Interdisciplinary Approaches to Rural Livelihoods

Course content

The course is concerned with rural livelihoods in a developing country context. It is well-suited for students interested in developing quantitative and qualitative competencies in researching and analyzing rural livelihoods and their connections to wider societal and environmental processes.  Students learn to work across disciplines and teaching is, to a high degree, research-based.

The focus is on livelihood strategies and how they change over time. Teaching is case-based, and will highlight the relationship between environmental resources, institutional arrangements and livelihood strategies and outcomes. We will discuss how external factors such as climate change, market forces and state legislation affect local resource control and access, and how that relates to rural livelihoods.

A key component of the course is its focus on both quantitative and qualitative tools for understanding and analyzing rural livelihoods. It thereby provides insights on how to critically assess and reflect on academic representations of livelihoods. This will help the student link local issues to wider developmental processes. The course emphasizes that students are enabled to reflect critically on the complexity of livelihoods and the methodologies used for understanding these.


MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Environmental Science 
MSc Programme in Forests and Livelihoods (SUTROFOR)
MSc Programme in Sustainable Development in Agriculture (Agris Mundus)

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is to provide participants with a thorough understanding of rural livelihoods in a developing country context and to enable them to critically reflect on methodological and analytical strategies. 

After completing the course the students should be able to:



Discuss strengths and weaknesses of different livelihoods approaches

Discuss the spatio-temporal variations of livelihoods

Discuss the relationship between local institutions and livelihood outcomes

Discuss how economic, environmental and political processes affect rural livelihoods



Analyse quantitative and qualitative household-level data

Critically assess approaches to livelihood data collection and analysis

Develop methodologies for livelihood analysis

Cooperate with peers to integrate different disciplinary approaches to livelihoods analysis



Towards the end of the course, students should be able to critically reflect on and discuss outcomes and processes of rural livelihoods and different methodological and analytical strategies for understanding these.

Blended learning combining e-learning and classroom activities. E-learning is centered on online asynchronous discussions in small groups (up to 8 people). Each week, students will be asked to (i) read the mandatory literature (ii) participate in online asynchronous discussions on a particular topic of relevance for the week’s theme (see themes above); (iii) meet up in class to discuss the reading material and solve livelihoods problems (based on quantitative and qualitative case study data).

The course curriculum consists of state-of-the-art book chapters and journal articles within the areas of the course that will be made available during the course.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

The course is identical to the discontinued course LNAK10083U Rural Livelihoods and Natural Resources Governance. Therefore you cannot register for NIFK18002U Interdisciplinary Approaches to Rural Livelihoods, if you have already passed LNAK10083U Rural Livelihoods and Natural Resources Governance.

If you are registered with examination attempts in LNAK10083U Rural Livelihoods and Natural Resources Governance without having passed the course, you have to use your last examination attempts to pass the exam in NIFK18002U Interdisciplinary Approaches to Rural Livelihoods. You have a total of three examination attempts.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Lecturer’s written feedback on online discussions, peer feedback on online discussions, lecturer’s written feedback on written assignments, lecturer’s oral feedback during in-class empirical exercises.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
The assessment has three components: (i) continuous assessment of participation to online discussions (20% of final grade); (ii) Exam 1 (needs to be submitted by mid-December). It consists of an essay of 1000 words. Exam 1 counts 30% of the final grade and is to be done individually-; (iii) In Exam 2 students will be asked to individually solve a problem using a combination of qualitative and quantitative insights and write a 2000 words paper describing the solution. You will start working on Exam 2 from week 6 of the course and there will be weekly opportunities for asking questions and getting feedback. Exam 2 counts 50% of the final grade and is to be done individually. The final grade is to be set as a weighted average of the results from the part-assessments.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
one internal examiner
Criteria for exam assessment

See description of 'Learning outcome'

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Lectures
  • 12
  • E-Learning
  • 24
  • Class Instruction
  • 24
  • Practical exercises
  • 12
  • Exam
  • 30
  • Excursions
  • 4
  • English
  • 206