Initiative on the Forest Economy : Summer Fellowship Announcement

The Initiative on the Forest Economy (IoFE) is pleased to announce a fellowship program to conduct field research in India during the summer of 2024.

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About IoFE:

The sale of forest products provides seasonal incomes to an estimated 200 million forest-proximate people in the country, which are procured as raw materials by diverse industries. However, the wealth created through forest products does not trickle back to the communities that collect them, visible in the strong spatial congruence between poverty and forests. Therefore, forest-proximate communities possess a complex livelihood portfolio primarily situated within the informal sector to secure both higher incomes and lower risks.

The Initiative on Forest Economy (IoFE) is based within the Bharti Institute of Public Policy of the Indian School of Business. IoFE aims to formalize India's forest economy with the framework of secure community ownership on forest lands. The Forest Rights Act (FRA), implemented in 2006, empowers communities to govern forests by recognizing CFR (Community Forest Resource) rights. Our approach involves expediting the recognition of community rights and subsequently creating partnerships between local communities as custodians of forests, state governments as facilitators of wealth creation, and industry partners as users of seasonal forest products.

Our goal is to create an institutional design that not only will secure livelihoods but also protect forest-proximate communities against market risks. To this end, IoFE seeks to generate job opportunities at the local level and ensure meaningful participation of women through local enterprises. With novel technological applications, decentralized governance structures, and convergence across public policies, IoFE endeavours to create a productive, inclusive, and empowering forest economy that contributes towards India’s commitments for sustainable development.

About the Fellowship:

IoFE’s fellowship programme is dedicated to nurture a community of emerging scholars engaged in the fields of governance for sustainability, rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC), and public policies for sustainable development. Successful candidates will design and implement a research project investigating some aspects of the relationships between forests and local communities. Questions may address issues related to community tenure, market dynamics, climate impacts, livelihood diversification, or governance challenges. The programme involves qualitative and field-based research that will help advance the fellows’ broader career trajectory. The research outputs generated over the course of the fellowship will directly contribute to IoFE’s knowledge base that supports our engagements with multiple state governments in India. Candidates are encouraged to leverage this invaluable opportunity to build productive linkages with IoFE’s partner organisations and the broader academic community.

Programme Details:

  • The fellowship will run for a duration of eight to twelve weeks, commencing in mid-May, and end by the second week of August.
  • The programme will be administered by IoFE’s team located at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, India.
  • The inception workshop will allow students to refine their research design to better align with local context. This will include interaction with experts to become familiar with the multiple dimensions of forest governance in India.
  • Fellows will then spend two weeks in a chosen field site, hosted by a partner organisation. This exposure will include interactions with all important stakeholders relevant for the fellow’s research project.
  • Following the two-week immersion, a follow-up workshop at ISB will provide an opportunity for fellows to calibrate their research questions and finalize fieldwork plans.
  • Armed with a customized and calibrated research design, fellows will spend six weeks in the field site implementing the research project.
  • A week-long writing and peer-review workshop will be held towards the end of the fellowship to synthesize findings, receive feedback, and draw comparisons amongst the cohort's research projects.

Final submission:

Each candidate is expected to contribute a working paper, which will prospectively culminate in a peer-reviewed journal article.

Qualifications and Pre-requisites:

  • Doctoral and postdoctoral candidates are eligible for this fellowship. Proposals from advanced master's students and interested candidates with relevant work experience who are presently not enrolled in a PhD programme will also be considered.
  • Prospective applicants with a foundation in Geography, Anthropology, Development Studies, Environmental Studies, and related humanistic social sciences disciplines are encouraged to apply.
  • A diversity of experiences, training, skill set, and interests will be considered an asset to the programme.
  • Demonstrated interest in rural livelihoods, forest landscapes, and social-ecological systems in India is necessary.
  • Experience or interest in qualitative or ethnographic approaches to human-environment research is desirable. We strongly discourage proposals that involve primary quantitative data collection.
  • Fluency in the regional language of the desired field site is not required.
  • The ability to endure the difficult and harsh living conditions associated with fieldwork is imperative.


The fellowship will cover basic living expenses for the duration of the program as well as travel to and from field sites within India. We expect candidates to raise grants to support travel to India. We are working with partner organizations for supporting the day-to-day coordination associated with living arrangements and research activities in field sites. 


Interested candidates are requested to fill out the online application.

  • The first round of evaluation will be based on the information provided in the application regarding your academic background, research experience, and a 500-word research statement. A small group will be shortlisted for interviews.
  • Please use your research statement to outline a research project aligned with one or more of the fellowship's research themes. Please specify how your research will contribute to the larger understanding of the role of resource rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) in sustainable governance of forest landscapes. Statements need not outline fully formed projects, but rather propose projects that can be feasibly completed through fieldwork within the period of the fellowship. Please also describe how your participation in the fellowship advances your broader research or career goals.
  • Make sure to provide details for three references, who will be contacted upon your application being shortlisted for the second round of evaluation.


Applications must be submitted by 15 February 2024.

Queries and Updates:

Please write to for any further clarification. We will conduct webinars on January 30th and February 1st to address questions about the fellowship and the application process.

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