When the government of Sikkim (Northeast Indian State) won the prize for “Best Policy to Scale Up Agroecology” in the world, my interest was piqued. I have long been grappling with questions about the role of government in Agroecology, food sovereignty and other forms of bottom-up alternative paradigms. The issue of Organics in Sikkim has provided some food for thought.
In my experience, government can provide some support in enabling and shielding grassroots initiatives. On the other-hand (and more often) play a key role in containing, coopting and suppressing alternatives (see this article).
Curious to learn more, and having connections in Sikkim, I linked up with Sikkimese activist Gyatso Lepcha from the Affected Citizens of Teesta and David Meek from the University of Oregon. Together, we’ve been carrying out a research project to dig into the implications of Organics in Sikkim.
By talking with farmers, consumers, government officials, and others in Sikkim, we are seeking to better understand how Sikkim’s policies, regulations and programs are affecting food producers, consumers, and agroecosystems. How do Sikkim’s policies (a top down intervention) resonate with the bottom-up vision of agroecology? How are civil society reacting and organizing in relation to Organic Sikkim?
Based on our research in Sikkim (including a recent visit in autumn 2019, but also two visits by Meek in 2016/17 and insights from Gyatso) we are starting to formulate an analysis and to share our findings in different ways. The project details and outcomes will be collected on this webpage, so keep an eye out here. You can also follow AgroecologyNow! on facebook to keep up to speed.
We are also giving two talks in January 2020 and welcome you to join us where we will be sharing insights, pictures and film from our work in Sikkim India.
- January 10, 2020 (11:45-13:00 PST) at the University of Oregon
- January 17, 2020 (15:00-17:00 GMT) at Ryton Gardens in Coventry, UK and also streamed on Facebook
We also have a research article in review at the Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in a special issue we are organizing on Agroecology Transitions-Transformations.
Finally, we have recently published a video on the importance of seeds for Lepcha communities in Dzongu, Sikkim, the problems with hybrid seeds and efforts to set up a Community Seed Bank.
Stay tuned for more developments.