Explore agroecological principles and systems and their potential for sustainable 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, the first state in India to legislate 100 percent adoption of organic food production, stands at the forefront of national and regional food politics. Its traditional ecological-based agricultural system practiced by small famers is seen today as a system that holds a solution to future food, nutritional, and ecological issues. Navdanya, a nongovernmental organization promoting biodiversity conservation, organic farming, and farmers’ rights, is active in the region. You will learn about Navdanya’s movement to practice and promote community- and ecology-centered agriculture through experimental conservation and research work.
Explore industrial and agroecological agricultural systems.
Deepen your understanding of globalized industrial agriculture versus sustainable ecological agriculture while living for a week at Earth University, Navdanya’s conservation farm in Doon Valley. Here, you will analyze and reflect on the sustainability of each food system from the perspective of politics, ecology, economy, sovereignty, and security. You will also gain an in-depth understanding of the alternative community-centered agroecological practices, principles, and ecological, socio-cultural, and economic components.
Examine how globalization, government policies, and mainstream education impact local food production and nutritional security in mountain communities.
You’ll develop skills in analyzing current trends and long-term prospects for agroecological agriculture in food production and nutrition security in the Himalaya. 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.
Get hands-on agricultural experience doing farm work during an 18-day village homestay.
You’ll live with a homestay family in the village of Lingi Payong for 18 days. During this homestay, you will partake in activities such as helping with daily chores, working on your family’s farm, cooking food, cutting fodder, milking cows, preparing the cowshed, making agro-based handicrafts, and learning and preparing recipes.
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.
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
- Worldview: linear vs. circular, solidarity vs. exploitative economy
- Rethinking food systems: industrial vs. agroecological agriculture
- Principles and functions of agroecological systems and their application in mid-hill small farming systems
- Interconnectedness of soil, land use, insectaries, agroforestry, seed, and livestock in ecological agriculture
- Wild and domesticated biodiversity: food culture, habits, and diet transition
- Gender and its role in agro-biodiversity conservation and management and local food and nutritional security
- Globalization’s impact on agriculture and small farmers
- The future of farming: big to small, nutritional security
- Foodways: holistic perspectives on nutrition and health
- Status of organic policy implementation in Sikkim
- Creating alternative economies for the self, people, and the planet
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 globalization, 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.
Navdanya Farm, Dahradun
After a few days of orientation in Delhi, you will travel to Navdanya, a farm located near Dahradun, in the foothills of the Himalaya. Founded in 1987 by scientist, ecofeminist, philosopher, and author Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya (meaning “nine seeds”) has spearheaded an agroecological movement. While living on Navdanya farm, you will deepen your understanding of globalized industrial and agreoecological food systems, apply ecological principles, and reflect on what safe, healthy, just, and inclusive food systems mean for the future.
On arrival in the state of Sikkim at the end of week two of the program, you will spend two days in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Here, you will tour a local weekly farmers’ market to get a sense of Sikkim’s food culture and meet with government officials to understand Sikkim’s organic policy. During the last week of the program, you will return to Gangtok to consolidate your field study project and reflect on what you’ve learned about agroecology and food security in the Himalaya. This stay will include a discussion with government officials to review the successes, challenges, and opportunities for implementing Sikkim’s organic farming policy.
Lingchom Village, West Sikkim
In Lingchom village, you’ll witness the Asarey Mela, a community fair to mark the peak agricultural season during which rice is transplanted. The fair celebrates the diversity of food, music, people, and nature in the area. The distinct ethnic groups in this village, the Limbu and the Lepcha, engage in agroecological agriculture farming for their self-sufficiency. This visit will allow you to interact with communities with regard to Sikkim’s agroecological farming opportunities and challenges. You will also gain insights into changes in agricultural production, crop and land use patterns, and the future of farming in the context of globalization and changing worldviews.
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 globalization, 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 a key staff member for student health services and program logistics. He has traveled to mountainous terrains with students during academic field trips and has been part of this program since 2015. He loves photography and dance and enjoys 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. He has been part of this program since 2017.
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. She has been part of this program since 2016.
Key expert facilitators for the program include:
Gautam and Maili Maila
Gautam and Maili are experts on agroecology. This husband and wife team manage their farm together and have conserved traditional varieties of food crops and vegetables, learning through trial and error. Both have a deep understanding of traditional ecological knowledge.
Anna Powar, PhD
Anna was born in Pune, Maharashtra, India, and studied in many countries while following her father, who worked for the government of India. With a PhD in nutrition, she became a professional member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) in 1988. She has developed a holistic approach to health, believing that health is the happy outcome of the interconnectedness between the food we eat, our psychological make up, and the changing environment we live in. She has collaborated with many NGOs in Europe and, in 2008, became faculty at Jeevan Vidya Shivir in Hyderabad. In the same year, in India, she released a book entitled, Food Ways: Indian Holistic Perspectives on Nutrition and Health. From 2005 to 2007, she was faculty at the University of Gastronomic Science, an international academic institution in northern Italy and an enterprise of Slow Food.
Janak Palta McGilligan
Janak is an Indian Padma Shri recipient social worker and the founder-director of the Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development, an Indore-based nongovernmental organization working for sustainable community development. She is also a former founder-director of Barli Development Institute for Rural Women. She has done extensive work to uplift women’s status in tribal districts and is a great inspiration as a change maker. She has created alternative economies for herself and her community.
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 three village homestays. You’ll live with a homestay family in the village of Lingi Payong for 18 days. You’ll also have shorter stays in Lingchom (three nights) and Pelling (one night).
These culturally immersive stays expose 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. You’ll also participate in a transect walk to understand traditional and integrated agriculture systems in Sikkim.
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.
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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: $2,395
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes hotel during orientation in New Delhi (three nights), guest house / farmstay in Dehradun and Navdanya (seven nights combined), hotel in Gangtok (three nights), and homestays in Lingi Payong (18 nights) and Lingchom and Pelling (two nights each) as well as 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:
Airfare to Program Site
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 smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
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.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.