Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Participatory inventory of rattan: two workshops in Indonesia and Philippines

June 28, 2003

By Mary Stockdale, Benedicto Q. Sánchez, Ade Cahyat, Maria Theresa Brunia and M. Nasir


Inventory (i.e. quantification) of a plant resource is an important first step for planning the resource’s management. Information on the quantity of the resource at a given moment in time, combined with other information such as the resource’s growth and regeneration rates, enables resource managers to estimate a sustainable rate of harvest.

Increasingly, there have been efforts to apply the methods developed for timber inventory to non-timber forest products (NTFPs). However, there is some danger of a ‘timber bias’ influencing the choice of methods. In other words, the less a non-timber plant species resembles a timber species in distribution and size, and the less its product (i.e. its leaves, fruit, bark, etc.) resembles timber, the more likely it is that an inventory expert, coming from a background in timber inventory, will select unsuitable methods for quantifying the resource. Also, unlike for timber species, where forestry professionals are generally responsible for management, it is often local people who, whether officially or by default, manage non-timber species. Thus, methods for the inventory of NTFPs must also involve, to at least some extent, the local people who are the managers of these resources.
At the very least it is necessary for the inventory expert to consult with local communities when planning and conducting an inventory, since local people have much valuable knowledge about the non-timber forest resources that are important to them. Often, however, local communities must plan and conduct the inventory themselves. When the inventory expert works in partnership with local people to plan and conduct an inventory, it can be called a ‘participatory inventory’ (Stockdale and Corbett, 1999).

This article discusses how two peoples’ organisations in Indonesia and Philippines developed methods for participatory inventory of a NTFP called rattan. It describes two workshops, organised and facilitated by local NGOs, that brought these peoples’ organisations together with inventory and mapping experts and other forest stakeholders, in order to develop locally appropriate methods for participatory inventory.

Background to workshops

The NTFP Rattan
Rattan, a climbing palm found in the forests of Southeast Asia and Africa, is familiar to most people in the world as the material used to make furniture, baskets, mats and other items. There are around 650 species of rattan, with wide variation in their growth form, size, ecology and commercial quality (Sunderland and Dransfield, 2002). A significant proportion of the rattan from Indonesian Borneo (or Kalimantan) is cultivated traditionally. Most of the remainder of the world’s rattan comes from wild populations, although a small amount in recent years comes from commercial plantations.

Traditional rattan gardens in Kedang Pahu watershed, Indonesia
In the first case study, an association of rattan farmers and craft makers in the Kedang Pahu watershed of West Kutai region, in the province of East Kalimantan, Indonesia, decided to inventory the rattan in their traditional rattan gardens in order to develop a management plan to support a business programme that will be established in the near future (autumn of 2003). The business programme requires information about the harvesting plans of the rattan farmers, such as who will harvest the rattan, when and how much. One goal of this business programme is to seek certification for the rattan farmers’ traditional rattan gardens. Certification involves the labelling of forest products as coming from well-managed sources. The premise is that consumers will seek out and support these certified products. From the producers’ point of view, certification can help them to sell products and access new markets (Shanley et al., 2002).

The traditional rattan cultivation system has been practiced by generations of indigenous Dayak farmers, and is part of the swidden rice cultivation cycle that has long been central to their livelihoods. Rattan is planted together with rice and grows up in the fallow period between rice harvests, supported by trees of the regenerating secondary forest. These rattan gardens are often left standing for 40 years or more, as once they have been established they can be harvested regularly.

These traditional rattan gardens have a high potential for certification, according to Sunderland and Dransfield (2002). The ecological sustainability of managed agroforestry systems (such as rattan gardens) is more easily monitored than intensively managed natural forest systems. Tracing the chain of custody (from production to consumption) in these agroforestry systems is also more straightforward. For this reason, the local NGO SHK-Kaltim (the East Kalimantan Foundation for Supporting Community-based Forest Management Systems) has begun a pilot project that is aimed at developing and implementing a scheme for certification of traditional rattan gardens in the Kedang Pahu watershed.

Rattan gardens are usually only 0.5-3.0 ha in size, and hundreds of these gardens can be found in one area, with a number of different rattan farmers as owners. For this reason, it has been suggested that certification of rattan gardens should use the ‘group certification model’ (Shanley et al. 2002), where certification is given to a collective group of owners/managers. It is therefore important that there be a legitimate collective management organization and a mutually agreed-upon management system that is practiced by every member of the rattan organisation. In the watershed of the Kedang Pahu River, such an organisation was formed in 2002 with the facilitation and support of SHK. This organization is called P3R (the Rattan Farmers and Craftmakers Association). The mission of P3R is to improve the value of the rattan gardens and the price of rattan products that are available in the Kedang Pahu watershed through promoting sustainable resource management, improving the farmers’ cohesiveness, increasing the capacity of the farmers to improve the quality and productivity of their gardens, improving the efficiency of working costs (on farm), increasing security of land (i.e. garden) tenure, sharing information on markets & regulations, improving access to finance/credit institutions, and promotion and marketing in order to seek responsible business partners, and if possible, certification.

In June, 2002, SHK held the workshop described in this article, in order to assist P3R with the development of suitable methods for the participatory inventory of rattan in the association’s traditional rattan gardens. The purpose of the inventory was to obtain estimates of rattan stem quantity (i.e. total number of stems), population structure (i.e. the number of stems in each age/size class) and total available yield (i.e. amount of commercial stem available for harvest, measured in units of length, weight, etc.). This information, combined with other information such as stem growth and regeneration rates, would contribute to the development of a plan for the sustainable management of rattan. Such a plan is a prerequisite for certification.

Natural rattan stands in the CBFMA of Marcelo and Bagong Silang, Philippines
The second case study involves a peoples’ organisation from the communities of Marcelo and Bagong Silang, in Negros Occidental, Philippines. This organisation was granted a tenurial and usufruct Community Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA), and wanted to conduct an inventory of their most commercially important NTFPs, including rattan, in order to openly utilize and legally sell their finished products in large volumes to urban markets.
Local people that live near forests throughout the Philippines have long harvested and sold NTFPs. However, the forest has increasingly been degraded due to logging activities and agricultural encroachment. There has also been an associated problem of overharvesting of some of the NTFPs.

As a result, the supply of many of these resources has rapidly diminished. The Philippines’ Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been trying to stop forest degradation and obtain some measure of control over forest resource use by handing over the management rights to forest areas to local communities, provided certain conditions for sustainability have been met.

For NTFP management in these areas, the DENR Administrative Order No. 99-35 requires that the resource users should ‘conduct resource inventory (in the harvest areas) as a basis for their resource use plan. The accepted resource use plan shall serve as the permit to utilize the resource’. This legislation gives the CBFMA holders strong motivation to conduct an inventory in order to receive the permit to harvest. This is because legal NTFP harvesting gives local people the opportunity to sell large volumes of finished products in the high-end urban market, in contrast to selling them illegally in small volumes in the low-end markets of nearby villages.

In this project, the CBFMA holder is a people’s organisation called the Bagong Silang-Marcelo Community of Sustainable Farmers (BSMKSM). This organisation was granted the CBFMA in 1996. A local NGO called BIND (Broad Initiatives for Negros Development, Inc.) has implemented a pilot project aimed at supporting BSMKSM to conserve forest resources based on a sustainable NTFP management plan.

BSMKSM and BIND conducted a preliminary forest resource inventory in 1996. However, the design of that inventory was expert-driven and timber-biased, with a focus on measuring the diameter at breast height (dbh) and merchantable height of all trees in the main 20 x 40m plots. NTFPs that were not trees were covered in a very generic fashion; for example, rattan clumps were simply tallied in 10 x 10 m subplots, with no differentiation between species. This inventory was also of a low sampling intensity (the total area covered by plots was 1.4% of the inventory area). Such a sampling intensity is considered insufficient for planning management.

In November, 2002, BIND held the workshop described in this article, in which the purpose was to assist BSMKSM to undertake a participatory inventory of rattan in their CBFMA. The purpose of the inventory, similarly to that of the Indonesian case study, was to obtain estimates of rattan stem quantity, population structure and total available yield. This information, combined with other information such as stem growth and regeneration rates, would contribute to the development of a plan for the sustainable management of rattan.

The workshops

The workshop in Indonesia was held in the town and neighbouring rattan gardens of Damai in Kedang Pahu watershed, West Kutai, on June 9-14, 2002. The workshop in Philippines was held in the community of Marcelo and in the nearby CBFMA forest, in Negros Occidental, on November 24-30, 2002.

In the workshops, roughly the same process was followed for planning and providing initial training in inventory:

1.      Introduction to the main concepts of participatory inventory

2.      Determine the purpose of the inventory

3.      Determine the specific objectives of the inventory, including:

a.              the resource species to be included in the inventory,

b.             the area(s) of forest to be included in the inventory, and

c.             the information to be recorded about the abundance, population structure and total available yield of the resource species as well as about the inventory area(s).

4.      Determine the sampling design

5.      Plan the inventory teams, supplies and equipment

6.      Train the inventory teams in field sessions

7.      Evaluate the methods following the training sessions and modify if needed

8.      Plan follow up activities for completing the inventory and beyond

Lessons learned from workshops

Many useful lessons were learned by all participants in these workshops. The remaining sections of this article give examples of the importance of:

·         including local knowledge,

·         achieving adequate precision and accuracy, and

·         using a participatory process for enabling a NTFP inventory to achieve its intended purpose.

The importance of local knowledge in NTFP inventory
Input from local people greatly improved the suitability of the inventory methods developed during the workshops. In each case study, these people described a considerably complex management system based on specific local conditions that no outsider could anticipate. As a result, the workshop facilitators learned the importance of abandoning preconceived notions and of remaining flexible in order to adapt quickly to local knowledge. Some examples of how local knowledge contributed to the development of the inventory methods are described below.

Determining the species to be included in the inventory
In the Philippines, determining the species to be included in the inventory was not a simple matter. Based on earlier general discussions with villagers, the workshop facilitators thought that 2-3 rattan species existed in the CBFMA. They were thus surprised to learn during workshop discussions that 16 rattan species of commercial importance could be found in the area. Even more revealing was the extent of discussion necessary among villagers to arrive at this list. This was because some species had more than one local name, and some species had to be removed from the list after villagers claimed that they were not to be found within the CBFMA.

Determining the area to be included in the inventory
The choice of inventory area is also often quite complex. In the Philippines, sketch maps produced by the communities of rattan distribution showed that there was considerable variation in the forest cover within the CBFMA area. The CBFMA is located on mountain slopes. In the upper reaches of the CBFMA, where slopes are steeper, the forest cover is more complete, whereas in the more accessible lower reaches the forest cover is heavily degraded by logging. The villagers claimed that rattan are therefore found only in half or even a third of the area, where the forest is least degraded The participants therefore decided that they wanted to include in their inventory only that portion of the CBFMA in which rattans are found.

Determining information to be recorded about rattan stem age classes
Much discussion was needed to decide how to classify rattan stems into age classes in order to examine population structure (i.e. the distribution of stems amongst age classes: this information is needed to predict the yield of future harvests). Rattans, like other palms, continually grow by adding new nodes or leaves at their uppermost shoot, thus the older the stem, the longer it is. This means that age classes can be approximated by size classes relatively straightforwardly. However, for commercial purposes, it is also important to know whether the stem is commercially ‘mature’ (i.e. ready to be harvested) or not. Commercial maturity is determined by the amount of dry, bare stem at the stem’s base. The workshops revealed significant differences between the participants in Indonesia and the Philippines in their ways of defining the commercially ‘immature’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘mature’ stages of rattan stems. This is a reflection of the differing requirements of the local markets, and the range in the characteristics of different rattan species.

Determining information to be recorded about rattan stemless age classes
For the youngest age classes (referred to as the ‘regeneration’ age classes), including the seedlings and stemless juvenile plants, discussions in Indonesia led the participants to decide not to quantify them in the inventory. This was because the rattan farmer, by transplanting nursery-raised seedlings to favourable locations, has a far greater influence on regeneration than natural factors (although there is some natural regeneration). This led the participants to a discussion of what was meant by ‘sustainable management’, since in their case, the sustainability of the resource is dependent upon whether or not the farmers plant more rattan. Thus the issue is more about ensuring a sustainable supply, as without some form of controlled harvest, the most likely scenario, if prices rise as a result of certification, is for farmers to harvest all their available rattan stems at once, and then have very little rattan to offer for the next four years or more.
In the Philippines, the regeneration age classes were included in the inventory. Sustainable management in the case of natural rattan stands is about ensuring that the resource, and not just the supply, can be sustained.

Determining information to be recorded about rattan total available yield
The total available yield of a rattan species is the amount of commercially valuable stems of that species that can be produced upon a full harvest of the inventory area. Decisions about measurement of rattan yield differed greatly between Indonesia and the Philippines, because in Indonesia, the stems are sold by weight and in the Philippines, the stems are sold by length.

Determining the sampling design: whether or not to stratify
In Indonesia, the workshop facilitators initially had very little idea of how many rattan gardens were owned by P3R, and what variation existed amongst these gardens. Their original idea for a sampling design included a plan to stratify the gardens (i.e. divide them into distinct groups) and then select a random sample of gardens from each stratum or group.
In order to decide how to stratify these gardens, a questionnaire was designed by workshop participants to be filled in by the rattan farmers of P3R. The farmers were asked to identify the main factors influencing the total available yield of rattan. The participants noted that these factors included the dominant rattan species in the garden, the garden’s age since planting, and the garden’s harvesting and management system.

After the results of the questionnaire were evaluated, the participants decided that rather than inventory a sample of rattan gardens, it was better to inventory all the rattan gardens owned by P3R. This decision was made for two reasons:

1.     Most farmers had 1-3 gardens each (from 0.5-3.0 ha in size), so it would not be too costly for each farmer to inventory all of them.

2.     The variation amongst these gardens was quite complicated, making it difficult to select a sample of gardens that would accurately represent all of the gardens. The main source of variation was due to the size and timing of harvesting (some farmers tended to have large harvests of the entire garden, some just harvested a little bit each year; some farmers had completed a large harvest in the past year, others had not had a large harvest for 14 years).

The importance of precision and accuracy in NTFP inventory
The role of the inventory and mapping experts was to provide advice and training to the peoples’ organisations on how to achieve sufficient precision and accuracy in their inventories.

The level of precision and accuracy was a hot discussion topic in both workshops. The more precision and accuracy is wanted, the more cost and effort the inventory incurs. Quantification is not part of the culture of the local people in Indonesia and the Philippines. Usually they work with quantification when they have to deal with external systems like the market or the government. Inventory is a model of quantification. Since, inventory is a new concept for local people, it is not always easy to persuade them to do inventory precisely and accurately. In the case of the Philippines, the farmers must do a precise and accurate inventory by law, but in Indonesia, there is no legal obligation for the farmers to do a precise and accurate inventory. In Indonesia, it is predicted that market incentives will persuade the farmers to do an adequate inventory. However, it is still unknown to what extent the price of rattan will be increased by the business programme of SHK-KalTim and P3R (compared to the price offered by conventional traders in the area). Beside an increased price, the programme plans to offer other market incentives such as the rattan being bought in cash and an increased certainty of sale.

The preliminary training sessions in the workshops, and the evaluations following them, revealed some potential problems with achieving these aims, as described below.

Precision: The precision of an estimate is a measure of the level of confidence that one can have in that estimate. Precision is increased by using appropriate sampling designs as well as by increasing the number of plots in the inventory.

Sampling design: The sampling design of an inventory refers to the pattern by which the plots are placed in the inventory area.
In Indonesia, the sampling design selected was one called ‘systematic line plot sampling’. This sampling design can easily be justified for statistical reasons, as it ensures that the plots are distributed evenly across the garden, with equal distances between them. The plots were small and circular, as this was considered most appropriate for the dense and challenging conditions of a rattan garden. The participants discussed a suitable radius for the plots (in order that there would be approximately 10 clumps in the plot). As one species was more densely distributed than the other, they decided to use a 4 m radius for the more densely distributed species, and a 5 m radius for the other species.

In the Philippines, the sampling design chosen was also systematic line plot sampling, as this was the sampling design used in the 1996 forest resource inventory (described previously). The advantages of using this sampling design were firstly that that it was known to be acceptable to the DENR, and secondly that BIND staff members and villagers involved in the previous inventory were already familiar with it and could train the others in its use. The plot size was rectangular, of dimensions 20 m x 40 m. A plot width of 20 m means the enumerators could move up one side of the plot in a 10 m wide sweep and return down the other side. A 10 m width is the maximum desirable for enumerating rattan clumps or other plants of similar size (Stockdale and Corbett, 1999). A 10 m x 10 m subplot, nested in a corner of the plot, was used for enumerating the younger plants. The use of nested subplots for enumerating regeneration is standard in inventory.

Number of plots: In both countries, it was not possible, given the shortness of the workshop, to obtain an estimate of the precision of the inventory, although normally it is advisable to sample enough plots (at least 5) in a preliminary survey in order to get an idea of how many plots would be needed to obtain a desired level of precision. In the absence of this data, the participants in both workshops decided to aim for a 5% sampling intensity, as this is generally perceived to be a suitable sampling intensity for inventories that are conducted for management purposes.

Accuracy: The accuracy of an estimate is the difference between an estimated value (e.g. the estimated quantity of a resource after sampling has taken place) and the true value (e.g. the actual quantity of a resource in the same area).
Some of the inaccuracy observed in the field sessions was from errors caused by poor quality equipment. This led to the participants making recommendations for some standardisation or upgrading of equipment. Some of the inaccuracy was also from human error; this could be addressed by further training. The main causes of inaccuracy are described below.

The demarcation of the plot boundaries: During the plot demarcation training sessions in the Philippines, the end of the 20 x 40 m plot boundary did not always meet the starting point. Sometimes there was as much as 5 m between the beginning and end points. It was felt that mostly the problem lay with the poor quality of compasses used, as well as the lack of clinometers for measuring the angle of the slope (instead of a clinometer, a simple tool made out of a protractor had been used to measure the angle of the slope). Participants recommended purchasing or borrowing better compasses and clinometers for conducting the remainder of the inventory.

Measuring rattan yield: In the Philippines, it was sometimes difficult to make accurate estimates of rattan stem length, even though the enumerators were only estimating length within size classes of 4 m intervals (e.g. 0-3.9 m, 4.0-7.9 m, 8.0-11.9 m, etc). Participants developed ways of improving accuracy. These included holding a 4 m height pole at the base of the stem, and averaging the estimates of several enumerators. Further training was recommended.

In Indonesia, one concern with measuring yield was with the variability inherent in measuring wet weight. This is because rattans begin to dry as soon as they are harvested, making it crucial for them to be measured as soon as possible after harvest, although the farmers often had to take the harvested stems to scales in the nearby village or town. Another concern was that there appeared to be major differences in the quality of the scales used to weigh the rattan. This put into question the rattan farmers’ plans to weigh their own rattan using the scales nearest to hand. One recommendation was for P3R and SHK to conduct a study of the relationship between a stem’s total length and its commercial wet weight. The rattan farmers would then only need to estimate total length of all the mature stems in the plots, and estimate the commercial wet weight of these stems using a conversion equation obtained by this study.

The importance of the participatory process in NTFP inventory
Last but not least, the benefits of using a participatory process in rattan inventory decision-making, planning, training and evaluation cannot be over-emphasised. The different contributions made by the different parties involved in the process were key to the process’s success.
·     Local people. As stated earlier, this process enables the knowledge and skills of the local people to be used to develop more appropriate inventory methods. However, the benefits of the process to the communities extend further than this. A participatory process is essential for local people to gain a full understanding of the inventory and a sense of ownership over it. It is also often good for building cohesion within the community, since it can combine the knowledge and skills of old and young; men and women and in the case of the Philippines, of different ethnic groups within the community.

·      Inventory and mapping experts. This process also requires input from inventory and mapping experts, at least when planning the inventory, to ensure that the results are sufficiently precise and accurate.

·      Other forest stakeholders. It is also important that this process involves those stakeholders for whom the inventory results are intended (such as the DENR representative in the Philippines case study). If people from these groups are involved in planning the inventory it is more likely that the inventory results will be acceptable to them. In the Philippines case study, many decisions were made in order to ensure acceptance of the inventory results by the DENR.

·      Facilitators. To enable the knowledge and skills of these different parties to be combined, there is also a need for good facilitation, especially during the decision-making meetings held at the outset of the process. This was contributed by staff members of the local NGOs, SHK and BIND, and was enhanced by the good relationship that had clearly already been built up between these NGOs and the local people.

To conclude, the process used in this workshop not only produced a locally appropriate method for rattan inventory, but was also successful in enabling a team of people representing the major stakeholders in the area, to work together to develop this method. It is hoped that the relationships established to tackle this relatively simple activity of rattan inventory will enable this team to deal in the future with the more complex negotiations necessary for ensuring the sustainable management of rattan.

Literature cited

Shanley, P., Pierce, A. R., Laird, S. A. and A. Guillen, 2002. Tapping the green market: certification and management of non-timber forest products. Earthscan, London.

Stockdale, M. C. and J. M. S. Corbett, 1999. Participatory inventory: a field manual written with special reference to Indonesia. Tropical Forestry Paper 38, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sunderland, T. C. H. and J. Dransfield, 2002. Rattan (various spp.). In: Tapping the green market: certification and management of non-timber forest products, by Shanley, P., Pierce, A. R., Laird, S. A. and A. Guillen (eds.), Earthscan, London.