Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Ecological conditions vary from place to place: well-watered valleys and gentle slopes support wet-rice cultivation; drier hills support commercial crops such as cinnamon, coffee, fruit, and rubber; mountain lakes, rivers, and sea coasts support fishing; forests support collection of wild products; and village compounds support vegetable gardening, crafts, and petty commerce. The economy of each nagari is a particular mixture of these activities. Moreover, the distant rantau communities of emigrants contribute to the economies of their respective home nagari. The coastal towns support businesses of every sort and scale.
Industrial Arts. Blacksmithing, carpentry, wood carving, weaving, tailoring, jewelry, and pottery are the common industrial arts.
Trade. Minangkabau men are among the most widely known and active traders in Southeast Asia. Their heavy involvement in trade outside the Minangkabau homeland area is related to the fact that they cannot inherit Minangkabau rice land.
Division of Labor. Men's work includes the harvesting of rice, commercial agriculture, fishing, metal- and woodworking, and trade. Women's work includes vegetable gardening, transplanting and weeding of rice fields, preparation of food, care of children and the household, and some crafts such as weaving and pottery.
Land Tenure. Individual households ordinarily gain use of traditional wet-rice land and house land through matrilineal inheritance. Newly opened land belongs to those who clear it and plant it. It may be sold or inherited as part of a man's personal property; but it becomes traditional land within a few generations, and then its use is based on matrilineal inheritance.