Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminar


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 1,500 word book review  25%
Semester Assessment 1 x 1,500 word case study report  25%
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,500 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1) identify some of the most important issues of food and water insecurity in Africa
2) critically discuss theoretical literatures on change conflicts, water wars and famines
3) analyse the role of international development institutions and agencies in responding to food and water insecurity in Africa
4) analyse the role of the African state in responding to food and water insecurity in Africa
5) identify, describe and account for failures in providing food and water security in Africa
6) identify, describe and account for local grassroots responses to food and water issues in Africa
7) demonstrate grounded empirical knowledge of a range of specific case studies
8) develop appropriate research methods to study food and water security in Africa

Brief description

A 'coming storm' of population growth, food price volatility and climate change has been predicted for the global food and water architecture. Many of these issues will affect African states and communities particularly, in places where food and water insecurity has historically been exacerbated by civil war, state weakness, and under-development. This module seeks to explore the complex causes of such features of insecurity in depth, both through the broader literature on global food systems, and through particular case studies and African examples.

Perennial food and water shortages in East Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya) will be used as a starting point for the course, and detailed resources on the historical and contemporary crises (economic, environmental and political) in the region will be provided. The course will then move to consider a number of bodies of relevant theoretical literature and appropriate examples. The first section will focus on the links between resource scarcity and violent conflict, and topics include climate change conflict (Darfur), water wars (the Nile Basin), and famines (Ethiopia and Somalia). The second part of the course turns attention to the international development architecture, and considers food aid (Zambia), the African state and policies of structural adjustment (1980s) and capacity building (2000s) in Tanzania, and the economics of free trade and fair trade (Ghana). The final part of the course turns attention to forms of resistance against dominant approaches to food and water security, looking at critiques of water privatization and big dams (South Africa), and movements for food sovereignty across the continent. The final class will return to the problem of food and water insecurity in East Africa, and consider how our understanding of the dynamics at work here, and the political options available, have changed over the course of the module.


1. Introduction: Food and water security in East Africa
2. Climate change conflicts: Darfur
3. Water wars: The Nile Basin
4. Famines and food aid: Ethiopia and Somalia
5. Development and food aid: Zambia
6. The African state - villain or victim? Tanzania
7. Free trade or fair trade? Ghana
8. Water privatization and big dams: South Africa
9. Food sovereignty and grassroots movements
10. Conclusion: Food and water security in East Africa


This module provides an African-focused area studies module to enhance the Department's MSc provision for the programme Food and Water Security. It will be the first MSc module within the Department to focus exclusively on issues of food and water security, an issue of increasing global concern, academic interest, and a university priority. The module will explore a number of different dimensions of the politics of food and water security on the continent, setting the topic within a broader focus of the international politics literatures on development policy and new security challenges. The primary aim of the module will be to show how problems of food and water insecurity in Africa are not simply (or even primarily) technological or 'natural disasters', but are inherently political and are bound up within the broader context of global political economies, localized violence, and the nature of the African state.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Some statistical data on food and water security in Africa will be part of the course reading material.
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. Fellow students will be encouraged to question the paper-giver to critique their approach or to suggest areas for the development of the chosen topic; in turn each will discuss the contributions and ideas of the other.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay and case study report. The need to prepare for seminars and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The seminar discussions in particular will help to develop students’ verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a case study report, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar contributions will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; engage with theory; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems
Research skills The submission of a book review, an essay and a case study report will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The report will require some (directed) independent research on a case study of the student's choice. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for seminars will also enable the student to develop independent project skills.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques - Apply a range of methodologies to complex strategic problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.


This module is at CQFW Level 7