Butonese - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The main subsistence crops are maize, tubers, and dry ( ladang ) rice. Which is the real staple crop depends on the area. In Rongi maize is the main crop and rice the second. On the Tukangbesi Islands tubers are the main crop and maize the second. When there is a surplus these crops are also sold, but the main cash crops are tobacco, peanuts, and, recently, cashew nuts. In the villages on the coasts, fishing plays an important role. Surpluses are sold at markets. From time immemorial the Buton people have been renowned as the seafarers of the Eastern Archipelago. They were traders and transporters, using their praus with a carrying capacity of up to about 50 tons. The slave trade was very important for Buton in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the beginning of this century the total number of praus in the sultanate was estimated at 300. In 1981 the island of WangiWangi, one of the Tukangbesi Islands, had 220 sailing praus registered, 150 of which were still in use. A decline in use of sailing praus was paralleled by the increase in motorized sailboats, of which 37 were registered on that island, with a capacity varying between 10 and 20 tons. Because of mobility in Butonese society and the lack of economic opportunities in the area, many Butonese migrate to other parts of Indonesia, especially to the Moluccas. This is in part seasonal migration for the gathering of cloves on the Moluccan islands.

Industrial Arts. Most villages along the coasts have parttime specialists as boat builders. All villages have part-time specialists as performers of rituals, addressing such things as agriculture, house building, and curing of illnesses. Around the capital, Baubau, near the old center ( kraton ) of the sultanate, some industrial arts involving, for instance, brass, pottery, and silver, still exist. In all villages, women weave silk or cotton sarongs, although this activity is declining. Peddlers, small stores, and markets are found throughout the Buton area. Present in the capitals Baubau and Raha are shops for all kinds of consumer goods, and bigger markets than those found in the villages.

Division of Labor. Seagoing was and is the work of men, as was governing the sultanate. Work in the fields is mainly the task of the men, but women assist when there is much work. Pottery and weaving are women's work, brass and silver manufacturing is men's work. Blacksmiths and boat builders are men. Preparing meals and most of the work within the household is done by women. They also keep the money that is earned by men and are involved in all the decisions about spending household money.

Land Tenure. Traditionally, rights to the land around the villages belonged to the community, and formally to the sultan. Every household had the right to use a part of this land, which was distributed by the village council. When the land was abandoned for a long time, it again became fully communal land. In accordance with present Indonesian law, land tenure rests with the individual. Most Butonese still have rights to land; only the descendants of former slaves, who became free after 1906, may still be landless.

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