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International Agriculture & Rural Development Major & Minor

Make an impact in rural communities across the globe

Go beyond the borders of campus to put our knowledge and research to work improving lives across the world. 

Our 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. You’ll have the opportunity to gain meaningful experience, hands-on by participating in projects and research all over the world. 

Today's students are acquiring 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
  • Contribute to the economic development of emerging economies by strengthening private strategies and informing public policies

The International Agriculture and Rural Development major will be welcoming its final class of first-year students in the Fall of 2021. We encourage students interested in this program to explore the new Global Development major, which is accepting first-year students for Fall of 2022.

Major in International Agriculture & Rural Development

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

The program will not limit you 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.

This multidisciplinary major leads to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Agriculture. All our students are exposed to the fundamental issues of international development and are required to choose an area for more intense study from one of three concentrations.

As an International Agriculture and Rural Development major, you will be required to spend at least eight weeks in the field (outside of the United States), preferably during your junior year. Recent destinations have included: Mexico, India and Belize.


  • 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.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics thru  pre-calculus, statistics strongly encouraged

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry recommended)

  • Foreign language encouraged

  • Agriculture courses are strongly encouraged however, they are not a substitute for rigorous coursework in science, math or English

Core Curriculum 

These core courses are chosen to ensure that students can demonstrate a broad introductory knowledge in the major disciplines involved in international agriculture. They enable students to interpret a broad multi-disciplinary set of issues related to socio-economic development, food security, livelihoods and environmental sustainability in developing countries. Students typically take some courses during the freshman year to acquaint them with the major and others in their later years as they gain more knowledge from their other course work.


Students integrate knowledge and experiences obtained from their courses and time spent overseas by participating in a senior seminar. Students learn to work together synergistically in groups while they examine, research, and debate issues of major global importance from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. Students produce a group report that synthesizes their findings. Students share their international experiences with other seniors to demonstrate their communication and analytical skills.

International Experience

Students can articulate their experiences working with rural people, food systems, development institutions and practitioners, preferably in low-income countries. They can apply their prior knowledge from courses they have taken to examine the various interactive farm activities they encounter and organize their thoughts into an intelligent reflection paper. This will help students to decide whether International Agriculture is the career for them and help them identify further training needs that can be acquired in their senior year.

Area Studies

Students examine the history and culture of the country or region where they intend to do their International Experience to better prepare them for a successful internship.

Foreign Language - Highly Recommended

Students demonstrate some competency in the language of the country where they do their internship. This is not a requirement, however it is highly recommended. Cornell offers a wide range of languages and area studies relevant to the IARD major, including many associated with Asian, Latin American and African countries. The actual decision would be made in consultation with the student's advisor.


Students debate the important ethical arguments in International Agriculture and demonstrate this competency in their capstone and other course outputs.

Concentrations (Minimum - 16 credits)

All IARD majors choose one of the three concentrations. Students may mix courses from each concentration if agreed with their advisor to add more discipline depth to this multi-disciplinary major. Concentration credit can vary, from a minimum requirement of 16 credits to an in-depth study in a specific discipline with an additional 15-18 credits.

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. The student is required to take 5 courses and may take an additional 5 in-depth courses depending on their interests and with the help of their advisor.
View Economics and Development concentration requirements

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. Students in this concentration need to take 5 courses from 4 different categories and may choose 5 more in-depth courses in areas of interest. Students considering future graduate study in any of the applied sciences represented above should consult faculty advisors concerning more advanced coursework in the relevant field(s), as well as in chemistry and biology.
View Agricultural and Food Systems concentration requirements

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. Students considering future graduate study in this area should consult faculty advisors regarding additional coursework in the biological and physical sciences. As for the other concentrations, the students have to take 5 courses plus 5 more in-depth courses in areas of interest and in discussions with their advisor.
View Environment and Ecosystems concentration requirements

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.

  • Describe, critique and debate competing global development paradigms, and craft and defend a personal philosophy of development.
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply systems perspectives to analyses of current and future development problems, and to draw upon multiple disciplines for supporting evidence.
  • Exhibit basic skills appropriate to development practice, including group facilitation, team building, multi-stakeholder problem assessment and priority setting, and participatory learning and action.  
  • Demonstrate proficiency in applying at least one research or program evaluation approach (quantitative, qualitative, participatory learning and action, etc.) in a real-world situation.     
  • Propose, plan, secure and carry out an approved summer or semester-long internship or professional practice activity. As part of that experience, demonstrate skill in reflective writing and cross-cultural communication. 
  • Exhibit attitudes of tolerance, humility and respect in interactions with others, including those who hold different perspectives and world views, or who differ along lines of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic class or political or religious affiliation.
  • Others specific to the concentration.

An international experience is not only a core requirement for a bachelor's of science in IARD, but it's also an exciting opportunity! Finding the right fit can take time, so plan ahead and do lots of research.

The internship can be arranged through the Cornell Abroad or the CALS Student Exchange programs, all of which are credit bearing. Some students do it this way, especially those who have financial aid, because financial aid will pay all the costs. For students who don't have financial aid, these programs can be expensive. Global Development encourages students who don't have financial aid or don't need credit to consider hands-on field internships that are not part of the Cornell Abroad or the CALS Student Exchange programs. To help place students in field internships, Global Development works directly with organizations working overseas private companies, and other institutions with which faculty are already engaged.

The internship can occur in a developing, emerging, or advanced country depending on the student's career path and other factors already mentioned, such as whether the student needs credit and/or receives financial aid. Students undertaking an IP-developed internship do so in summer- or semester-long affiliations. Upon completion of his/her internship, every student is required to complete a web-based survey and write a reflection paper which is posted on the IP-CALS website as a guide for other students. IARD 4960 is used to provide students one credit for doing these two things. 

Study Abroad Resources

  • CALS Internships, Service Learning and Volunteering Abroad - Opportunities vary greatly. Some are paid, while others are unpaid or even require payment to participate. They may be full-time, part-time, long-term or short-term. Your personal and professional goals need to be considered as well. And you may need a special visa or work permit.
  • Cornell Abroad - As you prepare for study abroad, you and your parents may have questions about the cost of study abroad. Will it be more expensive than study in Ithaca? Who do I pay? Will my financial aid apply towards the cost of study abroad? (Short Answer - YES!) 
  • CALS Student Exchange Programs - Programs are primarily offered in more-developed countries, but new programs are being added in less-developed countries. 
  • Cornell's Career Services Develop Your Own (DYO) Summer Internship Program

Study Abroad Funding Sources

  • The Cornell Commitment (Cornell Tradition, Hunter Rawlings, and Meinig Family) - gives you an expense account of $3,500 that can be used for travel. Each program has different requirements.
  • Public Service Center Scholar - great program that acts a bridge between your service work and your academics. Requires you to take a few classes with them and provides you with a $2,000 expense account for your own service.
  • Engaged Learning + Research - Check out their website, they have travel grants for people interested in service-learning. Online you can see the details about their application.
  • Departments affiliated with the location that you're travelling to - Sometimes a department has a special endowment for student to get funded for a trip if they take a class in that department. For example, the Southeast Asia programs gives students who plan to travel to Thailand $1000 if they take a course in the department. 
  • Research Grants - CALS has an undergraduate research department that provides funding for those interested in agriculture and social sciences. 
  • There are limited funds available for travel for IARD students. Apply by sending a proposal with details about your internship, justification and a budget summary of what funds you have raised and what additional funds are needed to ph14 [at] (Peter Hobbs).
  • Undergraduate Student Grants Proposal Information - a list of several possible funding sources available to undergraduate students. 
  • McKinley '74 Family Grant - is open to all Cornell sophomores for the purpose of assisting students in pursuing interesting, provocative, and entrepreneurial summer projects, with the intent of having a direct and lasting impact on many generations of Cornell students. 

Episcopal Relief and Development - Tanzania internship (Also starting work in Zimbabwe)

This internship is available through the CALS Global Fellows Summer Internship Program and also through the IARD program for the summer and other times. Note the deadline for applications for the GF program is from mid-December to early February. 

WebEpiscopal Relief & Development's website and Tanzania Program
Location of Internship: Mackay House, Dodoma, Tanzania
Timeframe: Flexible timing
Contacttwt2 [at] (Terry Tucker)

TATA-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

TCI funds and operates a summer internship program that places Cornell University masters and professional degree candidates with research internship opportunities across India. Interns work to propel TCI research in any of our main research areas, and specific internships/project opportunities depend on what projects are in need of support.

They have a separate and unique opportunity for you if you are an undergrad who is interested in professional development and research opportunities abroad, they encourage you to apply to the CALS Global Fellows Program.  TCI is partnering with the Global Fellows Program to host undergraduate internships in India.  This application and recruitment process is different from the Tata-Cornell Summer Internship Program, as it is managed through the CALS Global Fellows office.  Undergrads interested in interning with TCI should apply here and select the Tata Global Fellows option in your list of preferences.  This application is due by early February. This is a great opportunity for IARD students to get valuable experience.

This is a competitive, merit-based internship that requires interns to engage (full-time) over the course of 6-8 weeks in an applied, development-related research project in India. TCI internships typically occur in between June-August. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis.

WebTata-Cornell Institute
Location: India
Timeframe: Summer
Contacttwt2 [at] (Terry Tucker)


Location: Manor House Agricultural Centre in the western part of the country.
Timeframe: variable duration (8+ weeks) beginning in summer 2019
Contact: Beth Medvecky (bam44 [at] and/or Terry Tucker (twt2 [at]

The Manor House Agroecology hub (AE Hub) exists to serve a community of practice made up of various stakeholder groups involved in agroecological outreach, research and advocacy. It aims to bring together agroecological science, movement and practice for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

Attachments typically last for at least 8 weeks. But, a student’s stay can also be extended for 3 months and longer, if the student and Hub representatives see this as mutually beneficial. Agroecology hub description

Aquiares Coffee Estate

This is an excellent opportunity to work on a coffee farm and learn various aspects of coffee production, processing and marketing. This estate covers 2,265 cares that is planted with coffee mixed with native shade trees. They have their own coffee processing and cupping facility and have strong links with CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) situated a few miles down the road. The son of the owner of this Estate graduated from Cornell's IARD program in 2010 and is now learning the ropes so he can eventually take over from his Father. If interested, students should contact Terry Tucker or Peter Hobbs for information. Three IARD students have interned there with two of them going twice. Their experiences can be found on the "Student Experiences" section of this web page. One MPS student also spent time there looking at soils and soil health.

WebAquiares Estate Coffee
Location: Costa Rica
Timeframe: Flexible timing
Contacttwt2 [at] (Terry Tucker )and ph14 [at] (Peter Hobbs)

Nilgiri's Field Learning Center -- Keystone Project

This is another excellent Spring semester program. The Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC) is a unique partnership that aligns Cornell faculty and students with experts and community members in the Nilgiris, the “blue hills” of southern India. The NFLC learning community explores nutrition and health, land use, and livelihoods in a region recognized for its biodiversity. Students develop research skills in a collaborative, field-based environment. It is associated with the Keystone Foundation, an NGO working in the Western Ghats of Southern India. It is listed under the Office of Global Learning program where students can apply for internships. 

Web: Cornell in India: Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC)
Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu District in Southern India -- in the Western Ghats
Timeframe: Spring semester or longer if interested
Contact: kag7 [at] (Kristen Grace) in CU Abroad and kudva [at] (Neema Kudva), Cornell Coordinator for NFLC

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Students work closely with FAO in-country staff and national programs. Applications are sent out in late January and students read the job descriptions and apply to the ones they like. Students are selected by videoconference interview with FAO staff. These are excellent internships for students wishing to get valuable experience working with FAO. They provide a per diem in country for any field trips during the assignment. Travel costs are not included. Some students have done internships this way and are listed under the countries below. This is a good way to learning how FAO operates in developing countries. In order to get internships with them students should discuss with Terry where they would like to work and visit the FAO web site so a dialogue can be developed with representatives from the countries of interest. The FAO website has more information about their internships.

Location: Several countries including: Gabon, Sri Lanka, Cuba, and  Equitorial Guinea (Spanish speakers)
Timeframe: Summer or other timings.
Cornell Contacttwt2 [at] (Terry Tucker)

Cornell Global Health Program

This is an excellent 8-week summer program. There are home stays. Half the time is spent working with students on a project and the rest with a hands on experience with a local NGO. We still need to develop some programs in agriculture. The Global Health Program offers four summer programs in Dominican Republic, India, Tanzania, and Zambia. As participants of a Global Health Summer Program, students enroll in a 1-credit Pre-departure Seminar and meet weekly to prepare for their upcoming summer experiential learning opportunity. Students in the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and Zambia Programs enroll in NS 4620 and students in the India Program enroll in ILR 4260. IARD students have done internships in this program in Tanzania and India. Note that applications for this program start in early November.

WebCornell Global Health Program plus more information at the Nutritional Sciences Global Health Program
Location: Dominican Republic, India, Tanzania, and Zambia
Timeframe: Summer
Contact: jmm298 [at] (Jeanne Moseley)

Princeton in Africa and Latin America

Princeton in Africa, Asia and Latin America matches talented and passionate college graduates with our partners working across Africa for year long service projects. Since this opportunity is for one full year, students need to take a leave of absence to participate. See your advisor for more information on this opportunity and taking a leave of absence. Application deadline is in November with interviews in January. This is also a good opportunity for graduates whom want to gain some international experience. We had one IARD student do a year internship here after graduating from the IARD major

WebPrinceton in Africa | Princeton in Asia | Princeton in Latin America
Location: Africa, Asia and Latin America
Contact (Africa) | (Asia) | (Latin America)

Earth University Internships

Earth accepts interns throughout the year and can be tailored to student needs and timings. Students with specific field research projects or specialized areas of interest are welcome to conduct their research and expand their knowledge here at Earth, under the supervision of a faculty member in their chosen field. Programs on tropical crops, organic agriculture, integrated livestock farming and peri-urban agriculture.

WebStudy at Earth
Location: Costa Rica
Timeframe: Flexible
Contact: twt2 [at] (Terry Tucker)

Global Mountain Action

This is a group of scientists and professionals concerned about the neglect to support sustainable use & well being of mountains, their people, their ecosystems, their cultures, their health, their diversity and their spirit. They are against promotion of evermore destructive, extractive use of mountain resources with few or negative benefits for mountain inhabitants, conducted without concern for to the environment, which they believe is detrimental ultimately also to national and international stability and security. This program is willing to take a few Cornell students to intern in Peru (possibly Nepal) for a very hands-on experience. They are very interested in conserving biodiversity. Spanish is needed. Peter Trutmann used to teach at Cornell and is now involved with this program.

WebGlobal Mountain Action
Location: Peru
Timeframe: Flexible (Best in Spring semester)
Contacttwt2 [at] (Terry Tucker )ptrutmann [at] (Peter Trutmann)

International Sustainable Development Studies Institute

Academically challenging and intensely experiential, ISDSI courses are expeditions into the cultures and ecology of Thailand. Each course is focused on understanding sustainable development and is designed in collaboration with local communities. Host family and independent living experiences in Chiangmai, Thailand. Social science and natural science programs. Thai language training is part of the program. Two IARD students did internships in this program in 2018. Read their experiences on the "Student Experiences" part of this web site. You apply for this internship through Cornell's Global Learning site for this program

WebInternational Sustainable Development Studies Institute
Location:  Chiangmai, Thailand
Timeframe: Summer and semester programs
Contacts: twt2 [at] (Terry Tucker)

SIT Study Abroad Program

Some funding for this program is available. Funding is administered through the Office of Global Learning.

WebSIT Study Abroad
Location: Several locations including: Africa, Asia, Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Middle East
Timeframe: Semester, summer and yearly programs
Contact: kag7 [at] (Kristin Grace) 300 Caldwell Hall,  Monday to Friday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. while semester classes are in session. 255-6224

Transfer Requirements

Learn about the challenges and opportunities that exist in less-developed countries, with concentrations in economics and development, agricultural food systems, and environment and ecosystems. Overseas experiences and studies are incorporated into the major.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.

  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.

  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application.


Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended); preferably one course in Ecology

  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

  • Microeconomics

  • Foreign language (Competency in the language of the region in which your international experiences will be undertaken is strongly recommended)

(Or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).


  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended)); preferably one course in Ecology

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking

  • Statistics

  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

  • Microeconomics

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • Foreign language (Competency in the language of the region in which your International Experience will be undertaken is strongly recommended)

  • A quality international experience program working with rural people, food systems, development institutions and practitioners in low-income countries is strongly recommended

  • Courses in agriculture

  • Courses that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

Careers in International Agriculture and Rural Development

Researcher holding plants

Business/Agriculture Business

  • Financial analyst
  • Consulting associate/analyst
  • Import business manager
  • Production technician
  • Order fulfillment manager


  • AgriCorps teacher
  • Peace Corps teacher
  • Chemistry & biology teacher
  • Agriculture economic & workforce development educator


  • Farm apprentice
  • Enologist
  • Vineyard assistant
  • Aquaponics & soil researcher


  • Nutrition educator
  • Grocery business development assistant
  • Hospitality manager
  • Peace Corps crop extension worker
  • Caseworker


Wheat expert calls for global unity to avert future hunger crises

A man and a woman standing in a field of wheat.