Using rattan

Cultivating rattan
Rattans are climbing Calamoid palms occurring in greatest abundance in Southeast Asia and Malasia. They are the source of cane entering world trade as the basis of a furniture industry, are also intensively utilized locally for a wide range of purposes. Of the ca. 600 species, about 25 are highly sought after. Most cane is collected from the wild but with current shortages, efforts to cultivate rattan on a commercial scale have been intensified.
Minor forest products such as rattan and Manila copal have long been an important source of cash income for indigenous forest collectors in Southeast Asia. Rattan is unique among non-timber forest products and can also be profitable when grown on plantations. Fieldwork among smallholder rattan cultivators in Southern Borneo, Indonesia, shows that smallholder rattan cultivation is financially profitable to smallholders and economically profitable to the nation. The financial net present value (NPV) for green and processed canes is Rp 828000 and Rp 946,000; the economic rate of return is about 22% for both green and processed canes. The research suggests, however, that smallholders maintain a poorly diversified portfolio of agricultural activities. Farmers rely heavily upon rattan because of its superior profitability. A number of economic and agronomic constraints however prevent farmers from diversifying out of rattan into other crops.

Rattan plays an important role in the life of a small Semai community in West Malaysia. Of the 24 rattan species occurring in the study area, four are frequently used for binding, house building, basketry, fish traps and snares, and other artifacts. Some species are used for food, medicinal, and ritual purposes. The Semai have a profound knowledge of nature and have a good concept of rattan systematics that comes very close to scientific classification. Demand for rattan for commercial use threatens the rattan populations and has led to heavy depletion of some of the most useful species.

Cultivation of the small diameter rattan canes, [Calamus caesius] and [C. trachycoleus], is now feasible but sylvicultural techniques need refinement, particularly in the manipulation of light regimes by opening of the canopy of support trees, and the problems of efficient harvesting need to be addressed. Unfortunately, large diameter canes have proved to be less promising as sylvicultural subjects, while, at the same time, demand is high and wild stocks are seriously depleted. The potential of small diameter cane as a crop for marginal lands in the humid tropics is great, particularly as a smallholder's crop, but the prospects for cultivation of larger canes are less certain.

Various agricultural strategies have been tried in swidden areas of tropical rainforest. Some have focused on food production, others on cash crops. Certain strategies have disrupted the ecological balance of the rainforest, while others developed with ecological stability in mind, but rarely have food production and cash cropping been coterminous and maintained ecological stability. Rattan in tropical rainforest swidden of southeastern Borneo is an indigenous system of producing both food and a cash crop without ecological disruption.
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger