Analyze food production and nutritional security in one of the most fragile, important, and biodiverse ecological systems in the world.

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  • Study in Sikkim, a stunning mountainous state and ecological hotspot.

    Sikkim stands at the forefront of national and regional food politics. Its traditional agricultural systems maintain rich agro-biodiversity critical in ensuring nutritional security among mountain communities. It was the first state in India to legislate 100 percent adoption of organic food production.

  • Examine how climate change, globalization, and government policies impact local food production and nutritional security in mountain communities. 

    You’ll develop skills in analyzing the sustainability of food production and nutrition security within rapidly changing agricultural systems. You will also acquire new skills in implementing innovation to promote sustainable food production in other contexts.

  • Meet experts and practitioners with unique perspectives.

    With local faculty, homestay families, youth, academics and independent scholars, community activists, and professionals, you’ll gain a nuanced understanding of issues relating to food and food politics

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    Explore traditional and integrated agricultural systems, agro-biodiversity conservation, and food culture.

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    Work on farms, make agro-based products, and process food.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Development | Economy | Inequality

Development | Economy | Inequality

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None. Previous college-level coursework or other significant preparation in environmental studies, agriculture, policy studies, sociology, or related fields recommended.





Patuk, in Sikkim’s east district, is an agricultural village where you will see land-use systems, cropping patterns, and soil fertility enhancing practices within the integrated agriculture system. In Patuk, you’ll stay with rural families and participate in agricultural work such as sowing, transplanting, harvesting, making hay mats, and food processing.

Pendam Village

In Pendam Village, located in the east district, you’ll see the impact of climate change and government policies on agriculture production; new patterns in cropping and land use; changes in food culture and nutrition as a result of globalization (e.g., the import of packaged foods); and livelihood transitions.

Key Topics of Study


Key Topics of Study

  • Analyze conservation and management of local agro biodiversity, nutrition, and food production systems through the lenses of society and gender.
  • Design and participate in a collaborative group project relevant to local farming communities and focused on food and agriculture systems.
  • Explore the challenges farming communities face in implementing the state’s organic food production requirements.
  • People, livelihood, culture, and society in Sikkim
  • Traditional and integrated agriculture systems in Sikkim
  • Production and nutrition
  • Globalization and food production in mountain communities
  • Climate change and agriculture




Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Agroecology and Food Security in the Himalaya – syllabus
(ASIA3010 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
An interdisciplinary, hands-on seminar linking the latest in food security theory with community-based learning in the Himalaya. Students examine the region’s integrated agricultural system, conservation and agro-biodiversity, and food production as well as the effects of globalization, climate change, and state policy on local agriculture.
Food Security Field Study Project – syllabus
(FSPR3080 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In collaboration with community members, students design and develop a project related to the program theme and adhering to strict human and environmental ethics standards. The group also provides recommendations for project implementation and long-term sustainability.

Field Study Project


Field Study Project

In conjunction with your host community, you and your group will design a collaborative project related to food that is relevant to the community’s needs.

In the early part of the program, potential ideas for collaborative projects, grounded in mutual interests, will emerge from your immersive experiences within your host community. These ideas will be developed through dialogue with community members and frequent critical reflection sessions supported by academic literature. You will have further conversations with community members on the project type and its design by the end of week two.

Next, you will focus on project execution and preliminary implementation. After that step, you will focus on the realization, assessment, and trouble-shooting of the proposed project. Depending on the scale  and feasibility of the project, you may be able to complete the project proposal for implementation and completion of the project at a later date.

Engagement in this hands-on project will equip you to understand and analyze the sustainability of food production and nutrition security within rapidly changing agricultural systems. You will also have acquired new skills in implementing innovative techniques to promote sustainable food production in other contexts.

Faculty and Staff


Faculty and Staff

Tara Devi Dhakal, PhD Candidate, Academic Director

Tara DhakalTara holds a master’s degree from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. She specialized in social and economic development and organizational management. She studied agriculture as an undergraduate and earned a postgraduate certificate in women’s studies. She is pursuing her PhD, focusing on rural sociology and socioeconomic development in the eastern Himalayas, particularly agro-based livelihood security and resilience in farming households in Sikkim.

Tara comes from a farming community in south Sikkim. She was a researcher and development consultant with NGOs and international development organizations in India and Nepal. She’s been an eco-health researcher with BAIF Development Research Foundation; a gender and social inclusion consultant with The World Conservation Union, Nepal; a consultant with International Center for Integrated Mountain Development; and a consultant on community development with JPS Consultants Delhi/IC Net-JICA Japan. She has conducted a literature review of the eastern Himalayas on agro-biodiversity conservation from a gender perspective and done field studies on gender-based traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and conservation of agro-biodiversity. Tara is interested in community development, rural livelihood, agro-biodiversity, and gender issues and is strongly influenced by social justice and equity and deeply connected to sustainability and practices of environmental and humanitarian spirituality.

Manoj Sain, Program Coordinator

Manoj SainManoj has a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Rajasthan. He has worked with SIT for more than eight years and is responsible for student health services and program logistics. Previously, he managed his own pharmaceuticals business and was a tutor. He has traveled to mountainous terrain on student excursions and loves photography, dance, and playing cricket and badminton.

Durga Prasad Sharma, Academic and Field Coordinator

Durga is from South Sikkim. He has an undergraduate degree in English and has worked with nonprofit and intergovernmental organizations in Sikkim and Darjeeling, India. He has worked in sustainable development, with a focus on rural water security and livelihood and biodiversity issues, and has published research. He works with government agencies on Rural Water Security Planning for the drought-prone areas in Sikkim and with the National Biodiversity Authority’s Bio-resources Documentation and Access and Benefit Sharing Project. He likes traveling and trekking, particularly visiting ancient monuments and museums.

Phurdolma Lepcha, Homestay Coordinator and Program Associate

Phurdolma is from a village in South Sikkim. She has a graduate degree in political science and has assisted SIT students on semester programs in their Independent Study Projects. As a native Lepcha inhabitant of Sikkim and daughter of a farmer and spiritual healer, she is well versed in understanding native culture, society, and agriculture. She loves reading and doing farm work.

Key expert facilitators for the program include:

Gautam Maila

Gautam Maila is a farmer whose wisdom on agriculture is immense. He manages his farms with his wife and has conserved traditional varieties of food crops and vegetables, learning through trial and error. He a deep understanding of traditional ecological knowledge.  He loves to be in nature and is an agricultural experiment enthusiast.

Pradip Saha

Pradip is a development activist and independent communication specialist and filmmaker in the areas of environment and development. He worked with the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, as an associate director and edited India’s foremost environment and development journal Down to Earth. He is currently a freelancer and a founder of an independent company called Damage Control. He has served as an adjunct faculty with SIT for more than eight years and has taught globalization, rural transition, and climate change to SIT students.

Ghanashyam Sharma, PhD

Ghanashyam has more than 15 years of experience in biodiversity conservation and agro-ecology, ecosystem services, climate change, traditional farming systems, traditional knowledge systems, community development, environmental governance, mountain culture, and livelihoods in the eastern Himalayas. He is involved in access and benefit sharing of traditional knowledge. He researches traditional agro-forestry systems, climate change adaptation, mountain agricultural biodiversity and production systems, trans-Himalayan agro-pastoralism, habitat ecology, and mountain spring revival initiatives. During postdoctoral research at United Nations University in Tokyo, he compared traditional farming systems and agro-biodiversity in the Eastern Himalayas, Northern Thailand, China’s Yunnan Province, and the Northern Mountainous Region of Japan.




The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.

homestayYou’ll experience a homestay with a family in the village of Patuk in Sikkim’s south district. This extended and culturally immersive stay exposes you to farming systems and integrated, sustainable farming practices that respect biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and Mother Earth. You will learn about in-situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity and the role of gender in food production and processing and in ensuring nutritional security. You will participate in agricultural practices such as sowing, transplanting, harvesting, making hay mats, and processing food with village families.

Cost and Scholarships


Cost and Scholarships

SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students. 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

This program is eligible for a New Horizons Grant, a scholarship for our new programs. Award amounts are $2,500 for semester and $1,500 for summer programs. Students demonstrating need through their submitted scholarship application will be eligible. 

Tuition: $6,950

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Sikkim: people, livelihood, culture, and society
  • Traditional and integrated agriculture systems in Sikkim
  • Agro-biodiversity: food culture and habits
  • Gender and local agro-biodiversity: production and nutrition
  • Globalization and food production in mountain communities
  • Climate change and agricultural biodiversity
  • Government policies on rural development and its implication on food production and nutrition
  • Half-day workshop with experts and local community members
  • All educational excursions
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,325

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in New Delhi (two nights), hotels (six nights in Gangtok) and homestays (two nights in Pendam during a site visit and 15 days in Patuk for an immersive homestay and during the collaborative lab project), and costs during the evaluation period.
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly or through an appropriate stipend or homestays.
  • Travel fare from New Delhi to Gangtok and back, excursion travel in Sikkim 

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $125

Immunizations: Varies

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Contact A Former Student

contact a former student