Economy

Economy

Prior to Suharto's "New Order" administration, the Torajan economy was based on agriculture, with cultivated wet rice in terraced fields on mountain slopes, and supplemental cassava and maize crops. Much time and energy were devoted to raising water buffalo, pigs, and chickens, primarily for ceremonial sacrifices and consumption. Coffee was the first significant cash crop produced in Toraja, and was introduced in the mid 19th century, changing the local economy towards commodity production for external markets and gaining an excellent reputation for quality in the international market.

With the commencement of the New Order in 1965, Indonesia's economy developed and opened to foreign investment. In Toraja, a coffee plantation and factory was established by Key Coffee of Japan, and Torajan coffee regained a reputation for quality within the growing international specialty coffee sector Multinational oil and mining companies opened new operations in Indonesia during the 1970s and 1980s. Torajans, particularly younger ones, relocated to work for the foreign companies to Kalimantan for timber and oil, to Papua for mining, to the cities of Sulawesi and Java, and many went to Malaysia. The out-migration of Torajans was steady until 1985 and has continued since, with remittances sent back by emigre Torajans performing an important role within the contemporary economy.

Tourism commenced in Toraja in the 1970s, and accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s. Between 1984 and 1997, a significant number of Torajans obtained their incomes from tourism, working in and owning hotels, as tour guides, drivers, or selling souvenirs. With the rise of political and economic instability in Indonesia in the late 1990s including religious conflicts elsewhere on Sulawesi tourism in Tana Toraja has declined dramatically. Toraja continues to be a well known origin for Indonesian coffee, grown by both smallholders and plantation estates, although migration, remittances and off-farm income is considered far more important to most households, even those in rural areas.

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