Rattan: a key to prosperityWhen the first rays of morning sun blink through old trees in the Truong Son mountain range, Mr. Nguyen Van Ruoc and some villagers in Dong Ram village, Thanh My town, Nam Giang District, Quang Nam enter a 400m2 nursery to care for more than 100.000 rattan seedlings. These trees were provided by WWF’s “Sustainable rattan Project”. Mr. Ruoc and many villagers are members of Rattan Interested Group, which was founded and is managed by the project.
Natural rattan is used to make various traditional handicrafts, which have recently grown in popularity. Rattan trees can earn a remarkable income for local people, especially those living in Thua Thien – Hue and Quang Nam provinces. Village communities in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam rely heavily on the rattan trade, with sales accounting for up to 50 percent of cash income in some rural areas. While Thua Thien – Hue is generously endowed with water rattan trees that are superbly durable and pliable, Quang Nam has emerged as a center for making beautiful rattan – based handicrafts. In the 1980s and ‘90s, rattan products made in these two provinces prevailed across the country and were exported to the Eastern European markets. Since the late ‘90s, rattan products have been exported to China and Malaysia and have recently been seen in European and US markets too. However, old – fashioned deforestation has led to the deterioration of the eco system in tropical forest in which rattan trees grown. Unless something is done, these species face inevitable extinction.
To deal with the situation, in 2009, WWF introduced a new program titled “Setting up a sustainable rattan collecting and manufacturing system in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia”, which as aimed at offering local communities optimal benefits from collecting and processing rattan while still maintaining the biodiversity of tropical forest. The project sites in Vietnam included Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue provinces. “People are very happy. They are provided with seed trees and knowledge of how to care for those trees by agricultural experts from the commune”, said Mr. Ruoc, “I and others locals will try our best to properly maintain the nursery as instructed by the experts. They said that well – cared – for rattan trees will sell at a better price. Beside farming and planting, we can now earn some side income to feed our children.”
Ms. Mong A Khoa in Kan Sam village, Hong Ha commune, A Luoi district, Thua Thien – Hue said: “Previously, my parents and I simply used all of the rattan trees available. Abundant forests allowed us to collect as many trees as possible. However, as the population grew, rattan trees, even baby ones, were all cut down. Many times we came home empty – handed. Now that I’ve been admitted to the Rattan Interested Group, I’ve learned that only large stems are supposed to be cut down. Baby trees should be retained. Doing so helps to preserve rattan resources for our later generations
The project also supported 40 villages in the two provinces to establish and participate in 40 rattan interest groups (RIG) to provide an effective and economical way to preserve and take care of rattan. The RIG of Đong Ram Village, Thach My District, Nam Giang Town, Quang Nam Province now own a 400m¬¬2 rattan nursery garden with more than 100,000 seedlings.
Rattan production and processing companies from Quảng Nam and Thừa Thiên Huế participating in the project were provided with expertise on environmentally-friendly production and sustainable design, and the opportunity to promote their products in international trade fairs such as Life Style, Spoga and Ambiente.
“Since applying cleaner production and improving product design, our company has been able to considerably reduce expenses and become appreciated in both local and international markets,” said Mr. Nguyễn Trường Thiên, Director of Bamboo-Rattan Export Company Au Co. “Consequently the monthly salaries of our employees has been increased from 1 million to 2.5 million. Some highly skilled employees even receive 3.5 million per month.”
A major project milestone was achieved in November 2010 when WWF-Vietnam and organizations such as WinRock and Prosperity campaigned to organize the Rattan and Bamboo Policy Conference chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. As a result, the Prime Minister issued the 11/2011.QĐ-TTg decision on 18th February 2011 in support of developing the rattan industry in Vietnam.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Thừa Thiên Huế and the People’s Committee of A Lưới district have ratified to integrate Rattan and Bamboo into the provincial forestry programme during 2011-2015. Nam Đồng district (Thừa Thiên Huế province) would carry out the pilot forest protection contract between the local community and the district’s Protective Forest Management Board in order to better manage and benefit from rattan. In Nam Giang district (Quang Nam province), the pilot sustainable procedure for sustainable management and harvesting, trading, and transporting of rattan was carried out with support from local agencies and companies.
“This is just the first step to guide the rattan industry toward sustainable development. Besides governmental support, the good news is that companies in Vietnam have also agreed to develop the Vietnamese rattan industry globally. In addition to business contracts with local RIGs, some participating companies are planning to cooperate with and open joint ventures in Laos – the first and only country in the world with 1,200 ha of rattan certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).” Mr. Le Viet Tam, Project Manager said.
In 2012, when the project moves to its second stage, locals in Thua Thien – Hue and Quang Nam provinces will be continually supported to earn stable in comes and ensure the sustainable development of rattan forests. Project planners will found craft villages in line with the Government’s New Rural Areas Development Program among ethnic minority people who have a long tradition of weaving domestic utensils such as baskets. Furthermore, the project will aim to boost trading activities between Rattan Hobby groups and to supply rattan materials for companies that are committed to the development of sustainable rattan practices.