The severe mountainous terrain in the area of the Park has limited villages to the four main valley systems that surround the Park. This terrain also dictates the livelihood strategies of villagers. The patterns of production vary considerably in the villages depending on land suitability, access to markets and local traditions and tastes.
The majority of people living around the park are subsistence farmers; which since the arrival of wet rice cultivation a predominately sedentary farming system has been established. In some villages, Katu for example, there is still some swidden agriculture of dry rice, but generally livelihoods depend on wet rice agriculture. In addition to farmers there are small numbers of traders and government officials, but the most important household livelihoods around the Park are:
- Wet rice cultivation
- Dryland farming (including maize, soybean, peanuts, fruit trees, coffee, cocoa, spices, palm sugar)
- Livestock, poultry, fish
- Forest products (timber, rattan)
- Seasonal and part-time labor (agricultural labor, some guiding, assisting scientists)
- Handicrafts (rattan products, tikar mats, bark cloth).
The majority of farming output is for subsistence but a small proportion of agricultural produce is sold locally or in Palu. The income raised is used for pay for school fees, soap, sugar, fuel and other essentials.
Rice is the staple food for people living around the park. Some villages in the Kulawi valley however do not have access to flat land suitable for wet rice farming and depend almost exclusively on dryland farming, but in most villages rice is grown in enclosed fields that are flooded by rainwater or irrigation.
Two or three crops can be produced per year depending on the altitude, location, variety of rice, and local tradition. Until recently chemical pesticides and fertilisers were rarely used and yields were low.
In recent years however there has been an increase in the use of chemicals and improved rice varieties in many areas. Low input rice farming now only continues in the more remote villages such as in the Besoa and Bada valleys.
Tree crops grown in the forest margins are an important part of the local economy. Many families own forest gardens in addition to rice paddy. Collection of sap from the ‘aren’ palm is an important source of income for some families. The sap is collected in bamboo pole and a single tapped tree can produce up to 6 litres a day. The sap can be drunk directly but more often is boiled down to make palm sugar or fermented to produce traditional palm wine (saguer). The market price increase in farming of perennial cash crops, particularly of cocoa plantation.