Risk and Return in Farming in the Nilgiri Mountains of south India The presentation of Nilgiri Documentation Centre on ‘Risk and Return in Farming in the Nilgilri Mountains of South India’ has been accepted for oral presentation at the global conference ‘Perth III: Mountains of Our Future Earth’ to organized at Perth, Scotland on 4-8 October 2015. A total of 620 abstracts had been submitted from participants around the world. Mr. Dharmalingam Venugopal, Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre who will be making the presentation said, ‘The indigenous people of the Nilgiri mountains of south India were traditionally herders and small millet cultivators. Around 1800 the British colonists converted them profitably as ‘English’ vegetable growers catering to local European settlers and markets outside. Around 1840 Tea and coffee were introduced as plantation crops. Around 1930 some small cultivators were induced to convert to small tea growers. Around 1980s a windfall Russian demand for tea lured the small cultivators almost en masse to convert to tea growing. The naturally flavored local teas were sold as mere additives to strong outside blends’. ‘By 2000 the market collapsed leaving the small growers highly risk prone to weather and price fluctuations. The extension of tea to their kitchen gardens, growing of shade trees and high dose (taste )of fertilizer brought the man-animal ( monkeys, wild boar, bison and leopard) conflict to the door-steps’ According to Mr. Venugopal, ‘the way forward is finding a niche market for their own value added flavored teas, reducing fertilizer use and going organic. Successful initiatives in the direction are growing but it requires a big push to policy and promotion to save the small mountain tea growers’.
The connection between Badagas and Farming needs no elaboration. The history of Badagas will always mention about the inseparable bond between ‘Hola, Vellamay, Kanje Godhumay, Gaasu and Avare and now ‘Tea Thotta ‘. And herein comes the importance of what Venugopal feels. Time, we have a rethink on our ‘agricultural practices’ and regain our glorious past and place in this important field. We must take maximum benefit of Modi government’s initiatives.- Wg Cdr JP