Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The economy is based on agriculture. Chakma farmers utilize three different microenvironments: flat lands, which can be irrigated, slightly higher lands, which are not usually irrigated; and relatively steep highlands. Each microenvironment is utilized for the cultivation of specific crops. In the irrigated lowlands, the Chakma grow wet rice. Here plowing is done with a single metal-blade wooden plow drawn by bullocks or water buffalo. The Chakma who learned plow agriculture from Bengalis in the mid-nineteenth century grow wet rice twice a year on the same land. The crop is harvested by hand with the help of sickles. On slightly higher lands the Chakma cultivate a riety of crops. These include root crops such as taro, ginger, and turmeric, some vegetable crops, and pulses, chilies, garlic, and onions. In the hills, they cultivate mainly dry paddy, sesame, and cotton. These crops are grown by the traditional method of shifting cultivation. Men select land for swiddens in December-January; clear off the trees and bush in February-March; burn this debris by April when dry; and start sowing after a heavy rainfall, usually in April-May. They fence their swidden fields to protect crops from pigs, cattle, goats, and buffalo and begin to harvest crops in October, continuing into November.
Because of increasing population pressure, shifting cultivation is gradually being limited. The government also discourages swidden agriculture. Instead it has been trying to motivate the Chakma and other hill peoples to grow fruits such as pineapples, bananas, and jackfruit on the hills. Many Chakma have started doing so. Silviculture (i.e., planting of timber and rubber trees) is also becoming popular.
Hunting, fishing, and collecting of different edible leaves and roots are also part of their economy. Around their houses, the villagers grow vegetables. Domestic animals include pigs, fowl, ducks, cattle, goats and water buffalo.
Industrial Arts. The Chakma weave their own cloths and make bamboo baskets of various types.
Trade. Surplus products are brought to the markets. Some Chakma supply products to the nontribal businessmen who buy cheap, store, and then sell dear; or they supply the cities for a higher price.
Division of Labor. Traditionally the Chakma women cook, tend babies, clean house, fetch water, weave, and wash cloths. The men assist them in tending babies and fetching water from the canals or from waterfalls. The women also do all agricultural work side by side with the men, except for plowing and cutting big trees for shifting cultivation. They also buy and sell in the marketplace.
Land Tenure. There was no private ownership in land even in the early twentieth century. The Chakma were at liberty to choose any hill land for swiddens or flat land (between the hills) for wet rice cultivation. The Chakma and other hill peoples are now required to take grants of land from the Government and to pay a land tax to the government. The Chakma raja traditionally received a small portion of tax on swidden land.