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March 08, 2007

About Sittilingi - Anita

Sittilingi is located in a beautiful valley, surrounded by hills on all the four sides. It is one of the villages in the valley and the population of the valley is about 10,000. The place was difficult to access till about 6 months back when a road was laid connecting it to Salem. Most of the people native to Sittilingi belong to the Lambadi or the Malayali tribes, the latter name derived since the valley is surrounded on all sides by hills, ie, “malai” in Tamil. Most of the people own some land, which is because of their tribal chieftain who handed over land pattas to the natives and registered them as Tribals when Sittilingi was made part of India. The main occupation here is agriculture. Until about 2 years back, people practiced subsistence agriculture. People grew their own food and perhaps the excess was sold in Kottapatti, the nearest market and Salem. Also the methods used were sustainable compared to mainstream agriculture – organic methods were employed and people did not engage in unseasonal irrigation. Only recently, with the connection to Salem and thus a market, they have been growing more cash crops and using chemical pesticides and fertilizer. Sugar cane is one of the cash crops grown here - we saw a few tractor-loads of it leaving for the market. They also grow turmeric and cotton. They also grow industrial tapioca which industries use for starch. Most of the tribals grow tapioca and turmeric. The tribals who have dug wells and use pumps are the ones growing sugarcane, the rest do not due to the amount of water sugarcane requires. Sittilingi does not have any active market. We wanted to purchase some fruits but all we could find in a makeshift shop cum rudimentary hotel were a bunch of bananas, whereas one would find local farms growing papayas and guavas!

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