• University of Reading

Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security

Consider how the food we grow, buy, eat and throw away relates to the global issue of food security, with this free online course.

19,690 enrolled on this course

A market stall full of fresh fruit and vegetables, illustrating our need for food security
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Food security is a complex, global issue, in which we all play a part. In this free online course, you’ll join experts from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading, to investigate our relationship with agriculture and your own food habits.

Meet food producers around the world

We’ll take you on a journey around the world from Europe to Africa to Asia. Over six weeks, we’ll find out more about the challenges of growing crops and managing livestock at the regional, national, community and household level.

We’ll focus on the experience of family farmers (who produce 80% of the world’s food) in rural and urban settings in Uganda and the UK, asking:

  • What are the key issues facing producers and consumers of food, and how do they compare?
  • What factors influence the way we grow, process, package, transport and consume food?
  • How does agriculture - and its wide-ranging impacts in these different regions - relate to us?
  • And how does the food we grow, buy, eat and throw away relate to global food security issues?

Consider your own role in global food security

Each week, we’ll invite you to take part in activities that will help you reflect on your own food habits, including keeping a food waste diary; analysing your weekly shop; and sharing your experiences of food and farming in your community.

Despite the fact that the world is no longer short of food, about 842 million people remain chronically hungry because they cannot afford to eat. In this context, you’ll understand how your preferences - and those of a myriad of other actors in the food system - impact on our global quest for food security.

To find out more about some of the issues covered in this course, read Andrew Ainslie’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Why are dairy farmers taking to the streets in protest?

Further your studies

Our Hungry Planet provides a taster of The University of Reading’s MSc in Food Security and Development.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

  • Week 1 starts with a brief history of early agriculture, to help comprehend aspects of the current global food system and to introduce its framework that underpins this course, along with the topic of food waste.
  • Week 2 uses Europe, sub Saharan Africa and Asia as examples to consider socio-economic, technological and environmental factors that influence food security and agriculture at a regional level.
  • Week 3 explores food security at a national level turning to production, consumption and distribution issues: comparing case studies from the UK, Uganda and Malaysia.
  • Week 4 looks at the impact of food security at a community level, using more case studies from the UK, Uganda and Malaysia. It compares the challenges faced and how these are being addressed within each country.
  • Week 5 looks at why households are integral to food security by exploring household structures and typical assets. It also considers the livelihoods of farmers in each country and the role of animals within agriculture.
  • Week 6 presents some debates surrounding controversial topics in food security and looks at the consequences of intensive agricultural production. Learners assess food security at an individual level and the impact we have on the global food system.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the global food system, its growth in complexity over time, as well as its key components and principal actors
  • Compare global, regional, national, community, household and individual decision-making contexts and recognise overlaps, and strengths & weaknesses between these in the food system
  • Reflect on your own impacts on two important components of the food system: their buying/consumption patterns and their food waste-generating practices
  • Describe the foremost environmental impacts of the food system
  • Discuss a small number of controversial topics of the contemporary food system

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in food, food security and food waste; farming and agriculture; or sustainability. You don’t need any previous experience or qualifications to join it.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a social scientist in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. I'm also Lead Educator on 'Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security'.

I am an Associate Professor in International Rural Development. I trained as a social anthropologist. My research centres around understanding systemic change in agrarian environments.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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