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WORKING GROUP 1: Rattan Resource

Rattan was once abundant in the tropical forests (of Asia) but has become a scarce resource today. The causes of depletion are straightforward, well known and well documented - loss of habitat, overexploitation, inadequate replenishment and poor management of the resource. There is an urgent need to rectify the situation and ensure the future for rattan, given its economic, ecological and socio-cultural importance to nearly a billion people in the developing world.

Outlined below are some specific problems facing the resource supply and suggested actions/ solutions:

From natural forests

Forest inventories in most countries do not include rattan. This needs to be rectified and suitable methods developed for rapid appraisal, including estimates of growth and yield. Taxonomic inventories should be an essential component of this important activity. Forest management plans should include rattan as an integral component where appropriate.

There is very little involvement of forest communities and indigenous people in the management and development of rattan resource. Inclusion of these people and giving them long-term user rights would go a long way in the sustainable management of the resource.

Large tracts of degraded and logged-over forests remain under-utilized. These are potential areas for regeneration of rattan in their natural habitat. Improved techniques for enrichment planting are needed, including development of better planting materials. In-situ conservation of genetically rich areas would go a long way in enhancing the availability of high-quality planting materials.

Enormous wastes occur during harvesting of rattan and improved harvesting techniques and regulations would contribute to the reduction of these wastes. In addition, adequate treatments against biological deterioration should be developed and applied close to the collection points as soon as possible after harvest to reduce wastage, improve quality and increase revenues to gatherers.

Present supply comes from about 25 species out of the 650 species found in the rattan-producing areas. The potential of underutilized/lesser known species must be studied on a priority basis to enhance the supply of the resource.

From plantations/rattan gardens

Although significant advances have been made in the understanding of rattan as a potential plantation crop, there is still much that is unknown. Though both large- and small-scale plantations in Asia are returning profits other land uses are becoming more lucrative. As a result of this and other reasons such as lack of technical and policy-related support, private-sector cultivation of rattan, from both large- and small-scale plantations, has fallen below expectations and failed to respond to local raw material scarcities. There is a need for more appropriate government interventions in enhancing rattan cultivation given the economic benefits that accrue to the rural households in Indonesia and smallholder rubber plantations in Malaysia. Thus domestic policies must support rattan plantation development by improving incentives structure. This involves providing tenurial security to rattan gatherers and planters, credit and technical assistance for plantation development, and favourable harvesting and marketing arrangements. In addition, incorporation of plantations into community-based forest management schemes, with or without vertical integration in processing, could be an important policy direction.

An initial step in this direction is to review and document existing successes/failures of rattan plantations.

Strategies for action

A first priority is to create, where necessary, and/or strengthen the national institutional support system to address the above issues.

A second priority is to ensure that forest policies address sustainable management of rattan. In addition, more government and private sector cooperation/coordination should be promoted to enhance the contribution of rattan to poverty alleviation and economic prosperity.

Regional cooperation should be enhanced to promote rattan as a vehicle for achieving social, economic and environmental sustainability through information exchange, collaborative research and development, training and material exchange. This could be achieved through the establishment of an internationally supported Regional Rattan Research and Development Centre located in the resource-rich area. In addition to providing rattan management and development technologies, the centre could also provide the needed manpower training for other regions. In time this could evolve into an international expert centre for rattan. A first step in this direction could be a five-year regional rattan development programme to initiate the activities.

Given its long and successful forestry experience and stature in both the donor community and the developing countries, FAO should champion this initiative, with support from other international agencies (ITTO, UN, IFAD), relevant CGIAR centres (CIFOR, IPGRI, ICRAF) and INBAR.

WORKING GROUP 2: Socio-Economic Issues

Rattan is widely recognized as an important commodity, indeed the "flagship" NTFP for income and employment generation at many levels. This includes raw material production, transport, trade, processing, manufacturing and export. Rattan is critically important in rural livelihood strategies as a primary, supplementary and emergency source of income and as a source of capital for agricultural inputs. Rattan collection complements agriculture in terms of seasonal labour and is especially important for young households as a bridge to other livelihood activities.

Rattan collection, trade and manufacturing function within a complex and dynamic socio-economic, political and ecological context. Crucial components include: geographic centralization of manufacturing capacity (e.g. Java and Cebu City); poor communications and infrastructure; ethnic, religious and social differences (particularly in Indonesia); and the low priority of rattan among national governments. Indeed national governments have often functioned as a barrier to effective market functioning and resource management. As a consequence, since the colonial era traditional management practices and social institutions crucial for sustainable resource management have broken down or been usurped by the state. This problem has been exacerbated in recent decades by increased market penetration; increasing competition for resources from outsiders; and weak linkages between industry, traders, collectors/cultivators and research and development efforts. Nevertheless the potential exists to increase the profitability of the rattan, particularly in the international furniture market by improving production quality and quantity.

The rattan sector includes a diverse array of stakeholders with variable needs and interests. Key stakeholders include raw material produces, traders and processors/manufacturers. Raw material producers include unorganized collectors of wild rattan, organized collectors under contract or in debt relationships with traders and farmers/cultivators. Trade includes small- and large-scale operations and those focussed on raw material exports. In the processing and manufacturing sector there are small and large producers and marketing foci on domestic and international markets.

Key issues

The primary problem confronting rattan production is the low return to producers, especially among "contract" harvesters in patron-client relationships. This situation results in weak incentives for sustainable rattan harvesting and management. A number of factors contribute to the low returns. Foremost among these are weak property rights regimes. Other important contributing factors include: the dispersed nature of production and inconsistent cane quality, which contributes to weak bargaining power by collectors. Government policies such as prohibitive export taxes and bans have depressed prices and competition in several countries. Prices are also suppressed by the remoteness of collecting areas and poor transportation; illegal harvesting (i.e. harvesting in historic or traditional areas which are now designated concessions or protected areas and thus "need" to pay bribes); poor market information; market failure; lack of organization among collectors and large post-harvest losses due to insect and fungal infestation.

Rattan production is characterized by overharvesting and destructive harvesting practices, the reduction in resource availability due to forest conversion and the fact that collecting is typically an activity of young men who have limited long-term commitment or interest in collection. Rattan collection and cultivation is also characterized by increasing competition from other livelihood opportunities and the failure of the market to acknowledge or incorporate its role and importance.

Given this situation, there are a wide variety of potential interventions that could assist the different stakeholder groups. Raw material producers could be assisted through the establishment of community forest management practices, long-term concessions, local land-use planning and the provision of resource and/or land tenure rights, in conjunction with approved management plans. These and other reforms to tenure and institutional conditions could provide resource users with an incentive to manage local resources on a more sustainable and productive basis. Raw material producers could also benefit by deregulation (i.e. removing transport and export restrictions; support for improved collection and dissemination of market information; extension of methods to reduce post-harvest losses; improve storage; and support for local collector organizations).

Key issues faced by traders include high risk, high costs (due to checkpoints) and poor market information. These might be remedied through improving post-harvest treatment, market deregulation to reduce corruption and improved market information.

At the industry level, needs are particularly great at the low end where the industry is characterized by lack of entrepreneurship, poor design, inefficiency, low quality, increasing competition and substitution, lack of support and lack of market formation. Potential interventions that might assist industry include improving competitiveness via the establishment of design centres, the training of advisers, trade fairs and greater market research.

Conclusions and recommendations

There is a need to promote national rattan strategies in producer countries on a participatory basis, involving all stakeholders. These efforts could lead to the establishment of pilot projects focussed on critical issues such as property rights and management institutions, opportunities and constraints to community-based resource management and post-harvest treatment. It is recommended to focus on some countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia, with others such as Malaysia and Cameroon to follow. This effort will need the assistance of a strong coordinator and leader, which it is suggested should be undertaken by strengthening the personnel capacity in INBAR with assistance and support from FAO and ITTO, as required.

WORKING GROUP 3: Environment and Conservation

Focus on conservation

Preamble - There are some 600 species of rattans, of which approximately 10 percent are commercial species representing less than 10 percent of the total growing stock of rattans in the forest. There is a high level of endemism and the majority of the world rattan resources (by volumes and by number of species) are in one country - Indonesia.

Problems (more important at the global than at the national level)

At the global level (Africa, Asia and Pacific)

1. Patchy taxonomic knowledge; and unresolved or conflicting taxonomic information about species delimitation, as was presented in the background papers.

2. Conservation status of rattans is not well known despite the IUCN Red List Book review of 1998.

3. Rattan areas are being seriously affected by habitat loss and fragmentation.

4. It is assumed that there is a Narrowing Genetic basis of rattan species (but with no scientific evidence yet available to proof it, neither is it sufficiently well known).

5. Little is known about the basic biology of pollination and gene flows.

6. Negative impact of forest disturbance factors (from outside the "rattan" sector); for example, overhunting (Africa) or lack of hunting (Asia) of seed dispersals, such as wild pigs, causes lack of regeneration.

7. Logistical (and methodological) difficulties to assess/monitor the conservation status of rattan species, including lack of an agreed-upon "baseline".

8. Overharvesting of commercial species is causing resource depletion.

9. Rattans are not "safe" in protected forest areas (or in national parks), particularly in view of the fact that rattan harvesting (as well as the gathering of other NWFP) in such areas by indigenous/local communities is permitted/tolerated (perceived to be more the case in Asia than in Africa).

Solutions (strategy) - Recommendations (in the short term)

1. Regional-based strategy for institutional strengthening and capacity building in all aspects of improving knowledge of rattan taxonomy in the relevant countries. There is also a need for basic biological knowledge and information on yield, growth and inventory; comprehensive training and support to "targeted" key agencies (and local experts) in rattan-producing countries, complemented with (interregional and intraregional) "twinning arrangements" among rattan taxonomic programmes; academic and expert exchange programmes; reference collection centres; coordination of further needed taxonomic field work; curriculum development; extension and elaboration/wide dissemination of user-friendly rattan taxonomic aids, etc.

2. Awareness-raising campaigns on the impact of insufficient taxonomic/biological knowledge of rattan conservation issues in general (and of the conservation status of commercial rattan species in particular) regarding the above-mentioned problems, particularly No. 8 and 9), targeted:

3. Standardization of assessment methodologies for quantifying the resource base.

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