Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In 1980 about 70 percent of the residents of Central Aceh (and perhaps SO percent of Gayo residents) were engaged in farming. Others engaged in trade or civil service. Most Gayo farmers grow rice (usually with irrigation) or coffee. Most rice farmers puddle their fields with the hooves of water buffalo, and transplant, weed, and harvest local varieties of rice by hand. A few plows, but no tractors, are in use. Gayo also grow tobacco, yams, cassava, soy beans, potatoes, avocados, and a range of citrus fruits. Hard cakes of sugar are made from the sap of the sago palm (Arenga pinnata ). Many Gayo fish in the rivers and in Lake Lauttawar, using nets and hooks. Water buffalo, goats, chickens, and ducks are kept.
Industrial Arts. Gayo manufacture fishing equipment, embroider designs onto manufactured cloth, and work as tailors. Gayo also own and operate village rice hullers and, in Takèngën, several large coffee-processing plants.
Trade. Sundry and eating shops are found throughout the region, and Gayo traders carry goods overland to the most remote communities. Sugar, rice, coffee, oils, other foodstuffs, and clothes are marketed within the homeland, while horses and water buffalo are driven to the coasts for sale. Coffee exports are largely controlled by Acehnese and Chinese, although in the 1970s Gayo traders became more active.
Division of Labor. In rural settings women and men jointly perform many of the major agricultural tasks either as a household unit or in mixed-sex labor groups. Plowing, puddling fields, fishing, and long-distance trade journeys by foot are undertaken only by men. Most child care, firewood gathering, cooking, and weeding is performed by women. Women often control household budgets, operate shops, and trade in cloth and foodstuffs. In Takèngën, women as well as men work in the civil service.
Land Tenure. Individuals control plots of agricultural land. Villages hold residual rights and once could block sales, but in the 1960s individuals used the courts to gain the right to sell land outside the village. The amount of available rice land has grown only slowly, but in the 1970s and 1980s large forest areas were cleared by smallholders for coffee growing. Forest clearing has produced problems of fire damage and soil erosion in the region.