from – Feb 24, 2017
Living it up on the wild side
With access only through Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, a village in the Nilgiris has redefined peaceful man-animal coexistence
The Badagas took the plunge, putting to good use the 65 acres they were provided with to set up their habitat and another 500 acres of farmland. Growing a variety of crops — ragi, corn and pearl millets to begin with — as well as taking care of livestock, the tribe members developed a sustainable village in the middle of the forest.
Today, Thengumarahada has 700 families and the crop varieties have expanded to include banana, marigold and other cash crops. Human-wildlife conflict, especially due to droughts, extreme weather and the spread of invasive plants in the forests are a cause for concern but Thengumarahada has made the best of what it has.
While some old-timers still live here, the young are moving to the cities for education and livelihood. JKS Madhu, 49, whose family shifted here in his grandfather’s time, says, “Yes, many people are leaving. But this is great land. As they say, land is forever. I think the young will return when they see that what our village offers is more valuable than what you find outside the forests.”