Toraja - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Most residents of Tana Toraja Regency (90 percent) are subsistence agriculturalists. Rice, grown in terraced paddies, is planted and harvested by hand. Single metal-blade plows drawn by water buffalo or men are still in use. Toraja farmers also grow maize, cassava, chilies, beans, yams, and potatoes. Cash crops include coffee and cloves. The Toraja also gather snails, eels, and small fish from unplanted wet-rice fields. Domestic animals include pigs, chickens, and water buffalo, which are sacrificed on ritual occasions.

Industrial Arts. A number of Toraja supplement their income by carving (for traditional or touristic purposes). Certain villages are known to specialize in particular crafts: knife forging, pottery making, mat making, and hat plaiting.

Trade. Most villages have a couple of tiny stores that may sell only two or three items (cigarettes, sweets, instant noodles, soap, etc.). Markets rotate on a six-day cycle. Women bring fruit and vegetables to sell at the market. Men bring livestock, palm wine, hand-forged knives, or carvings. Full-time market vendors tend to be Buginese or from Duri, rather than Toraja.

Division of Labor. Both men and women fish and tend the fields. Men and children care for water buffalo, while women generally feed the pigs. Women are occupied with the traditional home tasks, although men often cook meat and tend babies.

Land Tenure. Although remote mountain slopes are still being converted into new terraced wet-rice fields, changes in agricultural technology have been minimal. Steady population growth has resulted in land shortage. Rice fields are highly prized and the majority of court cases in Tana Toraja involve land-tenure disputes. By the 1960s land shortage and limited local economic opportunities began to drive many Toraja to seek wage labor away from the homeland. Today many Toraja work in a variety of professional and blue-collar jobs in Indonesian cities. Still others work for lumber and oil companies as far away as Irian Jaya, Kalimantan, or Malaysia.

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