Rattans, one of the important forest products after timber, form an integral part of rural and tribal populace of many of the tropical countries. They are not only the chief raw material for industries in various parts of the world, but they also hold great social significance as a source of livelihood for the people residing near the forest areas. Although economically important, rattans remained as a neglected natural resource till recent times. With the rampant destruction of forests and habitats, their stock, at present, is highly depleted. Over extraction has compounded this problem, so much so that various organizations and institutions round the world are now undertaking scientific studies to conserve and cultivate them. During the last two decades there was an upsurge of research activities that has led to an appreciation of the importance of rattan and the need for its conservation.
A comprehensive account of the mainland Asian rattans was first given by Beccari (1908, 1911, 1913, 1918). After him not much original work was done in the field till 1975. Then a period of active research started in Asian countries. In mainland Asia, India, China and Sri Lanka progressed in this field much more than the other countries because of the already available infrastructure facilities and scientific personnel. This paper is a status report of rattans in South Asia. India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are included in this report.
India, with an area of 3.287 million square kilometers is marked with remarkable ecological, biological and cultural diversity. As per the forest resource assessment 1990 (FAO, 1995) India has 51.73 million ha. of natural forests. Endowed with magnificent forests ranging from evergreen to moist deciduous, which cover 17.4% of the land area, India's economy is strongly linked with its forests.
In India, forests are Government properties and managed by the State Governments. In Northeast India Government owns only up to 10% of the forestland, the rest remaining as private forests.
Rattans are recognized as one of the most useful forest products in India and the resource plays an important role in the rural economy, employing many people in the remote areas who earn their living through extraction and cleaning of rattans. Urban people are employed in the small-scale industries. Apart from its importance as a commodity for the furniture and handicraft industries, there are great many other uses also known to the Indian people since ancient times. In the ancient books, the medicinal uses of rattans have been reported. Rattans are used for rafting, house construction, for making baskets, as poles for carrying goods etc. Rattan leaves are used extensively as a thatching material. In Nicobar the spiny sheath is used for scrapping coconut. The tribal people of northeastern India make extensive use of long canes for making cane bridges. Some species of rattans are used in tribal rituals and festivals.
2.1 Rattan resource
In India there are about 60 species of rattans under four genera, Calamus, Daemonorops, Korthalsia and Plectocomia. They are mainly distributed in three major geographic regions, the Western Ghats of Peninsular India, Sub-Himalayan hills and valleys of eastern and northeastern India and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The rattans comprise more than fifty percent of the total palm taxa found in India (Basu, 1992).
One genus and 21 species have been so far reported from Western Ghats; 3 genera and 18 species from Andaman & Nicobar Islands and 3 genera and 17 species and two varieties from North Eastern States (Lakshmana, 1993; Renuka, 1992, 1995, 1999; Sunny Thomas et al., 1998). Each region has its own specific rattan flora and the species distribution does not overlap. Out of the reported species only 25 per cent are economically important.
Western Ghats of Peninsular India, with its tropical evergreen rain forests, form one of the ideal habitats of rattans. They are also seen in the Nilgiris and in the Ghat forests of Andhra Pradesh. Depending on the species they are distributed in the evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests.
Rattans occur from almost sea level to 2000m elevation, most showing altitudinal preferences. With the exception of C. rotang, a cane of the plains, all others are plants of the hills and mountains. Most of the species are distributed below 1000m and only four species are seen above this level. More species occur towards the southern part of Western Ghats.
Rattans are found in the evergreen, sub montane or the sub Himalayan mixed forests of northeastern states. Rattans are also distributed in the moist deciduous forests in Orissa and Bihar and in the coastal swamp forests of W. Bengal and Orissa. They have their range of distribution from alluvial plains to the moist hill forests up to 2000m altitude. Most of the species are found below 500m while C. acanthospathus and P. himalayana are seen at much higher altitudes, around 2000m.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
While the uninhabited islands are much richer, the inhabited ones also harbour several taxa of rattans along the boundaries of farms, roadsides and in fallow lands. The species are not evenly distributed in the islands. While C. andamanicus and Korthalsia laciniosa occur both in the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands, most others have restricted distribution in certain parts only. Eleven species are confined to the Andaman group and five to the Nicobar group.
An analysis of distribution of rattans in the three different major areas in India shows that much change has taken place in their distribution over the years because of the shrinkage of the natural forest cover. In the northeastern states shifting cultivation had been degrading and denuding the forests since long ago. Many of the species reported earlier from certain localities are absent now (Renuka, 1999). The growing popularity of rattan furniture resulted in overexploitation of this important forest resource. In many regions commercial species have been seriously depleted as the rapid exploitation continues unabated. This situation, if left unresolved, will bring about severe economic and social repercussions. Calamus travancoricus, C. rotang, C. dransfieldii and C. nambariensis have become extremely rare in their original localities.
2.2 Resource management
In situ conservation
In India, there has been no serious effort so far to conserve rattans in situ . Even though National Parks and Bio-reserves are helpful in promoting in situ conservation, illicit harvesting cannot be controlled efficiently. For conserving the natural populations, some of the State Forest Departments have introduced extraction rules. Generally the extraction is carried out on a 4-year rotation. The Government has also banned the export of the raw material .
Rattans are planted and protected in sacred groves. There are about 80 rattan bearing sacred groves in Kerala alone (Mohanan & Muraleedharan, 1988).
Ex situ conservation
State forest departments of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Goa have started large-scale plantations of rattans. Certain species are cultivated in homesteads. But only three or four economically important species are protected like this.
A live collection consisting of about 30 species is maintained in the Kerala Forest Research Institute campus. Seed stands of 12 species have been raised in Thrissur Forest Division. The State Forest Research Institute in Arunachal Pradesh has also started germplasm conservation.
Phenological details of almost all the species are available. Seed germination and nursery techniques have been standardized for India (Renuka, 1991). Suckers can also be used after treating them with growth regulating substances like NAA (1-naphthaleneacetic acid) and IBA (indole-3-butyric acid) for better rooting. Suckers extracted during July-September after a treatment with NAA at 2000 ppm have shown good rooting (Seethalakshmi, 1993).
The earliest reports of tissue culture studies on Indian rattans were those by Padmanabhan and Krishnan (1989), Padmanabhan and Sudhersan (1989), Padmanabhan and Illangovan (1989, 1994). Research on in vitro culture of rattans is currently being carried out in India at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi and Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research Institute, Palode. At KFRI, work was initiated in 1992 and micro-propagation protocols have been developed for seven species of Calamus of Western Ghats and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, using immature or mature embryos or shoot tips of (1-2 year old) seedlings for initiating the culture (Muralidhran, 1994; Valsala & Muralidhran, 1998, 1999). Plantlets have been planted out in a forest plot to assess their performance. An interesting finding was that plantlets with multiple stems could also be induced in culture and established in soil (Muralidhran, pers. comm.). Since seedlings of rattan normally take 3-4 years to form suckers, the use of such micro-propagated plants in plantations has the potential of increasing the yield of stems in the normal rotation. It is however necessary to carry out field trials to demonstrate this potential.
Regeneration of plantlets in some of the species has been achieved through organogenesis in callus cultures as well as from in vitro leaf segments. Somatic embryogenesis and plantlet formation were also achieved from callus cultures (Valsala and Muralidharan, 1998).
Correct identification of the species is essential for management practices. Since rattans are extracted even before flowering and fruiting, identification of rattans based on floral characters becomes difficult. Hence identification keys were prepared based on vegetative characters and easily distinguishable field characters (Renuka, 1992, 2000). Identification keys based on anatomical characters were also prepared (Bhat et al., 1993).
2.3 Rattan processing and product development
The State Forest departments lease out the right of collection to private parties. In Kerala the right of collection is vested with the Kerala State Federation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Co-operative Ltd. The major policy objectives are: (i) to eliminate intermediaries in collection, and (ii) to increase the income and employment opportunities of the tribal people. Even though the right of collection and marketing of cane was assigned to the co-operative societies, illegal harvesting continues. In other parts of the country rattans are harvested by contractors under permits issued by the Forest Department. They are to pay the royalty to the Government (Haridasan, 1997).
The traditional method of harvesting is simple, by manual means. The mature rattans are pulled out from the support and cleaned. The soft uppermost part is discarded. The remaining portion is cut into suitable lengths for bundling and then transported to the depot.
At present no grading is done. Bhat (1996) has formulated certain grading rules. Furniture and handicraft items are the main products and private manufacturers or co-operative societies carry out production.
Processing and preservation techniques
In India air-drying is the most common method used for reducing the moisture content of rattans. Recently oil curing methods have been introduced (Yekantappa et al., 1990, Dhamodaran & Bhat, 1992). The standardized curing method uses diesel - coconut oil mixture (9:1 ratio) or kerosene.
Although rattan curing has a desired effect in controlling fungal infection and discoloration, it may not be economically feasible always to cure rattan at the felling site. One alternative is to give the canes a prophylactic treatment in extraction sites by dipping them in plastic lined pits filled with preservative chemicals such as sodium pentachloro phenoxide, copper sulphate and sulphur azide (Mohanan, 1993).
Socio-economic studies on rattans are mainly confined to Kerala. Harvesting of cane is under taken by the Kerala State Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development Federation (Federation), aiming to provide more employment to tribes. But the absence of a permanent setup for collection in the Federation resulted in middlemen dominance in the harvesting scene. Consequently, a significant part of collection charge offered by the Federation is taken away by them, thereby reducing the share of actual collectors. Rattan based industry in the State depends heavily on import of cane from the Northeastern Region. This has caused an adverse income and cost relationship in the industry, which provides fewer incentives to carry out the production, resulting in decline of units in the State. Similarly, problems are prevalent in marketing section also. Most of the units in the industry have no marketing set up of their own. They unduly depend on private traders for marketing their products. Due to lack of proper marketing set up and inefficiency in marketing, rattan-processing units in the State receive only a very low marketing margin (Muraleedharan & Anjana, 1994; Muraleedharan et al, 1996 a, b; Muraleedharan & Anitha, 1999).
China has an area of 9.561 million square kilometers, covered with mountains, hills and plateaus. With such a diversity of physical features, the climatic conditions also vary a great deal.
In China rattan research was initiated in 1963 by the Research Institute of Tropical Forestry (RITF) under the Chinese Academy of Forestry. In the early sixties, considerable attention was paid to the conservation of the diminishing rattan resources. To increase local supplies, rattan research was reactivated in 1985.
3.1 Rattan resource
About 40 species and 21 varieties under three genera have been reported so far (Pei & Chen, 1991). The genus Daemonorops has only one species, Calamus 35 species and 21 varieties and Plectocomia, four species (Xu et al., 2000). It has been recorded that rattan is naturally distributed in more than eleven provinces of south China. Hainan Island and Xishuangbanna are two centres where the diversity and productivity are the highest. Significant differences in geographical and climatic conditions between southeast and southwest China influence rattan distribution in the two main centres. Rattan is usually found from low lands to the hills below 1800m altitude depending on the species. It occurs in tropical montane rain forests, tropical evergreen monsoon forests or secondary tropical forests, but a few species can be found growing in tropical semi-deciduous monsoon forests and sub-tropical evergreen broad-leaved forests.
Rattan resources in China have been well utilized except some shrubby species of Plectocomia. Hainan Island and Xishuangbana, Yunan are the two major centres for rattan production, with an estimated annual yield of 4000-6000 tons. This is about 90% of the country's total, which only meets 10-20% of the domestic market demand (Xu et al, 2000).
The natural rattan resources have been heavily depleted because of unlimited exploitation of canes in the last few years and increasing destruction of forests. Extraction of commercial species before flowering also attributes to the low concentration of rattans in the forests.
3.2 Resource management
In situ conservation
In Hainan Island, rattans are still frequent in natural forests, while in the continental main land, overexploitation has resulted in serious depletion of the resource (Zeng et al., 1999).
Ex situ conservation
The work on genetic conservation of rattan resources in China started in the mid 1970s at The RITF and the Yunnan Tropical Botanical Institute (YNTBI). A live collection of rattans was established in RITF in 1985. YNTBI also established ex situ conservation plots. Eight species of rattans have been successfully conserved in vitro (Xu et al., 1999).
Xu et al. (1999) evaluated the conservation status of rattans in China. According to them the status of ex situ germplasm stocks is not satisfactory. Nearly 61.9% of them are in poor condition, 53.6%, with no more than five plants in one garden, 19% with only one plant each in one garden. Five species or varieties are represented by only one plant. Of all ex situ collections in China, only 42.9% are producing seeds. Inter-specific hybridization occurs naturally in gardens. Apomictic species also cannot be ruled out. Much work still needs to be done on the genetic conservation of rattans (Yin et al., 2000).
Growth and silviculture
Growth and phenological data are available for certain species (Xu et al., 2000). Yin and Xu (2000) worked out the suitable storage condition for seeds of Daemonorops jenkinsiana (as D. margaritae). Studies to estimate the sex ratio in plantations are underway. Li et al. (2000) studied the relationship between rattan community and the environment. Much work has been carried out on the mineral nutrition requirement, cultivation methods, effectiveness of VA mycorrhizal fungi and biomass accumulation and nutrient recycle in rattan plantations (Xu et al., 2000).
Rattan tissue culture work in China started in the late eighties in the Kunming Institute of Botany (Chengji, 1987); with time and experience, the techniques for in vitro culture work and mass propagation improved. Till 1998, tissue culture studies were conducted on 16 species (Zeng, 2000). Most of the explants used were embryos and collar regions from seedlings. For mass propagation of 5 species, this technique was used. Plantlets with fibrous roots survived better. But the key factor for best performance during out planting is the height of the plantlets. No indication could yet be found as whether these studies can be considered successful.
Rattan processing and product development
Rattan industry in China is comparatively well developed and a variety of products are available and sold not only locally but exported also. The estimated value of rattan products in 1993 was more than US$100 million, of which about US$60 million from export per year. The annual demand for rattans in China may reach 30 thousand tons. Most of the raw material is imported from countries of Southeast Asia. Since Indonesia has banned the export or raw rattan, China is exploring the possibility of getting supplies from Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos (Zeng & Yin, 1997).
Nepal has a total area of 14.7 million ha. and has a rich floral and faunal biodiversity because of its diverse land configuration and altitudinal ranges, i.e. 75m to 8848m. Geographically, Nepal is divided into five regions, Terai, Siwalik (foothills), Mid hills, High hills and High Himalayas (Annex 1) .
Rattan is one of the economically important native species found in the deciduous forests of Nepal. This has been used locally by rural people for a long time. Besides local uses, rattans have great cultural value in Nepal. The Tharu (an ethnic group) people, for example, use rattan sticks in temples. They also believe that the rattan stick is holy and no evil spirit will come near it. They keep a rattan stick with them while attending religious functions. Rattans have been protected in the temple compounds where people cannot harvest them.
4.1 Rattan resource
Two genera and seven species have been reported from Nepal. Rattans are distributed from eastern to western region of Nepal at the altitudinal range of 100- 1000m, mostly in the terai and mid hill region. The Terai is the flat land following the foothills, and it has rich sal forests. This is the area where rattan used to be found in large quantities. Rattans grow profusely in the Terai regions. In the hilly regions, the distribution is scattered (Paudel, 1997). In the mid hills, rattan is found on the mild and well-drained soils. C. tenuis is present as cane brakes in some areas of mid and far-western regions (Paudel, 1997).
4.2 Resource management
Rattan brakes (patches of rattan stands in natural forests) are well protected in the community forests and are extracted on a five-year rotation. Extraction is done by clear felling the rattans. After removal of mature stems, the community set fire in the plot, which helps for the regeneration.
Most of the harvested rattan is smuggled out to India from the western Nepal where more than 800 ha of rattan brakes have been reported to exist (Dixit, 1998). As a result of this the smooth functioning of the rattan-based industries is hampered. Many of the industrial units import rattans from India. It has been estimated that more than 90% of total requirement of cane is brought in from India. But the Indian Government has officially banned export of raw rattan which has forced the middlemen to buy them in black markets in the states of Bihar and West Bengal. This raises the price of rattan products in Nepal to more than 100% of that prevailing across the boarder in India. Indian and Nepal custom offices charge custom and other fees on the raw material. The total charges float around 15% of the price of the transported products. Government support is practically nil to the otherwise rapidly growing rattan based cottage industry in Nepal (Dixit, 1998). There are about 50 rattan processors recorded in Nepal. All are small-scale processors employing 2-8 employees each (Paudel, 1997).
People in terai region cultivate rattan on marginal lands. Other than this there is no large-scale plantation.
Bangladesh, situated in the northeastern fringe of the subcontinent of South Asia has an area of 143,999 km2. The land is mostly flood plain except for some hilly areas along the north and eastern boundaries and upland terraces on the central and northwest region. The area under state or public forest is 14% of the total land area. Of this about 9% is managed by the Forest Directorate and the remaining is under the control of district administration (Ara, 1997a).
5.1 Rattan resource
Rattans are one of the most important natural resources of Bangladesh forests and homesteads. Some indigenous people use young leaves, roots and shoot tips of rattans as medicines and vegetable (Ara, 1997b). Eleven species are reported under 2 genera, Calamus and Daemonorops. All species are found naturally in the forest, while C. tenuis also grows at the edge of water and marshy places in village groves.
Rattans occur in the northeastern hill forests of Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Hill tracts and Sylhet districts of Bangladesh. In sal forests there are no rattans. Even though two species, C. tenuis and D. jenkinsiana, had been reported from northern parts of the mangrove forests of Sundarbans, at present no rattan is present in the mangroves (Ara, 1997a). C. tenuis occurs along the edge of the littoral forest towards the landside (Alam, 1990).
Only very little scientific work has been done on the rattans of Bangladesh. Consequently, only very little information is available on the silviculture, distribution and abundance (Ara, 1997a,b). Phenological data are available for six species (Ara, 1997a).
5.2 Resource management
Even though small-scale trials of some species are being raised by the Forest Department and other agencies, no commercial rattan cultivation exists, apart from C. tenuis.
5.3 Rattan processing and product development
The Forest Department and small-scale entrepreneurs carry out the collection and processing of NWFPs. Rattan collection is done by local people on payment of royalties to the Forest Department (Patric et al., 1994).
Usually rattans are harvested when money is needed. In the present harvesting systems wastage is high. After harvest the rattans are sold in the village markets. Skilled labour is not available for harvesting that during collection the clumps are damaged affecting the new shoot production.
Rattan is one of the materials of cottage industries and this resource adds considerable amount of revenue to rural households (Mohiuddin et al, 1986). But this natural resource is getting depleted at an alarming rate. Alam (1990) reports that most of the rattan supplies to the industries is smuggled from Assam and Myanmar. Annual average harvest from the forests during 1981-87 was 3,525,500 feet. At present most of the rattan used by the industries is imported. Ara (1997b) reports that cane based industries are being closed due to lack of raw materials. Most of the workers in these industries are women and they work to earn money to meet their basic needs. Hence closing down of these industries will directly affect the socioeconomic condition of the people.
6. SRI LANKA
The island of Sri Lanka has a land area of about 6.5 million hectares. Topographically the country consists of a highland area in the South Central part of the island which rises to about 2500 m with lowland plains surrounding it. The major climatic zones can be recognized based on the rainfall pattern, the wet zone (over 2500 mm/years), intermediate zone (1800-2500 mm/year) and the dry zone (below 1800 mm/year). The natural forests in the wet zone are tropical rain forests particularly fragmented and depleted to 8% of the wet zone area (Tilakaratna, 1997).
Sri Lanka has a total population of 17.4 million and about 74% of the people still live in rural areas. About 30% of the rural population in most of the areas has some form of involvement in collection or utilisation of rattan.
The decline in the natural forest cover in Sri Lanka has accelerated in the past 150 years. The average annual rate of deforestation during the past few decades had been around 2% or 36,000 ha (Bandaratilake, 1998). Nearly all of the natural forests in the country are state owned and cover over 30% of the land. Primarily three institutions have the authority over these natural forest areas, the Forest Department, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC) and the Local administrative bodies. All the forest areas managed by DWLC and some areas managed by the Forest Department have been categorized as protected areas. Other forest areas are categorized as production forests. Rattan is one of the major NWFPs obtained from these forests. Rattans are extracted from these forests under permits issued by the Forest Department.
6.1 Rattan resource
Sri Lanka has only one genus Calamus with 10 species (De Zoysa & Vivekanandan, 1995). Their taxonomic documentation goes back to the early eighteenth century; Calamus rotang was described in P. Herman's Musaeum Zeylanicum in 1717. Thwaites (1864), Beccari (1892, 1908) and Trimen (1898) documented the remaining species.
Rattans exhibit a high degree of endemism. Seven of the ten species are considered to be unique to this country. The other three, C. thwaitesii, C. pseudotenuis and C. rotang are also found in South India. C. rotang is reported from Myanmar also.
Except C. rivalis and C. rotang, the rattans are restricted to the wet zone, especially on the South Western part of the island. They are seen in the mixed-dipterocarp rain forests and lower montane area. C. thwaitesii extends to the semi-evergreen forests of the intermediate zone. C. rotang is the only species found exclusively in the dry lowlands which have an annual rainfall of less than 1000 mm. Very high degree of genetic diversity of rattans is seen in the lowland rain forests (De Zoysa & Vivekanandan, 1994).
Rattan species of the wet and intermediate zones occur mainly in forest habitats. In the dry zone, these species mostly occur in riverine forests but sometimes in the dry zone also. C. rotang and C. rivalis form impenetrable thickets. C. rivalis is also found in sub- mangrove conditions close to the coast. All rattan species have a clustering growth habit.
Phenology is very poorly known. It seems that the robust, high climbing species that reach the canopy and the non-forest species of the lowlands have marked seasonality in flowering and fruiting. The rest of the species appear to flower and fruit sporadically throughout the year. Observations indicate that pollination is by bees (De Zoysa & Vivekanandan, 1994)
Many of the Sri Lanka's protected forests are small in extent and isolated. In general around 50% of the protected areas are less than 1000 ha in size. Absolute conservation of representative areas in the lowland wet zone is necessary in order to arrest the extinction of threatened rattan species, namely C. pachystemonus, C. radiatus and C. ovoideus. Among the ten native rattan species, seven have restricted distribution to lowland rain forests and submontane forests, five are endangered and one species vulnerable. The representation of the lowland rain forests within the protected area system is inadequate. C. pachystemonus is not afforded any protection by the present protected area system.
6.2 Resource management
Ex situ conservation
Rattans are mainly cultivated by the Forest Department. The cultivation by private farmers is only on a very small scale. The Forest Department established an arboretum in 1988. Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, Hakgala and Heneratgoda also have some species. A total of 148 ha of rattans have been planted between 1985-1991 as species trials with the financial help of IDRC.
The main objective of the Forest Department's rattan cultivation is to extend the resource base outside its natural habitat. Large diameter rattans are the ones that are mainly planted. Rattans have been planted as an enrichment species in logged-over natural forests, under-planted in mixed forest plantations or under-planted in pine plantations. Spacing adopted was 6.5x6.5 for enrichment planting, 3x3 m to 5x5 m in mixed plantations, and 2.5x2.5 m for under-planting in pine plantations. A total area of 248 ha of enrichment planting and 146 ha of under planting was done during 1989-94.
De Zoysa & Vivekandan (1995) report that the seeds can be kept alive for up to two years if they are burried about 15 cm deep in moist soil.
Silvicultural techniques have been standardised for Sri Lanka (De Zoysa & Vivekanandan, 1995).
Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy and University of Peradeniya are conducting research in this field.
6.3 Rattan processing and product development
Rattans are harvested under permits issued by the Forest Departments and Divisional Secretaries. Harvest of rattans under the permits issued cover only a minor part of the total quantity harvested. The major part of the supplies from the main rattan producing regions comes from illegal harvests.
According to the survey carried out by IRED (1988), the export earnings from rattan-based products in 1986 were US$ 80,000 and since then exports have been negligible. This trend has been attributed to the poor quality of the products.
Stock accumulation is rare, because the scale of production is too small. This is because of the lack of capital to purchase raw materials in substantial quantities. Therefore the craft workers are dependent on middleman, who buy their goods at a minimum price, while both middleman and the retailer have the advantage of accumulating stocks and dictating prices. Middlemen usually have a profit margin of 10-15%. Local retailers may keep a further 30-90% while the craft centres keep a 10% profit. Due to the shortage of raw materials, bamboo, plastic or cotton materials are replacing rattan.
Rattan craft is a traditional occupation in Sri Lanka and it spreads over 18 of the 24 districts. It is estimated that about 3000 people are directly engaged in rattan industries, and they earn at least a third of the family income through the craft. State is not able to provide jobs for trained craftsmen. Only a few workers are attached to state run craft centres. There is an estimated surplus of about 400 trained people (De Zoysa & Vivekanandan, 1994). The rattan industry also provides significant opportunities for indirect employment in harvesting, transport and supply.
Myanmar with an area of 676,577 square kilometers is rich in culture, traditions and resources. It is endowed with one of the highest forest cover in the Asia-Pacific region. Fifty percent (50%) of its area is covered with forests. The climate is tropical with well-defined seasons.
Rattans are common associates in the deciduous and evergreen forests (Forest Department, 1991). Rattans in Myanmar have high commercial potential. Little has been done to survey the rattan growing areas in Myanmar. The Forest Research Institute, Myanmar has conducted studies on taxonomy, physiology, plantation techniques etc.
7.1 Rattan resource
Six genera and 31 species of rattans are reported from the country. They are Calamus with 23 species, Korthalsia with 3 species, Daemonorops with 1 species, Plectocomia with 2 species, Myrialepis with one species and Plectocomiopsis with one species. The genus Calamus is widespread all over Myanmar.
Figure 6: Rattans growing in degraded forests (Dransfield)
Rattans are widespread in Myanmar both at lower attitudes and in the hills up to 3000 ft in the evergreen forests (Uhtay Aung, 1997). Rainfall varies from 80-120 inches (2032 to 3048 mm). Very few rattans are found in dry areas. The following areas in Myanmar are abundant with rattans:
1. Kachin State.
2. Upper Chinduin Forest Reserves, West Katha Forest Reserves of the Sagaing Division.
3. Momeile Forest Reserves and Shweli River Valley in Shan State.
4. Ternnesserim Division.
An analysis of the situation in all the countries reveals that scarcity of the raw material is a major problem. Hence natural resource development is urgently needed.
Present in situ protection systems are not sufficient to meet the immediate demands for the raw material. Hence cultivation of the commercially important rattans is essential. In the context of rapid depletion of the natural resources, germplasm preservation requires urgent attention. Ecosystem conservation is the best method for genetic conservation for which the area where most of the genetic diversity is concentrated is to be found out. For this, genetic mapping of the various species and varieties of rattans is needed. Methods of ex situ conservation also should be developed.
When compared to Southeast Asian countries, the rattan products of South Asian countries are of low market value. Hence value addition by means of better processing and manufacturing techniques is needed.
The rattan sector is characterized by a variety of stakeholders with different needs and interests such as rattan cultivators, raw material collectors, manufacturers and traders. Hence there is an urgent need for awareness raising on the importance of the rattan sector to decision makers all levels and to examine and modify the national policies covering harvesting, utilization and marketing of the resource.
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