International Agriculture and Rural Development Major

The International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD) major is designed for students who are interested in tackling the unique and interdisciplinary issues associated with food systems and rural development in emerging nations. IARD majors have the opportunity to gain meaningful, in-situ experience by participating in projects and research all over the world. Students acquire valuable insight and skills while working within rural communities to: address poverty and hunger through innovations in agriculture, increase food security, advance science and policy related to sustainable development, and contribute to the economic development of emerging economies by strengthening private strategies and informing public policies.  

The program does not limit students to courses of study in a particular area, but rather stresses the importance of breadth of knowledge and cross-disciplinary study. The program emphasizes flexibility and combines specialized knowledge from individual disciplines with a unique ability to approach problems from divergent perspectives.

All IARD students are exposed to the fundamental issues of international development and choose one of the three concentrations.


  •  Economics and development
    Intermediate-level coursework in economics and development sociology serves as a foundation for upper-level study in the social sciences. Students considering future graduate study in economics, development sociology or development studies should consult their advisors concerning more advanced coursework in those and other fields, including mathematics.
  • Agricultural and food systems
    This science-intensive concentration is built around courses in the applied biological and physical sciences relevant to crop, food and animal production, farming systems, protection and improvement, post-harvest food handling and value addition, and human nutrition.
  • Environment and ecosystems
    IARD students who elect this concentration examine in greater depth the science, policy and institutions relevant to environmental conservation and management in developing countries.

Employment Fields

  • Research
  • Ag Business
  • Education
  • Farming
  • General Business
  • Horticulture
  • Graduate Education, MA, MS, MFS

What recent graduates are doing

  • Federal programs such as USAID and USDA
  • Positions with non-governmental organizations in developing countries to improve food security through advances in agricultural practices
  • Graduate work in environmental analysis, international affairs, education, and law
  • International consulting
  • Peace Corps
  • Private sector positions overseas
  • AgriCorps
  • Educator
  • Project Technician; Syngenta
  • Enologist; E & J Winery
  • Rotation Associate; Google
  • Orchid Exhibit Intern; Smithsonian

Sample Classes

IARD 2020 Perspectives in International Agriculture and Rural Development

This freshman course enables students to gain an understanding of major issues in international agricultural development. It provides an overview of world poverty and hunger and of various approaches to address these and related problems. Students characterize the state of agriculture and rural livelihoods in selected emerging nations and analyze how innovations in agriculture in these countries can contribute to rural development.

IARD 4030 Traditional Agriculture in Developing Countries

Half of the world’s arable land is managed by traditional farmers who have produced food and fiber for millennia with little outside input. Many long-established practices have been lost or forgotten, but some are still used by farmers in developing countries. This course examines the pros and cons of some of these traditional systems through the lens of various Cornell faculty members with experience in the traditional agriculture of developing nations.

IARD 4020/6020 and IARD 4010/6010 Agriculture in Developing Nations and Experience Latin America

Students are introduced to both the major issues in international agriculture and rural development as well as how these problems are being addressed in various countries. The lectures/discussions establish the global and regional contexts for sustainable agricultural development and focus specifically on challenges in Asia and Latin America. A semester of lectures and discussions is followed by a 2 week trip to India (6020) or Mexico (6010), where students have the opportunity to observe the cultures, environments, ecologies, rural and urban communities, agriculture, and development issues in these emerging nations.

    More about International Agriculture and Rural Development from the Department