What you will learn

  • Understand that food security depends on food availability, food access, food utilization and stability
  • How we can produce enough food for everyone
  • How sustainable different food production systems are
  • How to assure access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food for everyone
  • About actors and activities to achieve food security at international, national, local, household, and individual level

Program Overview

Get involved: let’s find a way to feed 9 billion people in 2050

What are the biggest environmental issues we face? Pollution? Climate change? True. But among these environmental topics, feeding the growing population, 9 billion in 2050, is one of the most pressing issues we have to find a solution for.

To solve this problem, we need people to gain knowledge, do research, and explore the options. You can be a piece of the puzzle, help find a solution, and start now by gaining knowledge about food production systems, food security, sustainable development in agriculture and livestock, and systems thinking.

XSeries sustainable food security

How is it possible that the world currently produces enough food for everyone, but still people suffer from hunger and nutrient deficiencies? How can we produce sufficient food in an environmentally sustainable way to feed the increased world population in the future?

This Environmental Studies XSeries, developed by Wageningen University, consists of 3 courses:

The value of systems thinking

Learn about systems thinking and its application to improve the environmental sustainability of food production systems. The main topics are:

  • Complexity and diversity of food production systems
  • Principles of system analysis
  • Evaluation methods for the environmental impact of food production systems
  • Strong and weak points of different food production systems

Crop production

Learn the basics of crop production to feed the world and preserve our planet’s resources. The main topics are:

  • Basic concept of plant production
  • Issues related to global food production and consumption
  • Influences of water (scarcity and availability) and other measures on crop production
  • Processes that cause major problems for the environment
  • Measures to solve and prevent those problems

Food Access

Learn about the basics of food access decision-making from a multilevel perspective. The main topics are:

  • The basic principles of food access
  • Choices influencing food access
  • Dilemmas at household, local, national and international levels

About Wageningen University & Research

At Wageningen University and Research, we are dedicated to exploring the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. Studies and courses train (future) professionals from all over the world in sustainable food systems and help consumers make informed choices about what they eat, how it is produced and the impact of their decisions on the environment and society.

Course structures and certificates

The duration of each course (or MOOC: Massive Open Online Course) is flexible: study any time and place you want. You decide how to spend your time during a course. Gain the knowledge offered in each course free of charge through dynamic modules filled with video, syllabus, and assignments for practice and grading. Obtain your verified certificate for $ 49,- each. After successful completion of all 3 courses, you can obtain an overall certificate.

About course dates

EdX keeps courses available, even if the recent course date has expired. Enroll nonetheless, and allow yourself to explore content and continue learning. However, not all features and materials may be available. Check back often to see when new start dates are announced.

Scroll down to find more information about each separate course and join the Wageningen University XSeries about sustainable food security.

Courses in this program

Sustainable Food Security: Crop Production

Course Details
Learn the basics of crop production and find out how to feed the future world population without depleting our planet’s resources!

Sustainable Food Security: The value of systems thinking

Course Details
Learn how to solve the 'Rubik's cube' of systems thinking and how it's applied to improve the environmental sustainability of food production systems!

Sustainable Food Security: Food Access

Course Details
Learn the basics of food access decision-making. In other words, who decides what ends up on your plate. Spoiler alert: it’s not just you!

Meet your instructors

Eddie Bokkers

Eddie Bokkers holds a PhD in Animal Sciences from Wageningen University. He is an associate professor at the Animal Production Systems group of Professor Imke de Boer. Eddie Bokkers teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students including the course ‘Systems Approach in Animal Sciences’. That is why we could not find a more suitable person for explaining the systems approach in this MOOC. Eddie Bokkers manages several research projects contributing to our knowledge of sustainable development of animal production systems. He is especially interested in trade-offs and synergies between animal welfare, environmental impact and economics.

Martin van Ittersum

Martin van Ittersum holds a PhD in Agricultural and Environmental Science from Wageningen University. He is a professor at the Plant Production Systems group of the same university. His research and teaching focus on research concepts and methods for the analysis, design and integrated assessment of agricultural systems from field to farm, at regional and global levels. He applies these concepts to investigate opportunities for sustainable intensification of local and global food production. He (co-)developed and applied several of the concepts taught in this MOOC. He is currently co-leading the Global Yield Gap Atlas project that aims to map where and how much food production can be increased on existing agricultural land. He is also involved in research on resource use efficiency and environmental effects of different agricultural systems.

Ken Giller

Prof. Dr. Ken Giller is an outstanding expert in the field of Plant Production Systems. He leads a group of scientists with profound experience in farming systems analysis to explore future scenarios for land use with a focus on food production at Wageningen University. Ken’s research has focused on smallholder farming systems in tropical regions with special attention for sub-Saharan Africa. In particular problems of soil fertility, the role of nitrogen fixation in tropical legumes, and the temporal and spatial dynamics of resources use within crop/livestock farming systems have this interest. He leads a number of large initiatives such as N2Africa (Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa), NUANCES(Nutrient Use in Animal and Cropping Systems: Efficiencies and Scales) and Competing Claims on Natural Resources.

​Harrie Lovenstein

Harrie Lovenstein holds an MSc in tropical agronomy. He has specialized in arid land agriculture and gained hands on experience in o.a. runoff farming, agroforestry systems, and tree propagation techniques. All with common goal: "more crop per drop." He is presently affiliated to the Centre for Sustainable Development and Food Security at WageningenUR and involved in distance learning projects.

Gerrie van de Ven

Gerrie van de Ven holds a PhD in Agricultural Science from Wageningen University. She is employed at the Plant Production Systems Group. Gerrie van de Ven combines teaching and research with a focus on farming systems analysis and optimisation of land use systems. Nutrient cycling, environmental impacts and the interaction between crops and livestock, both in the western world and in Africa, have her special attention. Her scientific work has built on systems analysis and modelling approaches, mainly at the farm and regional level, as taught in this MOOC. She teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students on these subjects.

Marrit van den Berg

Marrit van den Berg is associate professor at the Development Economics group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands. She studied tropical land use and development economics and obtained her PhD from Wageningen University in 2001.Her research concentrates on the livelihood of rural households in developing countries with special attention for food and nutrition security, (off-farm) diversification, technology adoption, and microfinance. She is involved in several projects assessing the impact of development interventions as project leader and senior researcher. Her teaching concentrates on methods, techniques and data analysis for field research. Her own toolbox includes mainly quantitative methods, such as econometric analysis of large scale surveys, behavioural experiments, and randomized controlled trials . She predominantly works with primary data and has research experience in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Hilde Bras

Hilde Bras (1968) is full professor and chair of the Sociology of Consumption and Households Group (SCH) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Utrecht University/ICS. She has published extensively on demographic and life course outcomes, including marriage, fertility, migration and status attainment, on social changes in families and households, and on sibling differences and effects. She received prestigious grants for her work on siblings (VENI, Medium Investment) and for her research on family influences on fertility (VIDI, ASPASIA). She is co-editor-in-chief of The History of the Family: An International Quarterly. Her current research focuses on inequalities in food and nutrition security within and across households, and particularly on the causes and effects of inadequate food access in the life courses of women, children and adolescents.

Jeroen Candel

Jeroen Candel finished a bachelor in Public Administration and Organisational Science and a master in Public Governance (cum laude) at Utrecht University before completing his PhD research entitled 'Putting food on the table: the European Union governance of the wicked problem of food security' at the Public Administration and Policy Group (PAP), Wageningen University, the Netherlands, in April 2016. He currently works as assistant professor at the PAP group. He is interested in emerging forms of food policy and governance and studies these by applying public policy and governance theories. By doing so, he both contributes to theoretical debates and provides concrete suggestions for policymakers and stakeholders. Beside his research, Jeroen coordinates and teaches introductory courses on Public Policy and Governance and European Union politics.

Jessica Duncan

Jessica Duncan is an Assistant Professor in the Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University. She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London and is the author of the book Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security (Routledge, 2015). She is an Associate Editor of the journal Food Security and the co-chair of the ECPR Food Policy and Governance Research Network. Her research focuses on the social-political dynamics of global norm setting for food security and the ways in which non-state actors participate in policy making processes. She is motivated by transformative governance mechanisms that support pathways to just and sustainable food systems.

Ewout Frankema

Ewout Frankema is professor and chair of Rural and Environmental History at Wageningen University and elected member of the Young Academy of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on a deeper understanding of the long-term economic history of developing regions (Africa, Latin America, Asia). His work is based on a holistic conception of historical evolutionary processes in which he aims to link the distinctive fields of economic and social history, colonial history, rural history, neo-institutional economics, political economy and environmental history. Frankema is a board member of the N.W. Posthumus Institute, the African Economic History Network (AEHN) and the Center for Global Economic History (CGEH), research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and editorial board member of the Economic History of Developing Regions (EHDR).

Peter Oosterveer

Peter Oosterveer received his PhD in 2005 at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His research and teaching is in the field of globalization and sustainability of food production and consumption. His interests are in particular on global public and private governance of food towards sustainability, including labeling and certification of food. Increasing globalisation of food raises difficult challenges in promoting sustainability as distances between producers and consumers are increasing and supply chains are becoming more complex. Conventional national government-based regulation is no longer sufficient and therefore the roles of private and civil society based actors are becoming more important. His research is focusing on these shifts and their consequences for the organisation of the supply chain and the roles of different social actors therein.

Maja Slingerland

Maja Slingerland holds a PhD degree in farming systems (2000), at Wageningen University. She worked for 10 years in research and development in west Africa. She initiated and coordinated large interdisciplinary research programmes: micronutrients (China, Benin, Burkina Faso); competing claims on natural resources (southern Africa, Brazil) and sustainable oil palm (Indonesia, Thailand). She is member of the steering committee of WU strategic funded interdisciplinary programmes "Scaling and Governance" and "Smart and Sustainable Food production" and of two interdisciplinary research programmes on conflict and climate change of the Dutch Science Foundation. She supervises PhD and Master studies, participates in public debates and published over 100 articles and book chapters in scientific and popular journals. She teaches a global food security course.

Sietze Vellema

Sietze Vellema is associate professor at the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation group, Wageningen University, and senior researcher at the Partnerships Resource Centre, Rotterdam School of Management, the Netherlands. Sietze’s interest is to understand why and how different actors collaborate in solving organisational, managerial, and technical problems related to inclusive development and sustainable food provision. He studies partnerships, certification, and institutional arrangements in agri-food chains and supervises PhD candidates in different fields: collective action in oil palm, shea, and sesame in West Africa; trading practices in East and West Africa; food safety and consumer practices in Southeast Asia; labels, governance and service delivery in global commodity trade; coordination and diversity in banana production in Asia. He leads action research focusing on value chains, partnerships, poverty, and food security in Africa.

I.J.M. de Boer

Professor Imke de Boer holds a PhD in Animal Sciences from Wageningen University. Since 2011, she leads the Animal Production Systems (APS) group at Wageningen University. This chair group uses system analysis to scientifically underpin sustainable development of animal production systems. They focus on exploring the multi-dimensional, and sometimes conflicting, consequences of innovations in livestock systems across the world, with special focus on their impact on the environment, animal welfare and livelihood of people. Imke de Boer teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and supervises many PhD students in this knowledge domain.

Carolien Kroeze

Professor Carolien Kroeze is personal professor in the Environmental Systems Analysis Group at Wageningen University, specialized in pollution management. She has also been professor at the Open University of the Netherlands. Her research includes scenario analyses and evaluation of environmental policies aiming at reducing multiple environmental problems simultaneously. Carolien Kroeze co-developed environmental models studying environmental problems caused by food production, and options to reduce these problems. These models typically integrated information from the natural and social sciences.