Sasak - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Sasak economy is primarily agrarian and dominated by the production of wet rice as the dietary staple and for sale. Most of the population is engaged in farming and lives in rural peasant villages. The economy is labor-intensive. Plows drawn by water buffalo or oxen, hand harvesting, and transportation by horse still predominate despite development efforts. Very important to the production of wet rice is the extensive irrigation system of canals and dikes managed by the subak, irrigation societies that oversee the equitable distribution of water. Other crops such as cassava, soybeans, maize, sweet potatoes, and coconuts are grown for subsistence; rice, coffee, tobacco, peanuts, and onions are among the crops grown for sale as well as for local consumption. In addition to irrigated rice, the Sasak cultivate rainfall-dependent rice in the less-fertile areas, and they practice some swidden cultivation or ladang.

Industrial Arts. Some villages have part-time and seasonal specialists who make earthenware pottery for sale, weave baskets, or are blacksmiths or charcoal makers.

Trade. There is a proliferation of petty traders among the landless Sasak. Small shops, itinerant peddlers, and sellers in the markets are common in all but the most isolated villages. Most petty trade is done by women, while men tend to control larger-scale and off-island trade.

Division of Labor. While both sexes engage in cultivation and work as farm wage laborers, some of the tasks differ along gender lines. Men clear land, build and repair fields and irrigation works, guard crops, plow, build houses, and work as blacksmiths. Women pound rice, clean house, fetch water, weave, and cook (though men cook for feasts). Both sexes plant, weed, harvest, collect, fish, weave baskets, and tend babies.

Land Tenure. Population growth and increasing commercialization have led many smallholders to sell their land, creating an increasingly large landless population. Many have become seasonal laborers or traders. While farming one's own land is the ideal, few landless Sasak can hope ever to save enough money over subsistence needs to purchase land. Many syncretists remain reluctant to sell land or rice, but rapid change is occurring in this regard.

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