)

• Meetings to prepare presentation for the conference closing session

• 15 minutes presentation in the closing session on 2 October. Subject: Global food security in 2050 in a world historical perspective; what are the main requirements for a soft landing?

3 October (morning): Conclusions & Synthesis
Course and conference synthesis session. Concluded by a shared lunch and farewell.


PhD candidates of PE&RC2, WASS, WIAS, VLAG and SENSE with an approved TSP€ 450.-

Other PhD candidates and WU staff € 900.-

All other participants € 1600.-

1 Course fee includes the conference fee, accommodation at Stay Okay, a reader, coffee/tea, lunches and dinners
2 For PE&RC PhD candidates the reduced fee only applies to those who will defend their thesis at Wageningen University


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Full registration only occurs once you have provided us with the requested information as stated above. Afterwards you will receive an official registration confirmation by the course office.

For further information contact:
Claudius van de Vijver OR Lennart Suselbeek
Phone: + 31 (0) 317 485116 Phone: + 31 (0) 619 550 336
E-mail: E-mail: