Following are the main tribal economies :
Food-Gatherers and Hunters : The nomadic tribes like the Andamanese, Onge, Kadar, Kharia, Jarawa, Lodha, etc. practise hunting and food gathering. They practice subsistence economy and have a simple type of social organisation.
Permanent Settled Cultivators : The tribes like Oraon, Munda, Bhumij, Ho, Gond, Santhal, practice permanent settled cultivation. They practice wet cultivation through transplantation method and are unaware about modem means of cultivation and irrigation. They practice crop rotation. Some work as sharecroppers (Bhag-Khasi) and some as agricultural labourers. These landless agricultural labourers also practice seasonal migration to the neighbouring states.
Pastoral Economy : The Toda of the Nilgiri hills of South India and Bhotia of Almora practice pastoral economy. They rear buffaloes and cows; the milk and milkproducts are exchanged to get the things for everyday use.
Shifting Hill Cultivators : Tribes such as the Gonds, the Nagas, Khasi, Savara, Garo practice this primitive form of cultivation by adopting ‘slash and bum’ method. It is known as Jhum cultivation by the Assam tribes and as Podu by the Gonds. A hilly forest area is selected for this purpose which is abandoned after three successive cultivating seasons as the soil loses its fertility. Different Kharif crops such like Bajra, Jowar, pulses, potato, tobacco, and sugar-cane are grown through this method.
Craftsmen : Some of the tribals practice their traditional crafts along with their main sources of subsistence. The Naga and the Khasi tribes are proficient in coloured handloom products. The Lohar are traditional blacksmiths. As they get only marginal profits in their traditional specialized crafts, they resort to other jobs.