Ambonese - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Horticulture is the basis of subsistence. A variety of tuberous plants (yams, cassavas, taros) are grown in family gardens ( kebon ). Sago, growing unattended in swampy regions, continues to be an important staple. Rice, a prestige staple, is almost exclusively cultivated by Javanese transmigrants on Ceram, but the quantity produced is far from sufficient to cover demand and thus most rice is imported. In tracts of lands with mixed growth of perennials ( dusun ), a number of fruit and nut trees, as well as cloves and nutmegs, are grown. These spices are the major cash crops, followed by copra. The main source of protein is fish, caught individually or communally, supplemented by some domestic animals and small game. Commercial fishing and lumbering (mostly on Ceram) are almost exclusively done by foreign companies, usually Japanese, sometimes in conjunction with local enterprises.

Industrial Arts. Only a few specialists are found in villages. Handicrafts are very scarce. Two villages produce low-grade pottery and one engages in metallurgy. Aside from subsistence activities, manual labor is despised, particularly among Christians. Both men and women prefer white-collar jobs as ministers, teachers, administrators, and clerks. Muslims also engage in trading, but most industrial and commercial activities are in the hands of the Chinese, some Arabs, and Muslim immigrants from other parts of Indonesia. A sizable Butonese minority performs most low-level tasks.

Trade. Some villages own cooperatives and/or small stores. Muslim peddlers also visit Christian villages. Markets are found only in Ambon City and a few smaller regional trading centers. Women bring home-grown products to these markets for sale or to supply established merchants.

Division of Labor. Men are seen as providers and perform the more hazardous occupations of fishing and hunting, as well as the heavier tasks in horticulture and house and boat building. Women are responsible for the household but also participate in garden work and fishing near the beach, and do most of the trading.

Land Tenure. Population growth has led to increasing land pressure on Ambon-Lease. Ill-defined boundaries give rise to continuing intra- and intervillage disputes that frequently result in violent clashes. Village land is divided into uncultivated forest land ( ewang ) and dusun. The former is for joint use, while the latter is divided among various clans, which have the right of usufruct. The dusun is inalienably owned by the village. It reverts back, to be redivided, in the case of a clan's extinction. Indonesian laws make it possible for more and more land to become individual property that can be bought and sold. Recently much of this land has been bought by nonvillagers, mostly Chinese. Land pressure has led to organized and spontaneous migration from Ambon-Lease to Ceram, where land is still plentiful. The Indonesian government has also appropriated Ceramese village land for transplanted Javanese peasants, which has caused increasing tension.


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