Monday, March 23, 2009

WWF Initiates Sustainable Rattan Production Program

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

A new program for sustainable production of rattan in the Greater Mekong region was launched in Cambodia to achieve cleaner and more efficient production. The program will serve as an economic incentive for communities, governments and industries to conserve forests, said Tep Asnarith, Senior Communications Officer of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Asnarith said the project, which includes a partnership with the European Union (EU) and international home-products retailer IKEA, started in early January 2009 and will continue through December 2011. He said the project will focus on small and medium village enterprises in 20 villages in Kampot, Koh Kong and Kampomg Thom provinces.

“We want small and medium rattan enterprises to be engaged in cleaner and more efficient productions with use of environmentally-friendly processing techniques, as the program promotes forests conservation in providing communities, governments and industries an economic incentive and link to a worldwide market for rattan products,” Asnarith said.

Thibault Ledecq, Rattan Program Manager at the WWF’s Greater Mekong Program, said that the goal of the project is by 2010, to have up to 100 villages in Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam will incorporate greener and more sustainable management of rattan production.

“It aims to mitigate negative impacts of rattan production on humans and the local environment, but if we are to succeed all stakeholders in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam must work together transparently,” he said.

The EU finances 80 percent of the program’s 2.4 million-euro – more than US$3 million – budget of, he said, with co-financing from the international home-products retailer IKEA and the German development finance institution DEG.

Global rattan trade is estimated at US$4 billion. Ledecq pointed out that the more than 50 species of rattan in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam form the basis of an extensive rattan-processing industry, with Vietnam alone exporting almost 60 percent of all its finished rattan products to the EU.

Many villages in Cambodia and Laos PDR rely on the rattan trade, which accounts for about 50 percent of their total cash income. Although the industry has proven to be major contributor to poverty alleviation in rural areas, much of the pre-processing poses serious health risks to the workers, and the countries cannot use their current methods to compete in the global market.

“At the moment rattan resources are decreasing because of overexploitation,” Thibault said. “The implementation of sustainable harvesting and cleaner production will provide long-term security to local people. It makes them good stewards and guardians of the forest.”

He estimated that by the end of the project, approximately 40 percent of the targeted small and medium enterprises will be actively engaged in clean and safe manufacture of rattan products, and 15 percent will export sustainable and environmental friendly products to Europe and worldwide markets.

According to Asnarith, over the last three years, the WWF-IKEA Sustainable Rattan Harvesting and Production Project (2006-2009) was implemented in six villages in two countries, Cambodia and Vietnam. This pilot project demonstrated, through a community-based model, that sustainable rattan resource management can go along with sustainable production and marketing.

As an outcome of the project’s first phase, around 800 hectares of forest are under sustainable management and more than 60 households are gaining economic benefits through selling the raw rattan products and handicrafts, Asnarith said. Increased knowledge of rattan and strengthened research capacity at the university level has been reached by producers and makers.

Because of the promising results of the pilot project, the second phase is now being initiated, said Asnarith. The EU will continue to fund the program, with co-financing from IKEA and DEG.

In order to promote the Rattan Production in Cambodia in the future, Asnarith said that WWF will train rattan processors and traders on management and clean production, build the capacity of village organizations, improve the quality of rattan techniques, support the establishment of market and business links along the supply chain and work with relevant stakeholders to support better legislation.

He added that the WWF will also continue to train Cambodian villagers on forest, plantation and nursery management in order to help the community sustain supplies to traders and processors.///




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