Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Faith in Farmers! Prospects for a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for Rattan Certification

March 6, 2012

CICO Resort in Bogor – a beautiful eco-friendly space that seemed to bring out the best in the presentations and debate that took place on the first day. Stakeholders from all along the value chain were present for this workshop – farmers, traders, ministries of trade and forestry and many others made up the discussion group. The workshop on Rattan Eco-Certification took place in Bogor, Indonesia on the 6th & 7th of March, 2012. It began with Ramadhani from CIFOR providing a background to the Rattan Industry – the history, trends and the legalities involved in trade. Rattan planting began in the 1800s and, for certain species, it is a sort of an in-between crop between wild and cultivation as indigenous farmers are planting it in agroforestry systems.

This workshop was organized through a collaborative effort between the Non-Timber Forest Products – Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP), the Indonesian Organic Alliance (AOI) and the Consortium for Community-based Forest Management Systems (KPSHK). More than 5 million people depend on the rattan industry in Indonesia and hence it is a very important livelihood option. Though there are over 350 species of rattan found in the country (globally, > 600 species), only 6-7 species are traded commercially. Trade has picked up from the 19th century but there have been varying periods when raw rattan trade has been either banned or not. The new export rule which came into force from the 1st of Jan, 2012, completely bans the export of raw and semi-finished rattan products, ostensibly with the reason that the material does not go to China but to the manufacturers. However, what this has immediately done is that with all the demand from countries like India, China, Thailand, etc. is that these countries have started looking at other Asian countries to meet their demand. This has resulted in increased pressure on the forests of neighboring countries. The sad thing is that the local Indonesian industry has not been supported and strengthened enough to expand before the ban has been brought into effect. Till last year, 25-30 million tonnes of raw and semi-finished products were being exported, annually.

A rattan trader, Adrianus Sengkoi, felt that with rattan being such a champion product of this country, they did not need more rules and regulations but rather the encouragement to grow and harvest the crop sustainably. If the demand is not increased, it is very difficult to increase production.

A session on policies highlighted that the National Rattan policies were shared between 3 ministries – Forestry, Trade & Industry with also support from the ministries of foreign affairs and cooperatives. With so many ministries being involved, it is also very difficult to see the harmony in policy making, which is so crucial to this industry.

Rattan prices are severely depressed, said rattan farmer, Yohanis. And the new export ban has not improved the situation. Thus cultivated rattan gardens are being abandoned. As rattan cane is priced so low, there is hardly any incentive to maintain these gardens thus making community forests vulnerable to conversion to other commodities such as rubber and oil palm.

The afternoon sessions on certification provided space for different ways of certifying rattan. Thibault Ledecq from WWF- Laos gave an example of how they had gone through a Forest Stewardship Council process which gave an access to markets in Europe. Many retailers like Carrefour & IKEA are interested in supporting certified rattan that would provide credibility to the products they put on to their shelves. Mathew John of Keystone Foundation, India shared about Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and the progress it has made over the past few years – examples of India and Brazil allowed a debate to take place whether such a system would fit in for a wild+cultivated produce.

Indro from AOI (Organic Alliance Indonesia), presented their efforts in establishing PGS in Indonesia – PAMOR Indonesia (Quality Guarantee through Participative Methods ). It began in Nov 2008 when they wanted to do a pilot in Java. They involved different stakeholders and used the national standard as their basis. One of the speakers also presented the draft NTFP generic standards being developed by LEI, The Indonesian Eco Labelling Institute. NTFP-Task Force (Philippines) representative, Kate Mana-Galido presented the Participatory Resource Monitoring (PRM) system being tested in the Philippines. She shared the criteria and indicators being tested for rattan in the Philippines which could provide inputs into the standards for rattan certification.

The next day saw different groups looking at various issues of Rattan –

– the market for eco-certified rattan products and policy concerns
– farmers, and rattan forest management
– certification

The afternoon session had many of the participants agreeing that PGS seemed a logical and simple system to get communities together to revive an interest and in turn, build the market. There were concerns about its acceptability nationally and internationally, but this would not stop the groups from exploring this scheme nonetheless as further down the line, the PGS scheme may receive more recognition.

The workshop ended with the participants forming a new movement called Rotan Lestari Indonesia or Sustainable Rattan Indonesia. Different organizations were tasked to take on different priority activities which ranged from speaking to government bodies on trade policies, market studies on eco-certified rattan and the development of the standards and scheme for eco-certified rattan. NTFP-EP has been asked to perform secretariat functions for the group.

Through this endeavor, Rotan Lestari Indonesia, hopes to bring a lost glory back to rattan farmers and collectors in Indonesia so they can prove the sustainability of their forest management systems, get recognized for it, and access new markets!