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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.

Key observations

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:



Policies and institutional support:


The Expert Consultation recommended for immediate follow-up

to FAO to:

to INBAR to:

The Expert Consultation recommended that the governments of countries with rattan resources be encouraged:

At the national level to:

In support to actions at the international level to:

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.

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