An Expert Consultation on Rattan Development was jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), and co-funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The meeting was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 5 to 7 December 2000, and attended by 23 experts from 16 countries, selected on the basis of their specialized knowledge and their role in the management and development of rattan resources in their respective countries; in addition to representatives of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI); the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), INBAR; Sida, Kew Gardens, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Tropenbos, the private sector, and universities. A number of colleagues from different units within FAO (Forestry, Agriculture and Technical Cooperation Departments) also attended the meeting.
The focus of the meeting was on the sustainable development of the rattan sector worldwide, but with particular emphasis on Asia and Africa. Some attention was given to Latin America in view of its potential for rattan introduction.
The objectives of the Expert Consultation were to review and analyse:
(a) essential baseline information on the rattan sector in producing countries, the critical global supply situation and key requirements to guarantee a sustainable future supply of rattan;
(b) the needs and methods for better cooperation and coordination among key agencies and stakeholders in relation to their ongoing activities on rattan development; and
(c) the desirability of developing an international programme aimed at promoting and undertaking rattan development activities with partner institutions in the various regions and strengthening global networking in rattan research and development.
Based on the papers presented and their discussion, the Expert Consultation emphasized the economic, socio-cultural and ecological importance of rattan to a large number of people in the world and noted that rattan resources in their natural range of tropical forests in Asia and Africa were being depleted through overexploitation, inadequate replenishment, poor forest management and loss of forest habitats. There was a need to ensure a sustainable supply of rattan through improved and equitable management.
The meeting recalled that:
· There were approximately 600 species of rattans, of which some 10 percent were commercial species. Many species, including some of commercial importance, had very restricted natural ranges. The majority of the world rattan resources (by volumes and by number of species) were in one country - Indonesia.
· Rattan was an important commodity in international trade. At the local level, it was of critical relevance for rural livelihood strategies as a primary, supplementary and/or emergency source of income. Rattan collection complemented agriculture in terms of seasonal labour and as a source of capital for agricultural inputs.
· The rattan sector was characterized by a variety of stakeholders with different needs and interests, such as rattan growers, raw material collectors, manufacturers and traders, and it functioned within a complex and dynamic socio-economic, political and ecological context. Rattan was gathered by unorganized or organized collectors, the latter either under contract or in debt relationships with traders and farmers/cultivators. In addition, there was a loss of traditional rattan management practices, while at the same time increasing competition for resources. Linkages between industry, traders, collectors/cultivators and research and development efforts were weak. Rattan manufacturing and trade were fragmented and diverse in size and markets, with a focus on export.
The meeting highlighted that taxonomic knowledge on species was patchy and available information conflicting. Likewise patchy was the knowledge of biological aspects, e.g. pollination and gene flow. In spite of the Red List of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) review of 1998, the conservation status of rattans was not well known and it was difficult to assess and monitor. In addition, rattan species were assumed not to be "safe" in protected areas or in national parks, as harvesting in such areas was usually permitted or tolerated. It was also assumed that the genetic basis of rattan species was narrowing. Some species were likely to be at risk of extinction.
The meeting underlined that there could be no sustainable supply of rattan, if the forests in which they grew were not managed sustainably. In its natural habitat, rattan was not as yet managed, and rattan received low priority in national forest and conservation policies. There was no dedicated rattan development institution in any country as rattan was usually subsumed within the forestry services, and the few existing national rattan programmes were weak and with limited research and development capacity. With a few exceptions, national forest inventories did not include rattan, and information on the resource base was scarce. However, in large tracts of degraded and logged-over forests, (re-)introduction and management of rattan had the potential to complement significantly the value of these forests.
The meeting was informed that significant advances had been made in the understanding of growing rattan as a plantation crop. Although community-based or smallholder rattan gardens could be profitable in some situations, the profitability of industrial-scale plantations in Asia was currently uncertain, as other land uses were more lucrative. As a result of this, private-sector investment in industrial-scale rattan plantations had declined. The meeting took note that existing rattan plantations had been converted into more profitable crops like oil palm.
The meeting was further informed that rattan production was also affected by the low return to gatherers, resulting in weak incentives for sustainable rattan harvesting and management. A number of factors contributed to the low returns. Foremost among these were uncertain property rights, the dispersed nature of production and inconsistent cane quality. In several countries, prices and competition had been affected by the remoteness of collecting areas and poor transportation; "illegal" harvesting; poor market information; lack of organization among collectors; large post-harvest losses due to insect and fungal infestation; prohibitive tax policies; export barriers; and informal taxes that depressed raw material prices.
The meeting noted that international agencies such as INBAR, CIFOR, IPGRI, FAO and ITTO addressed rattan management, either directly or indirectly, within their programmes. National focal points for member countries of INBAR on rattan information had been established with the primary function to identify key stakeholders and their increasing involvement, to collect statistical data and exchange information in the local languages.
In the light of the above, the meeting concluded that there was a wide variety of potential interventions that could assist the different stakeholder groups. Raw material producers and smallholders could be encouraged to, and assisted in, managing local resources on a more sustainable and productive basis, 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.
At the processing level, needs were particularly great at the artisanal level. Potential interventions that might assist industry include improving entrepreneurship and competitiveness; training of advisers; improving post-harvest treatment and quality control; market deregulation and improved market information; establishment of design centres; and trade fairs. Also, given the nature of the resource users and the industry being generally cottage and small scale, employing socially disadvantaged groups, rattan products could become ideal commodities for promotion as rainforest conservation products.
The meeting identified the following key actions to be initiated immediately for enhancing a more sustainable supply of rattan:
– intensifying ex-situ and in-situ conservation efforts in a more coordinated and organized manner among countries in the regions;
–developing suitable methods for resource assessments, including studies on growth, yield, basic biology and taxonomy of rattan species;
–improving techniques of enrichment planting and management of rattan in degraded forests, and a wide dissemination of the available guidelines for rattan planting.
– increasing the knowledge of the properties of commercial species and of the potential of underutilized/lesser known species;
–improving and disseminating technologies for reducing post-harvesting losses, biological deterioration, improved storage and processing;
–introduction of quality grading.
· Policies and institutional support:
– awareness raising on the importance of the rattan sector to decision-makers at all levels;
–institutional strengthening and coordination regarding rattan conservation, management and processing issues, including the promotion of more government and private sector cooperation/coordination to enhance the contribution of rattan for poverty alleviation and economic prosperity;
–providing tenure security to rattan gatherers and planters by incorporating them into community-based forest management schemes;
–introducing incentive schemes for rattan cultivation to increase the economic benefits for rural households and smallholder plantations in Asia, such as providing credit and technical assistance for small-scale plantation development and favourable harvesting and marketing arrangements;
–introducing market deregulation to benefit rattan collectors and traders (i.e. removing transport barriers; support for improved collection and dissemination of market information; extension in processing techniques);
–providing comprehensive training and support to local specialists in rattan-producing countries in taxonomy, management and processing, complemented with "twinning arrangements" among relevant institutions in the regions.
The Expert Consultation recommended for immediate follow-up
· to FAO to:
– develop consistent terms and definitions on rattan and its products;
–harmonize existing measurement concepts and methodologies for rattan resources inventories and for accurate collection of statistics on rattan products.
· to INBAR to:
– establish a list server on rattan;
–conduct, with the assistance of CIFOR a study on the economics of large- and small-scale rattan plantations;
–conduct, with the assistance of FAO, a study on improving forest policies and relevant regulations with regard to rattan;
–commission a study on potential alternative market mechanisms to provide greater transparency and competition in rattan trade (e.g. auction mechanisms);
–update and publish the existing rattan bibliography on its web site.
The Expert Consultation recommended that the governments of countries with rattan resources be encouraged:
· At the national level to:
– develop and implement a national rattan strategy involving all stakeholders in a participatory process;
–include rattan as an integral component of national forest and conservation policies, as well as forest management plans and, where appropriate, by giving due attention to rattan in the national and relevant regional processes on Criteria & Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management;
–establish specific pilot projects focused on critical issues such as property rights and management institutions, opportunities and constraints to community-based resource management, and post-harvest treatment;
–strengthen national research programmes/activities through enhancing the network of rattan research and development activities, including the establishment of "rattan scholarships".
· In support to actions at the international level to:
– commission the development of a five-year international rattan development programme with the primary objective of promoting and undertaking rattan development activities with partner institutions in the various regions, and in order to strengthen global networking in rattan research and development. This international programme would enhance national institutional capabilities and examine the possibilities and merits of INBAR establishing/strengthening nodal point(s) in national institutions as permanent focal point(s) to continue long-term programmes on rattan research and development;
–revive the Rattan Information Centre (RIC) established in 1982 in Malaysia;
–support awareness-raising campaigns on conservation, management and processing of rattan (e.g. impacts of insufficient taxonomic/biological knowledge of rattan conservation issues) with senior policy and decision makers at international development, conservation, research and funding agencies, as well as senior government officials in rattan producing/consuming countries.
The Expert Consultation emphasized the potential of enhancing regional cooperation through information exchange; collaborative research and development; training; and material exchange to promote rattan as a vehicle for achieving social, economic and environmental sustainability in rattan-producing countries. To this end, the expert consultation called for a concerted effort of governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relevant international agencies.