Atoni - Economy

Subsistence, Commercial Activities, and Trade. Atoni are primarily swidden cultivators of maize and some dry-land rice who, because of inadequate farming conditions, have been drawn into a money economy through the sale of forest products (such as palm sugar and wild honey) and livestock (chickens and Bali cattle). The latter are sold in roadside or small town markets, usually to non-Atoni middlemen linked to small interior towns and to Kupang's export facilities. Cattle were introduced by the Dutch and now outnumber people in western Timor, contributing to ecological pressure while providing a money income for owners. Over the past 20 years some Atoni have also moved to Kupang for unskilled work.

Industrial Arts. Atoni produce fine woven cloths for male and female dress, together with basketry and ropes in great varieties for daily and ceremonial use. They do not work metal and must import both tools and the silver and gold jewelry that they value. Woodworking is now limited to house and some furniture construction. Wooden utensils made in the past are no longer found, nor is wooden statuary (except in some funeral contexts).

Division of Labor. Men and women engage in a variety of planting and harvesting activities in fields, orchards, and gardens, and both can be found in markets selling produce. Men mainly build and repair swidden fences and corrals, manage cattle, and hunt, while women tend small animals, gather wild plants, and have primary responsibility for the children.

Land Tenure. Atoni are primarily swidden cultivators of maize and rice fields who have rights of usufruct on land over which clans and territorial groups hold long-term rights. Orchards are held by the families of the planters and may be inherited. Land is not, in general, a commodity. The nuclear family is the primary farming unit, working its own plot alone or with some near kin.

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