Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditional Toda economy revolves around their herds of female, longhorned, short-legged, and rather ferocious mountain water buffalo. Being vegetarians, Toda keep these animals for their milk and milk products, selling most male calves to Nilgiri butchers. In pre-British, premarket days, Toda exchanged milk products for grain (various millets) from Badaga, for pots and jewelry from Kota, and for forest products, mostly from Kurumba. These exchanges (involving also ritual and social obligations) took place between hereditarily linked families of the different communities, as is typical of Hindu jajmani relationships. Today, with the old economic interrelationships defunct, Toda who still keep enough buffalo mostly sell their milk through two cooperatives or directly to coffee shops, and they use cash to buy rice in the Nilgiri markets. Almost all Toda families are today involved in agriculture, if only as landlords. Growing numbers till the soil themselves, a radical departure for a proud pastoral people who once despised the agriculturalist's way of life. The principal crops are cabbages, carrots, and, above all, potatoes. Apart from their buffalo, traditional Toda, as vegetarians, had no need of Domestic animals other than dogs, to watch over their settlements, and a few cats as house pets and vermin catchers. Toda Christians began to replace their buffalo with cattle early in this century; some traditionalists now also keep a few cows.
Industrial Arts. Toda obtain their clay pots, metal utensils, and textiles from outside their community (formerly through exchange, now in the markets). They are expert builders of their traditional (but not modern) houses and dairy temples, and they are skilled manufacturers of dairy appurtenances: herding and walking sticks, milking vessels, and churning sticks.
Division of Labor. Traditionally, care for the buffalo is an exclusively male concern and women are the principal housekeepers (although men cook on ritually important occasions). Women also devote much time to embroidery. When Toda take up agriculture, both men and women work in the fields.
Land Tenure. As buffalo pastoralists, Toda used rather than owned land. In 1843, however, the British administration began allocating land to the Toda, and by 1863 had alloted a little over 18 hectares to each hamlet and religious site. Patta (land titles) issued to Toda listed the names of household heads but stated that rights were communal, not individual. From 1871, the deeds also stipulated that Toda must not alienate their patta lands and, from 1881, that they could not lease them. These stipulations remain, although all along many Toda have leased land covertly to people more willing than themselves to farm. In 1975, the Hill Area Development Programme provided financial assistance to each Toda household to cultivate a maximum of 2 hectares of Toda patta land; the cultivated land was, for the first time, registered in the name of an individual, the family head. Since patta lands remain tied to the patricians, any division for agricultural purposes has had to be made between household heads of the same patrician. Not all patricians have sufficient lands to permit every family its 2-hectare maximum.