Seema Purushothaman

Areas of Interest & Expertise

  • Ecological Economics
  • Agrarian Studies
  • Sustainability


Seema’s career spans over three decades. Her work is located at the interface of societies, development, and ecosystems. It evolved from that of a field officer to field research, to conceptual explorations, and then towards action research and advocacy. 

Geographically, her engagements span across peri urban zones, production landscapes and forest peripheries. By now, Seema has spent 12 years at the University, integrating concepts and realities in teaching, inclusive action research and in advocacy.

A bachelor’s degree (198286) from Kerala Agricultural University provided her with a multi-disciplinary base that kindled a strong aptitude towards Economics, especially Indian economy. Leaving a position with the Government of Kerala, she then pursued a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics writing her dissertation on the economic impact of industrial pollution on farmers. This published work trained Seema’s interest towards environmental Economics, then a newly emerging field.

While working at the Institute of Economic Growth as a Research Assistant, Seema secured a Ford Foundation scholarship to join the Environmental Economics programme at University College London. That was the beginning of a long journey with the concept and practice of sustainability. 

Her journey as an environmental economist became visible in 1991, through a global scale economic valuation of tropical forests. This was followed by a decade long involvement in projects around water and forest related issues in various parts of India. She has been applying Environmental Economics also to study adivasi communities of southern India, culminating in her doctoral thesis on the economics of tribal land use. This was the beginning of her engagements with the rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities. 

Her field experience and engagement with the discourse on sustainable development and her association with networks like SANDEE (South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics), INSEE (Indian Society for Ecological Economics) and various networks around rural and agrarian studies, and the Global Land Initiative of The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has been constantly infusing social-institutional, distributional, educational and political dimensions of sustainability in her work. 

Nine years spent at ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Ecology and the Environment) from 2003, just before joining the University, helped her sharpen this interdisciplinary lens. This lens influenced her teaching and was instrumental in consolidating her attention towards Ecological Economics. 

Seema’s teaching has been anchored in interdisciplinary programmes at both PhD and postgraduate levels. Long encounter with field realities in India and other parts of the Global South, together with the insights gleaned from the diverse and interactive community at the University, catalysed the emergence of an action researcher cum real time educator. 



Edited Book

  • Purushothaman, S., & Abraham, R. (Ed.). (2013). Livelihood Strategies in Southern India — Conservation and Poverty Reduction in Forest Fringes. Springer, New Delhi, India. (Flyer)


Journal Articles

  • Bursztyn, M., & Purushothaman, S. (2022). Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship for a civilisation in distress: Questions for and from the Global South, Global Social Challenges Journal, 1(1), 94 – 114. https://​doi​.org/​10​.​1332​/​L​B​E​Q6699
  • Purushothaman, Sadashiva and Dhanush. 2022. Agroecological Impacts of Urban Demand for Fresh Vegetables: Preliminary Insights from Exploratory Surveys in Bengaluru.Ecology, Economy and Society – the INSEE Journal 5 (2): 107 – 117.
  • Purushothaman, S. (2019). Sustainability: challenges in teaching. Ecology, Economy and Society – the INSEE journal. 2(2),33 – 36. https://​doi​.org/​10​.​37773​/​e​e​s​.​v​2​i2.73 (PDF)
  • Purushothaman,S. (2019). The science and economics of family farms. Guest editorial. Current Science. 117 (11), 1763 – 1764.(PDF)
  • Patil, S., Dhanya, B., Vanjari, R S.,& Purushothaman,S. (2018). Urbanisation and New Agroecologies — The story of Bengaluru’s Peripheries. Economic and Political Weekly, 53(41), 71 – 77. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., & Patil,S. (2017). Regional Economies and Small Farmers in Karnataka. Economic and Political Weekly, 52(46), 78 – 84. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., et al (2016). Sustainability in Higher Education for the Global South: A Conversation across Geographies and Disciplines. Sustainability in Debate, 7(1), 156 –173. (PDF)
  • Dhanya, B., Satish, B.N., Viswanath, S., & Purushothaman,S. (2014). Ecosystem services of native trees: experience from two traditional agroforestry systems in Karnataka, Southern India. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services and Management, 10(2), 101 – 111.
  • Purushothaman, S., Patil, S., Francis, I., Patil, I., & Nesheim,I. (2013). Policy and Governance for sustaining livelihoods and natural resources in small farms — a case study in Karnataka. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 68 (2),240 – 257. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., Thomas, B.K., Abraham,R., & Dhar,U. (2013). Beyond money metrics: Alternative approaches to conceptualising and assessing ecosystem services. Guest editorial to the INSEE special section. Conservation and Society 11(4), 321 – 325. (PDF)
  • Konig, H.J., Uthes,S., Schuler, J., Zhen, L., Purushothaman,S., Suarma, U., Sghaier,M., Makokha, S., Helming,K., Sieber,S., Chen,L., Brouwer,F., Morris,J., & Wiggering, H. (2013) Regional impact assessment of land use scenarios in developing countries using the FoPIA approach: Findings from five case studies. Journal of Environmental Management, 127(Suppl.), S56 – S64.
  • Dhanya, B., Viswanath, S. & Purushothaman, S. (2013) Crop yield reduction in Ficus agroforestry systems of Karnataka, southern India: Perceptions and realities. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37(6), 727 – 735.
  • Dhanya, B., Viswanath, S., & Purushothaman, S. (2012). Ficus trees in rainfed agricultural systems of Karnataka, southern India: An analysis of structure, benefits, and farmers’ perceptions. Journal of Tropical Agriculture, 50(1 – 2), 59 – 62.
  • Purushothaman, S., Patil, S., & Francis, I. (2012). Assessing the impact of policy-driven agricultural practices in Karnataka, India. Sustainability Science, 8(2), 173 – 185. doi: 10.1007/s11625-0120188‑y
  • Purushothaman, S., Patil, S., Francis, I., Konig, H.J., Reidsma, P., & Hegde, S. (2012): Participatory impact assessment of agricultural practices using the land use functions framework: case study from India, International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, 9(1), 2 – 12. doi:10.1080/21513732.2012.721
  • Purushothaman, S., Patil, S., & Francis, I. (2012). Impact of policies favouring organic inputs on small farms in Karnataka, India: a multicriteria approach. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14(4), 507 – 527.
  • Patil, S., et al. (2012). Comparing conventional and organic agriculture in Karnataka, India: Where and when can organic farming be sustainable? Land Use Policy, 37 (40 – 51). 
  • Purushothaman, S., & Abraham, R. (2011). Scaling up and Sustainability: the experience from rural India. Sustainability in Debate. 2(2),21 – 42. (PDF)
  • Reidsma, P., Konig, H., Feng, S., Bezlepkina, I., Nesheim, I., Bonin, M., Sghaier, M., Purushothaman, S., Sieber, S., Ittersum, M., & Brouwer, F. (2011). Methods and tools for integrated assessment of land use policies on sustainable development in developing countries. Land Use Policy, 28 (3), 604 – 617.
  • Viswanath, S., Dhanya, B., Puruhsothaman, S., & Rathore, S. (2010). Financial viability of sandal based agroforestry practices in southern India. Indian Journal of Agroforestry, 12 (2), 14 – 22. (PDF)
  • Dhanya, B. Viswanath, S & Purushothaman, S. (2010). Sandal (Santalum album L.) conservation in southern India: A review of policies and their impacts. Journal of Tropical Agriculture, 48 (12), 1 – 10.
  • Purushothaman, S & Kashyap, S. (2010). Trends in land use and crop acreages in Karnataka and their repercussions. Karnataka Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 23 (2), 330 – 333. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., Hegde,S. S., Patil,S., & Kashyap,S. (2009). People’s perception on benefits from a protected catchment: A case study of Gundal command in Karnataka. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 64(4), 573 – 584. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S. (2005). Land-use Strategies for Tribals: A Socio Economic Analysis. Economic and Political Weekly, 40(53), 5611 – 5619. (PDF)
  • Swaminathan, L.P., & Purushothaman, S.(2000). Forest Conservation, Tourism and Extraction: An Economic Perspective. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 55(3), 398– 411. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., Viswanath, S., & Kunhikkannan, C. (2000). Economic valuation of extractive conservation in a tropical deciduous forest in Madhya Pradesh, India. Tropical Ecology, 41(1), 61– 72.
  • Purushothaman, S., Viswanath, S., & Mukundan, K. (1997). Economic impact of cement kiln dust on rural agriculture. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 51(3), 407 – 411.
  • Purushothaman, S., & Viswanath, S. (1993). Protecting biological diversity: An operational model to compare and contrast. Indian Journal of Tropical Biodiversity,1 (2), 161 – 166.

Selected articles from periodicals and media

Working papers and policy briefs

Chapters in books and published proceedings

  • Patil, S., & Purushothaman, S. (2020). Landowners as Non-farm Workers: A Case of Small Farmer Migrants in Karnataka. In Mishra,D.K., & Nayak,P. (Ed.), Land and Livelihoods in Neoliberal India (pp. 85 – 102).Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. 
  • Patil, S., & Purushothaman,S. (2018) Methods for Integrated Sustainability Assessment: The Case of Smallholder Farming in Karnataka, South India. In Brinkman, R., & Garren, S. (Ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions(pp. 261 – 281). Palgrave MacMillan. 
  • Purushothaman, S., Abraham, R., & Patil, S. (2013). Tropical farms as social-ecological systems: Tools for assessment. In Christinck,A., & Padmanabhan,M. (Ed.), Cultivate Diversity! A Hand Book on Transdisciplinary Approaches to Agro Biodiversity Research (pp.163 – 183). Margraf publishers. Welkersheim, Germany. 
  • Purushothaman, S., Patil, S., & Kashyap, S. (2012) Agrarian crisis and policy links: a framework for Karnataka, India. In Floor, B., Mc Neil, D., & Nishiem, I. (Ed.), Land Use Policies for Sustainable Development: Exploring Integrated Assessment Tools (pp 167 – 189). Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.
  • Muriel, B., Coudel, E., Cisse, Y., Feng, S., Ounalli, N., Purushothaman, S., Rodrigues F. S., Sghaier, M., Tonneau, J.P., & Xiaoping, S. (2012) Comparing land use policies in emerging and developing countries. In Floor, B., Mc Neil, D., & Nishiem, I. (Ed.), Land Use Policies for Sustainable Development: Exploring Integrated Assessment Tools (pp. 248 – 282). Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.
  • Purushothaman, S. (2012).​“Evaluating the Green Revolution” In Jacquet, P., Pachauri, R.K., & Tubiana, L. (Ed.), Development, the Environment and Food: Towards Agricultural Change? (pp.164 – 166) TERI Press, New Delhi. (PDF)
  • Kumar, A., Arvind, N.A., Shaanker, R. U., Ganeshaiah, K.N., Purushothaman, S., & Kashyap, S. (2009). Herbal exports from India- Trends and implications. In Shaanker, R.U., Hiremath, A., Joseph, C. G., & Rai, N. (Ed.), Non-Timber Forest Produce- Conservation, Policies and Management in the tropics (pp: 129 – 138). ATREE and UAS. .
  • Purushothaman, S., & Viswanath, S. (2009). Sustaining livelihoods based on NTFPs — the Indian context. In Shaanker, R.U., Hiremath, A., Joseph, C. G., & Rai, N. (Ed.), Non-Timber Forest Produce- Conservation, Policies and Management in the tropics (pp.200 – 209). ATREE Bangalore. (PDF)
  • Dharmarajan, P., Purushothaman, S., Krishnan, S., Kiran, M.C., Deepak, D., & Jojo, T.D. (2008). Strengthening Communities and Institutions for sustainable management of Vembanad backwaters, Kerala. In Sengupta, M., & Dalwani,R. (Ed.). Proceedings of the 12th World Lake Conference (pp. 1158 – 1163). ATREE and UAS. (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., Jojo, T.D., & Patil, S. (2007). Ecotourism Policy: A framework for India. In Radhakrishna, G. (Ed.),​Tourism: Perspectives and Issues (pp. 51 – 78). ICFAI press, Hyderabad. 
  • Purushothaman, S. (2004). Economic Value of Bio diversity: a Rural Perspective for Sustainable Realisation. In Sim, H.C., Appanah, S., & Youn, Y.C.(Ed.), Proceedings of the workshop on​“Forests for Poverty Reduction: Opportunities with CDM, Environmental Services and Biodiversity (pp.107 – 113). Seoul National University and FAO . (PDF)
  • Purushothaman, S., Pachauri, S. (2001). User valuation of natural Resources in semi arid Rajasthan. In Reddy, V.R. (Ed.), User Valuation of Renewable Natural Resource: The User Perspective, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York. pp. 89100.
  • Pearce, D.W., & Purushothaman, S.(1992). Protecting Biological Diversity: The economic value of pharmaceutical plants. In Swanson, J. (Ed.), Biodiversity and Botany: the values of medicinal plants (pp.127 – 138). CUP.U.K (PDF)

Current Projects:

  1. Adaptive Skilling through Action Research in the tribal villages of Central India https://​www​.pradan​.net/​s​a​m​p​a​r​k​/​a​d​a​p​t​i​v​e​-​s​k​i​l​l​i​n​g​-​t​h​r​o​u​g​h​-​a​c​t​i​o​n​-​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​-​asar/
  2. Forest Rights Act – facilitating the implementation of the Act as a knowledge partner in Kerala and Rajasthan 
  3. Impact of urban consumption on periurban ecology and farmers around Bengaluru (2021 to 2024) – a study funded by the Ministry of Science & Technology of Govt. of India as part of Indo-German scientific collaboration