(to be updated soon)


Instructor: Prof. Maharjan Keshav Lall, Zollet Simona (Teaching Fellow, PhD Candidate)

Course code: X0050567

The course will be held in the 4th term of the 2019/2020 Academic year at Hiroshima university (December 2nd, 2019 to February 6th, 2020).

Time: Wednesday 12:50 – 16:05 [(4T) Weds Period 5-8] IDEC 508

8 Classes

Credits: 2


Course overview

Rural development studies have been changing significantly over the last 50 years as a result of broader societal and technological transformations. From ‘modernization’ (from the post-WWII to the early 1970s), to ‘globalization’ (from the mid-1970s to the beginning of the new Millennium), to contemporary concerns with sustainability and processes occurring on a global scale, such as climate change, we have assisted to several paradigm changes in rural development studies, as well as the co-existence of contrasting paradigms.

Rural communities now face a complex set of challenges due to the sparsity of settlements and geographic isolation, exacerbated by globalization and technological change in an interdependent urban-rural system. In response, rural development studies have evolved to become a highly interdisciplinary sector, including agronomy, economics, sociology, anthropology, geography, political science and many others.

The course will explore the transformation processes related to livelihoods, agri-food networks and the environment in relation to rural development processes and policies. Theoretical explanations will be combined with case study presentations and discussions about a variety of themes such as resource use and conflicts, rural livelihoods, environmental degradation, and how development policies affect local actors and are in turn influenced by them. Moreover, considering the growing attention surrounding the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this course will link rural development issues with the corresponding SDGs. The aim is to promote a critical evaluation of SDGs and encourage a debate around them.


Overall course objectives

  1. Cover the main topics related to rural development by considering the economic, socio-cultural and environmental dimensions of “development”, with emphasis on the concept of sustainability and of SDGs.
  2. Highlight the practical applications (e.g. case studies) and the space- and time-specific nature of rural development activities.
  3. Develop students’ critical thinking and understanding of the need for an interdisciplinary approach in relation to rural development issues.

Lesson structure

Each lesson is composed of two 90-minute sessions (12:50 – 14:20 and 14:35 -16:05) with a 15-minute break in the middle. The first 90-minute sessions will be further divided into smaller units, ideally alternating lecture-style teaching with group discussion. The second 90-minute unit will be used for student presentations and discussion.


Lesson Plan

Note: the lesson content is provisional and might be subject to change

Lesson Date Theme
Lesson 1 December 4th Course introduction

Introduction to the SDGs and their linkage with rural issues and rural development. Exploring the meaning of ‘rural’, ‘development’ and ‘sustainable development’.

Lesson 2 December 11th Changes in the approach to rural development over the last decades; neoliberalism and globalization; rural poverty and its drivers.
Lesson 3 December 18th Hunger, malnutrition and the persisting problem of (in)sufficient food production: local and global food systems and their issues
December 25th NO CLASS (substitution class for Friday)
Lesson 4 January 8th Climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental problems affected by and affecting agriculture; an overview of alternative approaches for environmentally friendly agriculture
Lesson 5 January 15th Rural development strategies beyond agriculture – Diversification, entrepreneurship and rural livelihoods
Lesson 6 January 22nd Social aspects of rural development; Equality and inclusiveness, women and youth issues, migration/displacement processes
Lesson 7 January 29th Doing rural research: evolution and current trends; participatory approaches.
Lesson 8 February 5th Summary and final remarks


Evaluation criteria for students

  • Attendance and active participation during class discussion. This includes preparing the reading in advance and be ready to discuss it (students will be asked to prepare 2-3 questions or comments from the assigned reading) (20% of the grade).
  • Reflection card at the end of each class (10%).
  • Presentation (30%)
  • Final assignment (40%)


  1. Presentation: should be about a topic chosen based on the student’s research interest and examine one or more case studies. Students should discuss:
  • Which aspects of rural development the case study focuses on and why it is noteworthy
  • Which SDG(s) it is related to
  • What factors led to its success or failure (supporting factors like external support, domestic policies, community commitment, local/national leadership, etc.)
  • Good practices that can be scaled out to other areas/countries
  • Precautions to be taken while scaling out to other areas/countries (e.g. cultural issues…)
  • Points of improvement in the way the case study was conducted

Details such as topics, date of presentation, presentation duration, etc. to be decided later

Send presentation material by preceding Monday (by 11 pm) through email (including any reference material)


  1. Final assignment in the form of a position paper: students are free to choose their own topic for the final assignment (based on the student’s own research interest but has to show connections to one or more of the topics discussed during the course).

The purpose of a position paper is to take a position on any issue of your interest (usually a controversial issue) related to rural development. There is no single formula or set format for this kind of paper, but a good way to proceed is to identify an issue, idea, controversy, etc., then state your point of view, backing it up with well-researched and reliable reasons and evidence. This is especially important because evidence must be there to provide a solid foundation for your argument. Make sure to present multiple sides of the argument in order to include (and counter) opposite arguments. The instructor will share the evaluation criteria used to evaluate the paper.

  • 2500 words (excluding references and tables)
  • Academic writing (citations, etc.)
  • 12-point font, double-spaced.
  • In Word (doc/docx) format or OpenDocument Text (odt). PDFs will not be accepted.
  • Include the title, your name, student number, and course name at the top of the first page.
  • Due date: February 9th
  1. Reflection card and class preparation: Read the material in advance of each class and prepare at least discussion questions or comment. Be prepared to share them with your peers in class. At the end of each class, student will be given 10-15 minutes to write a short text reflecting on their learning during the class and further questions and issues they would like to explore.


Policy on Plagiarism

Plagiarism on any assignment is detected (be aware that internet plagiarism is among the easiest to detect), you will receive a failing grade for the assignment and possibly for the course.