Skip to content

People, Poverty and Environmental Change

7.5 ECTS Copenhagen Year 2 Semester 3 Compulsory Integrative/inter/transdisciplinary NIFK20007U


The world is experiencing rapid and unprecedented changes, including the depletion of environmental resources. This has profound adverse effects on people and communities who rely on these resources for their livelihoods. An open question is also whether poverty drives environmental degradation or whether the causality predominantly runs in the opposite direction. Balancing environmental and social concerns and achieving sustainability is an analytical and practical challenge.

In this course, we focus on poverty and environmental change. We explore key concepts and perspectives from social science disciplines focusing on livelihood strategies and how they change over time. The course is research-based and develops students’ quantitative and qualitative skills through working with original research data. We use cases to highlight the relationship between environmental resources, institutional arrangements, poverty and wellbeing. And we discuss how external factors such as climate change, market forces, and state legislation affect local resource control and access and how that affects rural livelihoods.

A vital component of the course is its focus on both quantitative and qualitative tools for understanding and analyzing rural livelihoods. This provides students with a solid foundation for critically assessing and reflecting on academic representations of livelihoods and linking local issues to broader developmental processes. Through this work, we aim to provide students essential skills for conducting thesis work involving fieldwork in the Global South.

Recommended Academic Qualifications

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended. A core principle of the course is a curiosity in different intersecting approaches in understanding sustainability challenges. This curiosity is also expected from the students.


The course is identical to the discontinued courses, NIFK20007U Livelihoods and Environmental Change, LNAK10083U Rural Livelihoods and Natural Resources Governance and NIFK18002U Interdisciplinary Approaches to Rural Livelihoods. Therefore you cannot register for this course, if you have already passed NIFK20007U Livelihoods and Environmental Change, LNAK10083U Rural Livelihoods and Natural Resources Governance or NIFK18002U Interdisciplinary Approaches to Rural Livelihoods.

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide participants with a thorough understanding of the connection between poverty and environmental change as it materializes through people’s livelihood activities and enable students to critically reflect on methodological and analytical strategies for exploring this nexus.

After completing the course, 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.

Teaching and learning methods

Blended learning combining e-learning and classroom activities. E-learning is centered on online asynchronous discussions in small groups. Students are 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); and (iii) meet up in class to discuss the reading material and solve livelihoods problems (based on quantitative and qualitative case study data).


  • Preparation                100 hours
  • Lectures                       12 hours
  • Practical exercises     16 hours
  • E-learning                   24 hours
  • Exam                            30
  • Total                             206 hours


The course curriculum consists of state-of-the-art book chapters and journal articles that are made available during the course.

Type of assessment

  • Individual
  • Written assignment
  • An individual essay of 2000 words in which students analyse a case-based problem using a combination of qualitative and quantitative insights and discuss the results using scientific literature.


  • Location : Copenhagen
  • ECTS granting : University of Copenhagen
  • Organisation : University of Copenhagen


Martin Reinhardt Nielsen