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GEOG475 Sustaining Rural Livelihoods in Developing Countries

Semester One, 20 points

Lectures: Wednesday: 2pm – 3.50pm

Course Lecturer: Professor Tony Binns –

This course considers the varied nature of rural livelihoods in developing countries, particularly, though not exclusively, in the context of Africa south of the Sahara (Sub-Saharan Africa). The nature and scale of changes in rural livelihoods, both during colonial times and since independence, are critically examined, and attention is focused particularly on the role of the small-scale producer. The importance of gaining a detailed and accurate understanding of the decision-making processes involved in livelihood management strategies is stressed, as a basic prerequisite for the successful design and implementation of rural development strategies that can lead to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

If you choose to study GEOG475 you will follow a detailed programme of topics for investigation and subsequent discussion in seminars. After considering some of the lessons learned from a number of less successful rural development interventions after the Second World War, you will examine the significance of understanding people-environment relationships and the socio-cultural context in planning development interventions which are likely to have a meaningful impact on poverty alleviation. The changing nature of research methodologies and the different discourses which underpin rural development policies will be critically examined.

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Considers the varied nature of rural livelihoods in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and analyses the extent to which the sustainability of these livelihoods might be enhanced.

This paper considers the importance of uplifting rural livelihoods in the world's poorest countries. 'Top-down' development interventions are examined critically, before considering in detail possible strategies for recognising and supporting appropriate 'bottom-up' community-based development approaches.

Paper title Sustaining Rural Livelihoods in Developing Countries
Paper code GEOG475
Subject Geography
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,307.76
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,517.77

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May not be credited together with GEOG 464 passed in 2006 or 2007.

The content of this paper assumes that students will have completed a degree in Social or Environmental Science.

Please contact Professor Tony Binns for more information on the recommended background for this paper

Teaching staff
Course Instructor: Professor JA (Tony) Binns
Paper Structure

Seminar Topics:

  • Introduction to the course
  • Rural livelihoods and development
  • Diverse experiences - Africa, Asia, Latin America
  • Lessons from the past
  • People and environment relationships
  • The socio-cultural context
  • Research methodologies and development
  • Agents of change and development
  • Sustainable livelihoods

This paper is 100% internally assessed

Teaching Arrangements
The paper is taught through weekly seminars and discussion based on published literature and video sources.
Text books are not required for this paper.
Directed reading and a detailed list of key sources will be given at the first meeting.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
In taking this paper, students should acquire:
  • An understanding of the key parameters affecting the livelihoods of poor rural communities
  • An awareness of the different approaches to agricultural and rural development in developing countries
  • An appreciation of the key decision-making processes and coping strategies among poor rural communities
  • A basis for evaluating the likely success of delivering sustainable development and alleviating poverty in poor rural communities

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Wednesday 14:00-15:50 9-16, 18-22