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An immersive program on forest communities, biodiversity and sustainable livelihood practices



Living With The Forests is an initiative by Muhaan. This venture in its third edition is co-created in collaboration with Haven Farms, Sepi.


The multidisciplinary immersive program aims to provide an exploratory journey to understand the ecological knowledge, cultural and traditional practices, oral narratives, livelihood practices, and challenges of forest communities.


Along with exploration and knowledge-sharing, the participants are encouraged to share their perspectives, skill sets and expertise during the program.


About Sepi

Sepi is a small hamlet in lower Singalila beside the roaring Srikhola River near Rimbick, Darjeeling.


Perched at an altitude of 6900 feet above sea level, it is a part of the Eastern Himalayan range bordering Nepal and Sikkim. Within the safe keep of its rich biodiversity, Sepi tucks in a community of ancient cultures within the fragile wildlife landscape of the Singalila forest range.

The village is dominated by agro-forestry and a majority of the people are dependent on traditional farming practices and livestock rearing for their livelihood. The forest provides timber and fodder for livestock as well as water from the natural reservoirs and springs.


People of Sepi

The People of Sepi are an amalgamation of many tribal communities out of which 90% belong to the Rai Kirati community. Other communities living there are the Bhutias, Sherpas, Limbu, Chettris and Newars. 

The people, especially the elderly, still follow traditional practices not just in agriculture but also spiritually including Shamanistic practices and pray to the forest deities as a sign of respect and gratitude to nature. They hold a substantial amount of knowledge from the forests in the form of oral stories and folklore that are transferred from one generation to another.


Reconnecting with Nature

A deep dive into nature through immersive activities in the forest and amongst the forest communities will reinvigorate a connection with nature.


Ecology & Biodiversity

An understating of the natural ecosystems through story-telling, and knowledge-sharing facilitated by the local resource persons and experts from amongst the communities.


Sustainable Livelihoods

From ages the communities living in the fringe of the forests have been sustaining and evolving their livelihood patterns through continued adaptations with nature. Many of the livelihood practices adopted in the long run are powerful examples of sustainability and ecological balance.



To document varied perspectives of the local communities and the participants through diverse means of story-telling as well as capturing silent narratives.

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Community Immersion

Engaging with the people, places and practices and experiencing their authentic culture and traditions to better understand the rural landscape and context as a whole.

Meet our resource persons



Historian and Folklorist

Meet M.C Rai, the 80-year-old self-styled historian, and folklorist from Sepi who's been reviving and documenting Rai culture for decades. In 1983, he founded Kirat Rai Sangh, one of the first Rai culture societies in India and Nepal. Through the society, he's propagated various aspects of Rai culture in Kalimpong and Darjeeling.


bhabi chan rai


Bhabi Chan Rai began his forestry career in 1994, working in social forestry. He worked in plantations, seed collections, and nurseries of forest plants. Later on, he joined the territorial department and served for almost 7 years. He now runs his nursery with over 50 different species of plants. He supplies forest plants to the department and is renowned for conserving disappearing indigenous plants.


Dil bahadur mukhia

Former Shepherd

68 years old Dil Bahadur Mukhia has spent most of his life staying in the forests as a shepherd.He's a skilled storyteller with a vast collection of tales from his forest experiences.He's also authorized by the forest department to conserve rare medicinal plants, which he collects from Singalila Forests.



Rural Entrepreneur 

Karan Mukhia entered the milk industry by selling raw milk, but soon encountered difficulties with transportation and low pricing. He was also troubled by the exploitation of milk farmers. In 2021, he launched his own diary to combat these issues. His solution was to process milk into hard cheese, paneer, and ghee, which raised the price.



Medicine Man | Local Healer

Dilu Rai from Sepi has been practicing herbal medicine since childhood, learning from his traditional healing ancestry. He and his brother Harka Rai are primary healers in the area, providing immediate assistance where medical services are limited.



Master Trainer (Improved Cooking Stove) 

Dinesh Rai from Sepi was trained in 2014 by A.T.R.E.E to build improved cooking stoves, he has since constructed I.C.S chulhas at nominal rates in his village and neighboring areas. He has also served as a trainer in other hill regions to teach this skill. The I.C.S chulhas he has installed have reduced 50% use of firewood in the villages.



Social Entrepreneur | Kirati Food Expert

Meet Palina, founder of Boju Store in Kathmandu. Boju partners with farmers from remote areas of the Himalayas to market indigenous products in Nepal and abroad. Palina's solo travels to remote areas of Nepal have given her extensive knowledge about Kirati food habits.


Ishita Biswas, Delhi

"The program made me realise that the way we seek solutions to patriarchy through modern relationships might not work the same way in every community."

Shirpana Ghosh, Uttrakhand 

" I have been thinking about the interconnectedness of nature and the community. Medicine, architecture, folklore, farm borders and so on - there's no aspect of local life that is without some form of nature embedded into it."

Debasish Mohanty, Orissa

"I have participated in Living with the Forests twice, and it has created a deeper perspective in me about how local communities are living with nature and how they are working their way around it."

who can enroll?

The program is open to anyone interested in an immersive journey to understand the people, the ecological biodiversity, the culture and traditions along with the sustainable livelihood practices in relation to the modern development paradigm of the local communities. We encourage participants coming from diverse institutional and professional backgrounds or even those who are just nature enthusiasts.

  • There will be an application form for participants where they will have to share basic information along with their interests in the program and their background.

  • A panel of local experts and resource persons will review and select participants on the basis of their interests and alignment with the program.

Register here -


Haven Farm is situated in Upper Sepi on the edge of the Singalila National Forest. It is a family-owned and operated farm with Daniel and his wife Maren, as the proprietors and our dear hosts for the event. Daniel and Maren started Haven Farm 10 years ago. "We have started slowly and built it into what it is today." Haven Farm is a place for people to come, relax and restore. A place to connect with our land, nature and culture. As a family, they are learning and implementing the principles of permaculture as well as learning traditional practices from the Sepi community. They now host visitors from all over the world.

About Haven Farm

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