Food Sovereignty

Practicing Food Sovereignty: Indigenous Peoples and Agroecological Relationships in the Eastern Himalayas 

The Himalayan region is well-known as a biodiversity hotspot with several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. It is also home to many indigenous communities who continue to practice subsistence farming and depend on the land and forest for their sustenance. Practicing Food Sovereignty focuses on indigenous communities and agricultural practices in four countries of the Eastern Himalaya region: Bhutan, Chittagong Hill Tracks of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Northeast India.

Drawing on food sovereignty both as a conceptual and a methodological framework, we explore emerging trends relating to food production and agricultural practices among the upland indigenous communities. Introduced by the transnational social movement La Via Campesina in 1996, the food sovereignty framework considers agriculture as a value system practice founded on culture and social justice. In a similar fashion, indigenous upland communities in the eastern Himalayan region are re-valuing and reviving aspects of their traditional modes of agriculture – knowledge, heritage plants, and cuisines – to cope with sustainability and contemporary environmental risks. The broad question we seek to explore in the project concerns indigenous livelihood practices and food security in the context of present climate change.

This project is supported by Swedish Research Council


Bengt G. Karlsson
Beppe is a professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University.  He is a working member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. He has studied anthropology, development and economics at Uppsala University. He received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Lund University in 1997. 

Sanjay Barbora
Sanjay is a professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Guwahati campus). He is affiliated to the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and also teaches core papers at the Centre for Sociology and Social Anthropology. He completed his PhD in Sociology from North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

Dolly Kikon
Dolly is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies and Anthropology at the School of Social and Political Sciences. She has a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University.

Meenal Tula
Meenal is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the project and based at North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC), Guwahati. She received her PhD in Gender Studies from the University of Hyderabad in 2016. Previously, she was involved in the study Gender, Land Rights and Labour in the Context of Socio Economic Transformations in Northeast India at NESRC as Project Director. She draws on anthropological and historical approaches to explore the politics of gender and community in India.

Dixita Deka
Dixita is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the project and based at North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC), Guwahati. She completed her PhD in Social Sciences from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2021. She has received the Zubaan-Sasakawa Peace Foundation Grant for Young Researchers from Northeast India (2019), the Annual VMMF-IAWS Young Research Scholars Award 2020. Currently, she is also writing a monograph under the South Asia Speaks mentorship program 2022. 

Joel Rodrigues
Joel assists as a project coordinator. He has a masters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Seeds for the Future: Chapter One

We hope to begin conversations by strengthening our knowledge on indigenous seeds and exchanging information on the many efforts taken up by individuals and communities in North East India towards preserving the landraces and becoming food sovereign. We reflect on it through the diligent and tedious efforts of our farmers and food activists in setting up the seed libraries and community seed banks. One of the key objectives of the event is to profile the stories and experiences of the participants and their work on food justice.



The inherent curiosity of the human mind to explore, experiment, and try out new food is at the core of our human societies. In the last few years, there has been a strawberry boom in Northeast India. Started by individual farmers, the surge in demand for this red dotted tangy-sweet fruit has received the attention of government departments as well. There are ongoing interventions and workshops by state horticultural departments and scientists as this new crop occupies a special place in the Northeast palate. It is true that strawberry farms are simultaneously keeping entrepreneurs, traders, and scientists busy in Northeast India. The emerging farms and niche market for this fruit in the eastern Himalayan region highlight a changing pattern of crop selection, food choices, and livelihood opportunities.
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