This article examines the subsistence practices among the Muduga and Kurumba of Attappady in Kerala paying close attention to the socio-ecological basis of their economic activities. This facilitates an understanding of the close relationship between the distribution of natural and cultural communities, and the way in which the society is organized to reach a successful accommodation of a specific set of environmental needs. The data presented relate to wild and domesticated food products and the kin and social systems employed for obtaining them. I conclude that, although hunting and gathering alone could provide a subsistence, in a modern situation, dependence on agriculture is necessary for a ‘better’ and ‘successful’ economic system.