NGEK10026U Rural Livelihoods, Vulnerability and Adaptation

Volume 2015/2016

MSc Programme in Geography and Geoinformatics
MSC Programme in Agricultural Development



The aim of the course is to provide an in-depth theoretical and empirical understanding of rural livelihoods in developing countries and how they have evolved in the past three decades. The vulnerability and resilience of households and communities will be analysed through linking global, national and local drivers of change – such as economic globalisation, global environmental change, biodiversity conservation, and current food, fuel, and financial crises – with livelihood responses. The theoretical literature underpinning rural livelihood frameworks will inform the comparison of case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The course introduces students to how rural livelihoods can be conceptualised, assessed and supported in light of trends, shocks and stresses at a number of scales.

Learning Outcome


 •  Describe the influence of global, national and local factors on rural livelihoods in developing countries;

•  Outline the theoretical underpinnings of livelihood frameworks and how these relate to debates within human geography and the broader social sciences;

•  Describe empirical aspects of rural livelihoods in developing countries, including the relative importance of agricultural and diversified livelihood portfolios;

•  Assess and measure vulnerability and resilience in rural communities;

•  Identify policy processes through which rural livelihoods can be supported in a sustainable and equitable manner.



 •  Conceptualise and apply a rural livelihoods framework to assess and measure vulnerability and resilience;

•  Sequence a variety of research methods for the assessment of livelihoods, including both quantitative and qualitative tools;

•  Apply appropriate statistical techniques to measure asset holdings and diversified livelihoods;

•  Structure, write and defend an 8,000 word essay which is a suitable basis for a funding proposal.



 •  Describe socio-economic and environmental changes that rural households respond to;

•  Compare and evaluate theories of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation, recognising the mutual linkages between these bodies of literature;

•  Succinctly summarise the theoretical basis of case studies, the research methods employed and how both could be improved;

•  Write and defend an extended essay that: (i) identifies drivers of change in a rural setting; (ii) presents an appropriate conceptual framework to investigate a set of research questions; (iii) explains how this will be operationalized to assess either autonomous responses to change or the impact of an external intervention; and (iv) identifies threats and challenges to the research project.



Please see Absalon course page.

BSc in Geography and Geoinformatics or equivalent.
The form of teaching is theory exercises combined with ad hoc lectures. For the teaching plan, please see Absalon.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 136
  • Project work
  • 35
  • Theory exercises
  • 35
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
The written assignment is prepared during the course and must be handed in prior to the exam week. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. It includes the titles listed in the officially approved reading list.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assesment

Please see learning outcomes.