Cultvation of Rattan[1]

Rattan plantRattans form a valuable forest resource from the rainforest. The main rattan species used is Calamus caesius, known locally as rattan sega. Several other species are also grown, including Calamus trachycoleus, or jahab; Daemonoraps crinita, or pulut merah; and Calamus pinisillatus, or pulut putih.

The young rattan plants are protected in the lading (field) and, when the farmer shifts to a new swidden plot one to two years later, the rattan is left to grow with the secondary forest vegetation to create a kebun ratan, or rattan garden. The average size of such rattan gardens is 1.4 ha and the density of rattan clumps ranges from about 50 per hectare up to 350 per hectare , with a mean of around 170 per hectare (Garcia -Fernandez 2001). Harvesting of C. caesius typically commences 8 to 10 years after planting.

Daemonoraps crin ita and C. pinisilatus mature more quickly. C. caesius, and most of the other cultivated species, have multiple stems and can sustain repeated harvests. Thus, the rattan gardens can be harvested periodically over time . Farmers report that production peaks between 24 and 30 years after planting and begins to decline between age 37 and 43.

Developments in trade and processing

Making Lampit

Making Lampit, Photo: B. Belcher

The rattan stems are cut, cleaned and dried for sale through a network of traders. The main market for the primary cultivated species used to be the lampit (rattan mat) industry in South Kalimantan. Now the furniture and handicrafts industries, primarily located in Java, are important buyers. A substantial portion has also been smuggled to Malaysia (Haury and Saragih 1996, 1997) and on to other countries with large rattan furniture manufacturing industries (especially the Philippines and China).

Village elders report that rattan cultivation gained importance after independence, when rattan prices reached high levels. Rattan became a major economic crop at the end of the 1960 swith the growing motorization of river transportation and an increasing number of traders and exporters. The main driving force were regular increases in rattan prices . At the same time, other sources of income were lost as forest products that had been important, such as resins and gums, became less valuable. The rapid development in Malaysia and Indonesia of hevea rubber plantations in the 1920s and 1930s meant reduced importance for the gums. Resins followed the same path with the development of synthetic substitutes around the time of World War 11. Locally, village elders lay the blame on logging companies, who removed the big resin producing Dipterocarpaceae.


[1]Rattan (Calamus spp.) gardens of Kalimantan: resilience and evolution in a managed non-timber forest product system – Fadjar Pambudh, Brian Betcber, Patrice Levang and Sonya Dewi