Falak Jalali

Falak Jalali, PhD student, geography

Charts landscape of cash crop economy

“Falak has an incredibly impressive and exciting dissertation research project and has shown creativity, resilience, and loads of hard work in putting together this project.”-Carly Nichols, assistant professor

Lucknow, India

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Carly E. Nichols, PhD, assistant professor, geographical and sustainability sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
I am pursuing a PhD in Geography and expect to graduate in Spring 2026

Please describe your research:
My research aims to examine small and marginal farmers’ lived experience with cash crop production of ginger and garlic, and its social and ecological implications from an environmental justice and equity lens. I use Government’s current policy to double farmers income through their ‘One District One Product’ and ‘Districts as Export Hubs’ initiative, to understand how and why farmers participate in growing cash crops promoted by the government to highlight the various social and ecological negotiations made by farmers across social differences of gender, caste, class, and location to fulfill the vision of agrarian development in the country.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
This research will help to understand the value and relevance of the more-than-human environment for farmers as they cultivate cash crops. This focus exposes the struggles and joy that exist beyond the scope of markets. The project seeks to contribute towards understanding the complex landscape of agrarian production beyond financial profit and loss – to include emotional geographies and lived experiences of agrarian production. It will enable us to critically investigate the drawbacks that are entangled with the promotion of cash crops like ginger and garlic across differences of gender, caste, class and location. This view aims to center human-environmental well-being rather than just economic gain in modern visions of agricultural development in India.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I received the Stanley Award to conduct my international field research. This enabled me to start my research within my first year at the University of Iowa.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Conducting research at the University of Iowa has been an enriching experience. I can interact, collaborate, and learn from experts in the field, whom I now have access through the University of Iowa. It has made me a better critical thinker and equipped me with tools to ask better questions and conduct meaningful research in my field.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
After graduation, I hope to continue my research in academia as well as pursue a career as a Professor in India to mentor students from marginalized communities.

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