Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The First Field Guide of Cambodian Rattans Products Launched

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The World Wide Fund for Nature also known as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in collaboration with Forestry Administration and General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MoAFF) have launched the first Filed Guide of the Rattans of Cambodia on March 17th, aiming to contributes an important step towards sustainable rattan management as it describes the diversity, ecology and characters of rattan in Cambodia.

The first Field Guide of the Rattans of Cambodia was written by Mr. Khou Eang Hourt, a Cambodian Senior Botanist, and supported by WWF which is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries in the world.

Men Phimean, General Director of the Forestry Administration in Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, said that this guide book is very important because it will contribute to the sustainable rattan management as well as its development in Cambodia in future.

“Rattan plays an important part in Cambodia’s economy. In rural areas, these climbing palms can account for up to 50 percent of village cash income. The large global rattan market – estimated at US$ 4 billion per year –offers enormous growth potential to the Cambodian rattan sector because of the kingdom’s impressive diversity of rattan species,” he said.

However, he continued to say that Cambodia’s natural rattan resources are severely decreasing due to over harvesting and deforestation.

“This is the first rattan taxonomic study carried out in Cambodia and should serve as a milestone in the Cambodian flora research,” said Seng Teak, WWF Country Director.

Seng Teak said that the research documents more than 20 rattan species across 13 provinces all over Cambodia and identifies five species with the highest market potential. The resulting guidebook provides the common Khmer name (local names) as well as scientific name of each species.

He added that it also supplies detailed information on rattan characteristics including habit, leaf sheath, sheath spines, knee, climbing organ, leaf, cane, inflorescence, and fruits. Detailed distribution maps provide information on where to find each species while descriptions and colour photographs support his field identification. The guide provides a source of key knowledge to anyone involved or interested in sustainable rattan harvest and production.


Michaelle Owen, WWF Cambodia Country Program Manager, said that rattan, a climber from the palm family with more than 600 species and 13 genera identified worldwide, is a valuable Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) available in forests throughout the Greater Mekong region. Its stems are used for a variety of purposes, including food, shelter and furniture.

She said that in Cambodia, a total of 21 species have been identified so far by Mr. Khou Eang Hourt and most of them make a crucial contribution to local livelihood, providing extra income to agricultural activities. However, forest land encroachment and conversion to other land uses as well as over harvesting has put pressure on rattan resources, which are now mainly restricted to protected areas and protected forests.

She stated that rattan is also an import commodity in international trade, and can generate a significant amount of foreign exchange. At present, however, the Cambodian rattan industry cannot compete with other rattan manufacturing countries such as China, Indonesia and Philippines.

“Within this context, WWF have partnered with the European Commission and IKEA to work towards developing a model for sustainable rattan production and commercialization that will sustain forests ecosystems and improve community welfare in the region, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam,” she said.

She emphasized that WWF intervention has focused at different stages of the supply chain from village producer group, to traders and processors and finally to the buyers. The project takes an entrepreneurial approach to conservation by looking for economically beneficial solution to sustainability issues and trying to generate better returns for al parties involved.

She also said that WWF has also been working with national and international buyers to influence the demand for clearer and more sustainable rattan at fairer prices. In doing this they coordinate with the middle-man, rattan processors and traders who buy the raw material, add value through secondary processing and link with the regional and international buyers.

She added that to develop a strong and sustainable rattan industry, WWF has also assisted 11 rattan small-medium enterprises to set up the first rattan associations in Cambodia.

“While we are all familiar with rattan as finished products like chairs or tables, very few people know what these plants look like in the forest or how many species there are in Cambodia,” Khou Eang Hourt, Senior Botanist, commented.

Khou Eang Hourt said that the knowledge about rattan is vital for a sustainable development of the Cambodian rattan industry: Collectors need to identify which rattan-species to harvest; traders need to assess the value of the different species; processors need to select the right rattan species for handicrafts or furniture-production; and buyers are interested in the exact sources of green and clean rattan products.

He added that rattan resource is decreasing due to over-harvesting and loss of forest ecosystem. There is an urgent need to stop this trend and protect rattan and forest biodiversity through sustainable use of rattan resources for economic growth. The publication of the first ‘Field Guide of the Rattans of Cambodia’ is part of a larger programme to establish a sustainable production system for rattan products in Cambodia.

According to WWF Cambodia’s report, since 2006, WWF has been helping local people of Prek Thnoat community in Kampot province apply a community-based model of sustainable rattan resource management taking into account proper technique of harvest, nursery and plantation in natural forest. Processing techniques provided to the community were a strategy to motivate community-run rattan productions to reduce unsustainable export of raw rattan to neighbouring countries. This rattan management model currently covers 4,900 households in Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihea provinces. ///

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