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Collaborative development-oriented research on conservation of rattan biodiversity in Malaysia

Project background
Collaborative arrangement
Future institutional arrangements

Patrick Durand
CIRAD-Foret Regional Representative

The Innoprise Corporation Sdn bhd (ICSB) and CIRAD-Foret are currently carrying out a scientific collaborative programme on the conservation of genetic diversity of rattan in Malaysia. It is interesting to highlight the usefulness and effectiveness of this kind of institutional arrangement.

Project background

Many rattan species are being harvested to meet an increasing world-wide demand. Most rattan is currently collected from natural forests since plantations have not yet been developed successfully either at community or industrial levels. As a result, rattan resources are being depleted from the ever shrinking forest area.

It is necessary, therefore, to undertake actions to assess and conserve the genetic diversity of rattan. The establishment of community-based and industrial plantations seems to be the only way to guarantee the sustainability of rattan resources and should contribute to protecting the diversity of the resources. In-situ actions for genetic conservation are actually being conducted in some protected areas, but are too limited to cover all resources. Furthermore, these areas are usually remote and protection measures are sometimes difficult to implement. ICSB has the appropriate resources for this kind of programme: a largescale plantation, a research and development centre in Luasong and a Joint Biotechnology Laboratory in Tawau.

The programme focuses on 3 commercial species: manau (Calamus manan), saga (C. caesius) and batu (C. subinermis), plus two other species appropriate for Sabah and Sarawak: irit (C. trachycoleus) and sega (C. optimus).

It is organized into three operations:

1. Seed collection from original sources, with careful identification of individual mother plants. Records of provenances, origins and progenies are maintained to analyze the different components of the genetic variability.

2. Establishment of conservation plots, keeping the identified progenies in separate plots for each provenance. All plantations are established in logged-over forests according to an appropriate statistical design for further analysis of within provenance variability for morphological and growth factors.

3. Genetic diversity is assessed by isozyme electrophoresis. This involves the preliminary development of an electrophoretic technique adapted for rattan. This electrophoresis gives reliable results for rattan plants, whatever the origin, age, or sex (important since the reproductive phonology of some rattan species is not yet well known).

Collaborative arrangement

An interesting aspect of this collaborative programme is the synergistic effects of cooperation among the various partners at different stages, offering the following inputs and experience:


- CIRAD's main partner in a broader programme in forest plantations involving forest trees;

- industrial plantations of rattan in natural logged-over forest, which are essential for conservation and plant improvement activities which have been carried out since 1989;

- nursery facilities at the Lausong Forestry Centre;

- Plant Biotech laboratory jointly set-up in Tawau by ICSB and CIRAD-Foret, which developed the electrophoretic analysis for rattan.

FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia):

- established experience in rattan research;

- strong support at the seed collection stage in Peninsula Malaysia (not an easy task considering the collectors must be at the right place at the time of fruiting, with the right administrative authorization and suitable contact with villagers involved in rattan or rattan seed harvesting). In the framework of this collaboration, FIRM received one-third of the seeds collected in Peninsular Malaysia.

Forest Research Center Sandakan (Sabah):

- seed collection;
- genetic analytic studies.

Forest Department of Sarawak:

- identification of progenies of rattan to be collected in Sarawak.

Future institutional arrangements

In the future, this kind of collaboration will be encouraged not only in the evaluation and conservation of genetic diversity of rattans, but also for reproduction penology, tissue culture propagation, plant breeding, harvesting technology, and rattan processing.

A research and development programme will begin next year, sponsored by the European Community, which will include CIRAD-Foret and Kew gardens as European partners, and ICSB, FRIM, FRC and the Sarawak Forest Department as Malaysian partners. Other international institutions will be involved in the joint research effort, with national research and development institutions and the private sector, such as International Plant Genetics Research Institute (IPGRI), which has been entrusted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to deal with Genetic Resources. Further contacts will be made with IPGRI and the International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) in order to merge scientific assets and financial inputs with the concerned partners from the national institutions and private sector, and avoid duplication in research and development programmes.

Another aspect which is to be developed in this collaborative work is the training of researchers and plantation foremen involved in rattan research and in rattan plantations, in order to promote rattan diversity conservation and rattan plantations at the community and industrial levels.

Insect farming offers new economic opportunities for rural communities.

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