Explore agroecological principles and systems, food production, and nutritional security in the Himalaya—one of the most fragile, biodiverse, and important ecological systems in the world.
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.
Spend two weeks in the foothills of the Himalaya.
Deepen your understanding of global food and agroecological systems while living at conservation farm in the Himalayan foothills. Then, in Doon Valley, in Uttarakhand, you’ll have lectures and visit a nearby village to interact with local farmers and nomadic trans-pastoral communities. Then you’ll spend five days at Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) and its on-site conservation farm, where you’ll learn about globalized industrial agriculture versus sustainable ecological agriculture, global food systems, agroecology and organic farming, and local living food economies and their efforts to create agroecological systems for the health of the planet and the people.
Get hands-on agricultural experience doing farm work during four village homestays.
You’ll live with a homestay family in the villages of Chalamthang in south Sikkim, Pendam and Patuk in east Sikkim, and Kalimpong in the neighboring state of West Bengal. During these homestays, you will partake in activities such as helping with daily chores, working on your family’s farm, making agro-based products, and processing ethnic food varieties.
Design and participate in a collaborative group project relevant to local farming communities and focused on food and agriculture systems.
You’ll develop and execute a feasible food-related project. Your project will be carried out in close collaboration with community members and in strict observance of ethics including SIT’s Human Subject Review policy to ensure the project benefits the community.
Explore traditional and integrated agricultural systems, agro-biodiversity conservation, and food culture.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Development | Economy | Inequality
None. Previous college-level coursework or other significant preparation in environmental studies, agriculture, policy studies, sociology, or related fields recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Key issues of food systems at global, national, and state levels
- Agroecology’s basic principles and values and its application in mid-hill small farming ecosystems
- Soil fertility, sustainable land use, agroforestry, and livestock in ecological agriculture vs. industrial food systems
- Agro-biodiversity: food culture and habits
- Women’s role in agro-biodiversity conservation and management and local food and nutritional security
- Globalization’s effects on Indian agriculture and small farmers in mountain communities
- Food and nutrition diversity in the context of globalization, climate change, and conflicting government policies
- Climate change, agriculture and food security
- Food and Nutritional security
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)
- This interdisciplinary course focuses on agroecological principles, sustainability, and linkages with food and nutritional security in the Himalaya. It aims to develop understanding of integrated Himalayan agricultural systems and how different anthropogenic factors and changing environmental circumstances impact sustenance. Students consider how the transition affects local food and nutritional security and the food sovereignty of farming communities in a Himalayan contextual reality. In addition, the course explores the resilience of community-based agroecological practices, which can be applied to any part of the world. The course emphasizes the practical aspects of local agro-biodiversity, food production, and food culture. Students engage in hands-on agricultural community practices and develop new skills and diverse perspectives necessary for analyzing the sustainability of food production and nutritional security. The course prepares students for Food Security Field Study Project.
- Food Security Field Study Project – syllabus
- (FSPR3080 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- A project-based course designed to immerse students in the development, planning, and execution of a field study project related to the program theme. The project is carried out in collaboration with community members and in strict adherence to the SIT Human Subjects Review policy. Engagement in this project allows students to understand and analyze changes in local food production, nutritional security, the complexity of food politics and organic food production, impacts of climate change, and community-based action focused on food and nutritional security. The course entails preparing a proposal, carrying out the project in collaboration with a local community, and presenting the outcomes in both written and oral form. In the process, students gain skills in project management, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, and oral and written presentation skills.
On excursions, you’ll link key theoretical concepts and policy questions with lived experiences. Visits to different villages provide a comparative site for food and nutritional security questions in the Himalayan context.
Pendam Village, East Sikkim
In Pendam village, you’ll witness changes it’s experiencing in agriculture production due to climate change and pollution from industries, leading it to transition from subsistence food-based agriculture to cash-based off-farm income. You’ll also see Pendam’s farmers’ cooperatives, which are working together to implement Sikkim’s organic policy to reduce reliance on the market economy for food and nutrition. You’ll also participate in a transect walk to understand traditional and integrated agriculture systems in Sikkim.
Kalimpong, West Bengal
In Kalimpong, you’ll get insight into the opportunities for generating livelihoods through local vegetable production and food processing as small scale industries.
You will spend three days in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Here, you will tour local weekly farmers’ markets to understand Sikkim’s food culture.
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 three.
Next, you will focus on project design, execution, and preliminary implementation. After that step, you will focus on the realization, assessment, and trouble-shooting of the proposed project.
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, the complexity of food politics and organic food production, impacts of climate change, and community-based action focused on food and nutritional security. 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 holds a master’s degree from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where 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 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 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 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.
On this program, you’ll experience four village homestays. You’ll live with a homestay family in the villages of Chalamthang in south Sikkim and Patuk in east Sikkim for a combined 24 days. You’ll also have shorter stays in Pendam in east Sikkim (two days) and Kalimpong in the neighboring state of West Bengal (two days).
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.
These experiences also prepare you for the collaborative project by giving you an understanding of food sustainability and nutrition security in the context of globalization, climate change, and government policies.
Contact A Former Student
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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.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Agroecology and food security in the Himalaya
- Food security field study project
- 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 (two nights in Gangtok) and homestays (24 days in Chalamthang and Patuk, two nights in Pendam, and two nights in Kalimpong), 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
International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.
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.