Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Aotearoa

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Course Descriptions - Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Aotearoa

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SAFS670 Systems Thinking: Land Use Capability and Sustainability  

4 Credit Hours. Permission (Coreq: SAFS671, SAFS672, SAFS673)

Course Description:

This course establishes a conceptual framework (lens) in systems thinking to critically examine New Zealand and global examples of the challenges that have arisen from the mismatch between land use and land use capability. Students investigate downstream effects of the rural-urban divide (food-justice), on people, health, services and the environment. Food security, ethical foods, as well as the influence of climate change on food supply and the viability of agribusiness are included.

Course goals include:

Using systems thinking to enable students to access and apply the information and conceptual tools available for a robust and defensible analysis of agricultural sustainability problems and causes.

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify individual elements of an agricultural system
  • Describe the dimensions of sustainability and examine the definitions of ‘sustainable land use’ and ‘land use capability’.
  • Explain links and interactions between elements that comprise the whole of an agricultural system.
  • Illustrate how Treaty Settlements have enhanced or hindered the iwi economy (tribal, Māori economy) in the agricultural sector.
  • Explain the role of Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) in preserving biodiversity, while maintaining productivity in agricultural food systems.
  • Recognise the scope of Te Tiriti ō Waitangi and the RMA (1991) to influence land use in New Zealand.
  • Determine the scope of systems thinking to deliver improvements toward sustainability for a chosen case study.
  • Analyse the importance of systems thinking in achieving food-justice and food-security.
  • Detail a model of food production, processing, transportation and consumption that may be considered resilient and sustainable.
  • Discriminate between collaborative models and co-management models.
  • Prioritise the components of an agroecosystem in a manner that allows for the construction of a draft problem analysis.

 

SAFS671 Agroecology and Sustainable Land Management

4 Credit Hours. Permission (Coreq: SAFS670, SAFS672, SAFS673)

Course Description:

Agroecology is a way of thinking and acting. Using this lens, students investigate the interface of agriculture and the natural environment. Through first-hand experiences with agribusiness, students explore enduring solutions for sustainable food systems. The emphasis will be on dimensions of agroecology that are relevant in a framework of sustainable land management; and on gaining confidence in evaluating processes and science associated with the biological and physical process in agroecosystems.

Course goals include:

Agroecology promotes taking the long-view; the long-view promotes scrutiny of our relationships with food and agriculture, as well as of the consequences of globalization for agroecosystems. The issue of scaling up solutions is of critical importance. Case studies are a crucial part of this course to engage the students at the level of first-hand experiences of agribusiness, specifically through the lens of agroecology and sustainability.

Learning outcomes:

  • Know the relevant principles and concepts of agroecology.
  • Illustrate how communities (biota) in agroecosystems respond to various land management practices.
  • Distinguish between causes and symptoms of unsustainable land management.
  • Reflect on knowledge about the political pathways / political will to support sustainable land management in their home environment.
  • Carefully consider whether, and illustrate how, agroecological principles can be harnessed in soil, plant and pest management in order to achieve integrated response measures for solution-focused changes in land management.
  • Research what is considered the mainstream approach to agriculture, provide clear definitions, and explore the term ‘mainstream’.
  • Scrutinize and debate the consequences of globalization for agroecosystems and our relationships with food and agriculture.
  • Generate a critical path analysis in which social, economic, political and cultural components are an integral part of the decision-making process for the development of new agricultural ventures.
  • Based on field visits, outline and explain the differences between the agroecosystems of two case studies, and how agroecology does or might enhance sustainability.

 

SAFS672 Pathways to Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

4 Credit Hours. Permission (Coreq: SAFS670, SAFS671, SAFS673)

Course Description:

This course empowers students to pursue knowledge and understanding of food systems around the interface of policy, practice, and science to build pathways toward technically robust, economically sound and viable solutions which enable transformation in the rural landscape. Topics include: value systems, socio-cultural benefits of re-thinking food systems at scale, carbon-forestry, carbon offsets, nutrient cap-and-trade models, (Integrated) Catchment Management and Climate Smart Agriculture. Critical thinking, and risk assessment tools are integral components.

Course goals include:

Re-thinking food systems to achieve sustainable practices and produce is a key component of this course. Students will investigate the role of small to medium-scale farm operations in the domestic and export markets. The concept of the value-chain (and the interdependence of various components of value-chains), added value initiatives, farm-to-market initiatives and crop (product) diversification are part of this course. Community initiatives to reconnect food production processes and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the natural environment are part of this course.

Learning outcomes:

  • List and illustrate market, and institutional / regulatory tools and incentives available to streamline progress toward sustainability for food systems;
  • Outline and explain added value processes and crop / land use diversification.
  • Review and discuss the role of community initiatives in changing our relationship with food, reducing food waste and implementing climate smart solutions.
  • Construct a compelling case for either cap and trade models, integrated catchment management, climate smart agriculture or carbon farming.
  • Relate kaitiakitanga of natural resources to food production initiatives and models that promote healthy living, fresh foods, local employment and a reduced carbon footprint.
  • Investigate if and how power imbalances influence food systems.
  • Compile a comprehensive list of risks to agriculture and food systems in New Zealand and provide a brief outline for each item on that list. Discuss two of these risks in-depth.
  • Construct a detailed diagram of the potential policy influences on food systems.
  • Based on the field visits, case studies, and coursework, prepare a detailed implementation strategy (including a time line). This strategy is built on interdisciplinary approaches to bringing about positive change in the field of agriculture and food production.
  • Assess the needs of stakeholders, and any barriers they are aware of and document conflict resolution processes that are needed or have been used.

 

SAFS673 AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND BUSINESS PRACTICE  

4 Credit Hours. Permission (Coreq: SAFS670, SAFS671, SAFS672)

Course Description:

In this experiential course students will spend time in farm or agri-business placements. Practical, hands-on experience of the workings of agribusiness provides students with opportunities to enhance their autonomy and capacity as active learners. Students will gain transferable skills, increase competency and develop a comprehensive understanding of sustainability initiatives and practices of food systems. Students can transfer insights from classroom work to a practical setting and bring previously developed skills to a new context.

Students are expected to:

Learning outcomes:

 

  • Fully engage for a total of 20 days in (unpaid) farm or agri-business placements. They are expected to enter into these arrangements as they would into an employment arrangement and act accordingly (self-motivation, punctuality, time management, organization, effective communication, responsibility, respect and rigour).
  • Fully participate in all aspects of farming / business that are made available by their hosts and EcoQuest for these placements (be prepared to put in the time and effort required, learn new skills, be open to new experiences, integrate into the work environment).
  • Foster a productive working relationship with their hosts and co-workers.
  • Contribute to their providers’ farm or business ventures through their work, engagement, interest and discussions (be prepared to put in the time and effort required, share prior learning, experiences and skills).
  • Describe the sustainability goals of the host farm or business.
  • Work in a team under the guidance of the placement-host and/or EcoQuest staff to carry out practical production, maintenance and farm-food business tasks.
  • Take the lead on – responsibility for - individual tasks and activities as directed by the placement-host and/or EcoQuest staff
  • Describe the particular sector to which the business of their placement-host belongs.
  • Summarize the scope and the opportunities of the agricultural and/or agribusiness practices of their placement-host.
  • Use the practical work experience and what was learnt during the farm placements as a foil for discussion of sustainable food systems.
  • Compare the business of their placement-host to either case studies that are part of the program, or to the second farm placement.
  • Explain levels of sustainability that are attainable for the placement-host in the current landscape of the agricultural industry (considering the capacity of the business of their placement-host).
  • Evaluate land use trends and project the trajectory toward sustainability of the sector in which the placement-host farm or business fits.