1Mr. Romulo N. Arancon, Jr. is currently the Assistant Director of the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mr. Arancon was formerly the Department Manager of the Coconut Extension and Training Centre of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). He has also served as a Co-Training Director of the UNDP/FAO project (RAS/81/110) "Regional Coconut Wood Training Programme" at the PCA-Zamboanga Coconut Wood Research Centre, Philippines. This document has been significantly restructured by the editor but great efforts have been made to retain the original message.
The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera, L.) has multifarious uses. It is often described as a tree of life and is one of the most important crops in the tropics. It is also considered as one of the world's most beautiful trees. Practically all parts of the coconut can be manufactured into commercial products. The coconut provides food, shelter and fuel especially in countries in Asia and the Pacific where it is abundantly grown.
Unlike the many uses of the coconut fruits and the leaves, it is perhaps not very well known that the coconut stem is equally useful. Annex 1 gives some characteristics of the tree and its wood relevant to utilization. The possibility of utilizing the coconut palm wood on a commercial scale has been recognized only in the last decade or so, although usage of wood from palm species has been known by people in the villages since time immemorial. In more recent times, coconut palm wood has been successfully utilized in a number of coconut growing countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Fiji, the Tonga Islands and many others.
It has been used in boat making in many islands in the Pacific. Relatively large and elaborate church structures and roof components have been constructed early in this century from round or hewn coconut palm wood, and these materials are reported to be still in good condition. These roof structures have been reported to have survived many tropical high wind storms including the hurricane "Isaac" (Tonga Islands) in 1982 which was responsible for considerable damage to many contemporary buildings.
As a result of the heavy reliance on utilization of traditional wood species without adequate provision for resource renewal, the wood-using industry now faces scarcity and prohibitive cost of conventional wood. The need to look for lesser-known indigenous wood material that can be used as a good substitute for commercially-known wood species to overcome the inadequate supply of logs and at the same time help conserve the remaining forests led to a serious consideration of the many uses of the coconut trunk.
The growing number of old and senile palms in coconut growing countries especially in Asia and the Pacific necessities large-scale replanting. In some countries, the occurrence of strong hurricanes usually fells thousands if not millions of coconut trees on a yearly basis. Still in other countries, the move towards urbanization or coconut plantations being transformed into residential areas requires the cutting of coconut trees and thus, necessitates efficient utilization of the trunks2.
2When old palms are felled, proper disposal of the trunks should be done. Otherwise, if they are allowed to rot in the field, they would serve as breeding places for beetles which would ultimately create serious infestation problems to the newly - established coconut palms.
It has been widely recognized that the most effective way of disposing the felled trunks is to convert them to saleable wood products which not only provides a system of proper disposal but can generate employment and give an additional source of income in coconut producing countries. Furthermore, coconut wood utilization can supplement the supply of raw materials for the wood industry and provide low-cost but equally durable construction materials for the housing programmes in these countries and for export.
Cognizant of the value of the coconut trunk as a wood resource with various applications, efficient coconut wood utilization technologies have been developed by a number of research institutes in Asia and the Pacific. The main purpose of this paper is to make an assessment of the existing and potential resources of coconut wood in the Asia-Pacific region with focus not only on resource availability trends but also on the technologies and facilities that are available for efficient coconut wood utilization and the driving forces that affect them. The paper will also describe and analyse the current situation as well as the prospects of utilization and marketing of cocowood products in the region highlighting on the value that could be added by processing coconut wood and the actual as well as the potential financial and social impact such operations could bring to the region.