Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Most men and many women work, or seek work, in urban areas for most of their working lives. The rural population consists disproportionately of children and elderly people. In urban areas, wages are rarely sufficient to support even a single individual; therefore, people depend on innumerable petty occupations, legal and illegal, to make ends meet. In rural areas, families export as much food to town as they can, earning cash with which to pay taxes and school fees and to buy hardware, clothes, and small luxuries. Domestic animals include goats, sheep, pigs, and poultry; commercial cattle ranches supply meat to the towns. The BaKongo grow manioc, several kinds of yam, maize, peanuts, and various pulses, as well as bananas, avocados, citrus fruits, and palm nuts. A major handicap to the rural economy is the expense and unreliability of transportation. After 1985, the national economy virtually disintegrated, leaving most BaKongo, urban and rural, in dire straits.
Industrial Arts. In rural areas, some men weave baskets and mats, and a few continue the traditional techniques of ironworking; a few women make pots.
Trade. Villages within reach of a truck route may hold a market on Saturdays. Unlicensed traders bring manufactured goods from town for sale or barter, and may make cash advances to rural producers. In town, most women supplement their incomes by buying goods in small quantities and selling still smaller amounts, but a certain number have become successful wholesalers and importers.
Division of Labor. Although both women and men work for wages when they can, men predominate in the better-paying and more prestigious occupations. In rural areas, men cultivate forest crops, including fruit trees, whereas savanna crops are appropriate to women. Men hunt; women fish and catch small rodents.
Land Tenure. In principle, in Zaire all land belongs to the state, from which commercial developers may obtain use rights. In practice, in rural areas unattractive to capitalists, traditional rules of land tenure prevail. Land is owned by matrilineal descent groups called "houses" and is available for use to the members of the house, to in-marrying women, and to the children and grandchildren of male members. Fruit trees, also inherited matrilineally, are owned separately from the land on which they stand.