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Agroecology, Organics and Sustainability Transitions in Sikkim, India

Agroecology, Organics and Sustainability Transitions in Sikkim, India

Visiting an integrated farming system in Sikkim

This research project will aim to better understanding Agroecology, Organic Agriculture and the Politics of Sustainability Transitions in Sikkim, India.

India’s Northeast is “going green”. In 2003, the Northeastern state of Sikkim’s Chief Minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling declared that the state would transition to 100% certified organic agricultural production. In 2016, following a series of top-down policies and pesticide/fertilizer prohibitions, the state had certified all agricultural production as organic by international standards.

Visit to small farm near Gangtok.

While Sikkim’s push for a transition to sustainable agriculture is obviously welcome in the context of growing ecological crisis, it is important to critically examine the social, ecological and economic implications of this top-down approach, which contrasts with the agroecology transitions being highlighted in other parts of the world that are often being driven by bottom-up social processes (E.g. see this paper and this one and the Nyeleni Declaration on Agroecology).

This research project will explore the social and ecological changes associated with this agriculture transition and the implications for agroecology transformations. It will analyze the linkages between food systems education, food sovereignty, and scale in Northeastern India, where states are enacting progressive organic agriculture policies. 

The aims of the study will be to:

  1. Understand how Sikkim’s policies, regulations and programs are affecting food producers, consumers, and agroecosystems? 
  2. Understand what sort of  grassroots civil society networks are emerging in relation to the state’s push for organics. From agrarian social movements to food justice councils, civil society has historically been actively involved in the organic transition. However, in the case of Sikkim, there has been a lack of space for public participation.
  3. Lift up the voices of farmers, activists, and organisers who are advancing a vision of agriculture and food based on the principles of food sovereignty, the culture of the region and agroecology in Sikkim.

    Gyatso, Colin and David in 2019 touring around Sikkim together, meeting with farmers, activists, market vendors – and enjoying time spent together on the road.

People

This emerging project is being organised by David Meek from the University of Oregon and Colin Anderson from the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University. Local partners include Gyatso Lepcha from Affected Citizens of Teesta.

Outcomes

Meek, D. and C.R. Anderson. (2019). Scale and the Politics of the Organic Transition in Sikkim, India. Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.