Interdisciplinary education and research are increasingly in demand in land use, environment and development because understanding complex human-nature relationships requires a holistic approach. While the need for interdisciplinarity is acknowledged by most, in practice, traditional disciplines are still accorded greatest scientific recognition. This article illustrates how interdisciplinarity has been approached on an international education and research programme. A major challenge was how to strike a balance between interdisciplinarity and specialization, and a specific model based on problem-oriented group work and specialized research teams was developed which successfully negotiated this divide, according to a comprehensive student evaluation. International co-operation among Denmark, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana has revealed structural and cultural barriers to the implementation of interdisciplinary programmes. Successful negotiation of these barriers requires personal relations based on long-term commitment which was achieved in this case through the study programme and annual joint student field courses.