Sustainable rattan creates new jobs

Here are some testimonials from farmers and small-scale businessmen who earned significant income through sustainable rattan farming:

     Mr. Xiengkeua Sibounheuang            Mr. Linthong Vilaisack                              Mr. Intha                               Mr. Khensy Mitalid


Xiengkeua Sibounheuang, Sopphouane Village

Last year, our village earned an equivalent of thousand dollars in cultivating and selling rattan. It was an important contribution to the households, since most rely to rice farming and other small-scale agriculture for their livelihood, says Xiengkeua Sibounheuang, 60 years old and one of the local leaders for nursery and plantation in Sopphouane village. He has 4 sons and 2 daughters who are now married. 

Mr. Xiengkeua said that since he started working with the rattan project on 2006 he has already received many trainings and seminars on how to prepare the rattan seedlings until planting to harvesting it. From this- selling rattan seeds, seedlings, and shoots, he can earn up to 15 million kip or around USD 1,900 based on his 2014 income. This income, he said, is usually used for him and his wife to buy and pay for their staple needs in their house like food, medicine and electric bills and other expenditures when there is a socio-gathering or event.  A portion of this earning as well is saved by Mr. Xiengkeua for future purposes.

He is a model villager who is able to increase his income from rattan shoot plantation, to rattan seedling production and also in rattan seed collection.

Now, Mr. Xiengkeua already has a rattan plantation of 3 rays (1 ray = 1600m2). Every 3 months, he collects rattan shoot which he sells; this year he earned an income of approximately 1,875 USD from 3 productions- 625 USD from rattan shoots, 125 USD from seeds and 1,125 USD from seedling.




Linthong Vilaisack, Sopphouane Village

Sopphouan is a small village with 400 residents in the South of Laos, near the border of Vietnam. By managing and harvesting rattan in a sustainable way, people in the village have increased their incomes and strengthened solidarity.

"We are very proud that our FSCTM rattan products are being put into sale in the EU market. Our forests have provided better shelter for wildlife and there are a lot of job opportunities to villagers in there", says Mr. Linthong Vilaisack, head of village management group at Sopphouan village.


Mr. Linthong Vilaisack, 50, married and has 5 children, is  the head  officer of the Forest Management Group ofthe village at Khamkeut District, Bolikhamxay Province.

At present, Mr Linthong got an income of a total of approximately 30 million kip which is equivalent to 3,750 USD. This income generation was 2/3 from different kinds NTFP resources such as bamboo shoots, wild mushrooms, Berbeerine, cardamom, wild rattan canes and 1/3 from selling of other agriculture products. One type of mushroom (Het Kordeng) is important NTFP and its price is higher than the other varieties since a kilo of the fresh ones costs up to 70,000 to 100,000 kip (USD 9-12) and 300,000 kip (37.5USD) per kg for dried type. Everyday he can collect 4-5 kg within the months of August - October every year.

To reserve the forest means to make the environment in the villages better by getting cooler temperature and fresher air allow the increase of diversity of wild life, timber and NTFPssaid Mr Linthong.

Referring to the certification of a forest "FSC", Mr. Linthong said that it is very important for the villagers because FSC certified forests can help in the improvement of the forest quality better than the last 10 years by increasing the quality and number not just in timber but also in the diversity of the NTFP. Comparing the situation of the forest now and the past 10 years, he said that forest quality a decade ago before FSC was introduced was badly exploited due to rice plantation and illegal ways of farming. After a forest in Sopphoune was certified FSC, the quality of forest became better and also because the forest is nearby the National Park, the villagers are following important and strict set of rules and regulations of forest management and  to make  people in the village understood that it is also for their protection. Linthong added that he like to keep the forest to have as FSC certificate for a long term positive effect to the forest especially in collecting the NTFP.



Intha, Poungpatao Village

In the past, many go into the forest alone and cut down everything they see. But the case is different now since we already have enough information on how to plant and collect rattan and we already know the usage of new and other plants ", says Mr. Inhta, 46 years old, married and has 6 children residing at Poungpatao Village, Khamkeut District, Bolikhamxay Province.

Poungpatao Village is small village with only 49 Households in total, located near the road number 12 and 22 km far from the town district, around 50 km from Vietnam border and the  other  side  is  next  to  Namtheun National Conservation  area. This village  is an  FSC-certified village and still rich in NTFP especially wild rattan, bamboo, sweet seed palm and others.

He is a model villager for rattan growing and other NTFP planting. His contribution, was to show and demonstrate a dynamic thinking by launching and cultivating of rattan shoot plantation  in 2006  until 2009. He also planted other NTFP species such as bon bark tree as commercial and sustainable NTFP. Last year, his general income for his family from selling domestic animals, rattan shoots, rattan seeds, rattan seedlings, and bong bark trees (Nothalphoebe umbellifiora) is more than 24 million kip equivalent to 3,000 USD.

His Bong Bark plantation is 6 to 7 hectares and a 2-hectare of rattan plantation. Through these, he was able to to buy a big bike for his son, a pickup, a truck and one minivan for family use and for his farm business.

His expectation of his rattan plantation is for the cane production to increase its growth in volume so that it will be a rattan forest in the future and from there he will be able collect the seeds and rattan cane for selling instead of only selling rattan shoots. He also hopes that through this, he will be able to collect more NTFP products.



Khensy Milatid, Thaveng Village, Khamkeut District, Bolikhamxay Province

Mr. Khensy Milatid, age 47, married and has 6 children is the Deputy Head of Thaveng Village and leader of village Handicraft Group at Khamkeut District, Bolikhamxay province. This village is near from the city 6 km away and around 29 km from the Vietnam border. Most of the villagers in this village already have experiences in rattan and bamboo weaving and they an easy access to the market.

Per project, Khensy's family earns an income of approximately USD 2,000 to USD 3,600 from handcraft and rattan seedling production activities.

Last year,  an amount of up to LAK 11,000,000 (USD 1,360) was earned by Mr Khensy from rattan seedling production alone and around USD 750 from rattan and bamboo weaving. The additional income will be used for the education of his children.

Before, he used to get his income mostly from the agriculture production- in the rice, vegetable and crops that he and his family grow but the income for this was too low and insufficient to their daily needs and it was not also stable because of the weather.

Now, he and his wife are working in the field only in the wet season for rice planting and cassava planting in the dry season. During their free time, they weave rattan and bamboo baskets at home and prepares a nursery for rattan seedling production. With these, his income has significant increased enough and sometimes more than enough of what his family needs.

In the future, he really wants to make more production of different types of handicraft products which he will then link to local markets. After he participated at the Vientiane Handicraft Exhibition at ITECC in Vientiane, he gained more fantastic motivation and energy and of course, new orders from markets linked to the exposition.


Rattan and rattan forest

Rattan is a climber (actually a palm) which often are mixed with and mistaken as bamboo, the distinguishing characteristic of rattan from a bamboo is that a rattan is bent or curvy in form which is good for table and chair productions. In total, there are almost 600 different varieties of rattan, of which, 50 are used for furniture production and food (some types are edible). Rattan uses other waxes to "climb up" towards the sunlight and a rattan plant can grow to over a hundred meters long.

About 90 percent of all rattan are sourced from natural forests which means that it reduces the volume of rattan quickly. In order to harvest more rattan in the future the methods and practices used by the farmers/harvesters should be environmentally sustainable.

The FSC-certified rattan forests are managed in such a way to contribute good benefits to both community development and forest conservation. A clear benefit-sharing system has been set up with the consensus of villagers, under which rattan harvesters agree to contribute 17% of their income to community projects and forest management," said Mrs. Bouavanh Phachomphonh, WWF-Laos's Rattan-Bamboo Project Manager.

In total, there are more than one hundred villages in Laos in the work for the sustainable production of rattan. Many villages have also started their own nurseries and orchards.


How the FSC certification helps villagers achieve a sustainable rattan forest

In order to get better produce in a more sustainable way, people in the villages formed their own organizations for the production of wicker. An important step to get started is to secure an FSC certificate.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an independent, international organization that promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests. In Laos, FSC certified the world's first rattan products in 2011. This model is being replicated to other Greater Mekong countries.

As an organization, among other things, we help villages to form village groups and cooperatives to organize training courses. We have also helped local organizations to get in touch with IKEA. The aim is that all production should be environmentally sustainable, that the forest should be protected while the locals get higher incomes ", says Louise Carlsson working on the project at WWF Sweden. 

Since 2006, WWF and IKEA are collaborating for the production of sustainable rattan. Another important part of WWF's work is to influence the authorities and help improve legislation favouring sustainable rattan production. Here, the Lao government has taken an important step by lowering the tax on FSC certified rattan.

Sustainable rattan only has a chance if there is a stable market for it and if the forests where the rattan grows are still standing. With credible forest management, responsible trade and consumer awareness we can ensure that this fascinating natural fiber material has a future, says Tam Le Viet, WWF Greater Mekong Sustainable Rattan Project Manager.

The next step is to take the model to other countries in the Mekong region and to build a certification system and also in bamboo products.

Although there is a gradual increase in terms of the number of rattan suppliers, the current certified rattan suppliers is not sufficient enough to meet the demand of the bigger markets. 

Previously I had trouble getting hold of enough sustainable rattan but the FSC certification has made it possible for me to obtain a more regular supply, something which is also a prerequisite for our customers. says Saykham Phetmanivong, Director of Danlao Rattan Co. Ltd. 


What is the difference between FSC and Non-FSC rattan?

Danlao got a quota for FSC rattan cane in Bolikhamxay Province and Non-FSC rattan cane in Vientiane and Saysomboun Provinces. Every year, Danlao harvests around 60 tons of big diameter rattan canes (more than 2cm in diameter) and 50 tons of small diameter rattan canes (less than 2 cm in diameter).

Saykham quoted that the harvesting of FSC rattan cane from FSC certified area in Bolikhamxay Province, middle part of Laos, is based on the harvesting plan and forest management of the government and the international standards. Saykham says that it is good for his own business because the sustainable harvesting can result to a long term conservation of the forest thus, resulting to long term business for him and long term benefits to the villagers as well as to the Lao gorvernment. The non-FSC rattan harvesting is not based on forest management standards and nobody takes care of the rattan forest and there are no rules for harvesting but instead, everything is quota-based, which may not be sustainable.


Danlao Company

Xaykham Phetmanivong, founder of Danlao Rattan Company

Danlao is one of SMEs in Laos who launched the rattan business in 1993. The company owner is Mr. Xaykham Phetmanivong. From the beginning, Danlao has already exported  huge volumes of raw materials of rattan to neighboring countries and some rattan other materials used in local production and market. The company is based in Nonsavang Village, Viengkham District, Vientiane Province, middle part of Laos.

At present, Danlao is a CoC certified company and plays an important role in the rattan industry by producing rattan core and skin which are sold within the country and others exported to Thailand. In the beginning of 2015, Danlao has signed the partnership contract with Sathupradit Thai's rattan processing company. The processing of rattan materials has to be rattan cores of approximately 40% for local use and local market and 60% to be exported to Thailand.

The main products of Danlao are different sizes of rattan core, furniture, basket items and household-use items. Danlao have a quota for both FSC and non-FSC rattans which are processed in the same place where boiling, cleaning, bending and splitting activities occur.

                 Danlao Co. works closely with local people at FSC<sup>TM</sup> certified villages where the rattan canes are being sourced and also the village handicraft group for basket production exporting to CooP. in Switzerland. 
Danlao Co. works closely with local people at FSC certified villages where the rattan canes are being sourced and also the village handicraft group for basket production exporting to CooP. in Switzerland.


The business plan for the future

In the future, Danlao has a plan to use the FSC rattan cane from FSC certified natural forest area and to work with local people in rattan cane processing to improve the rattan quality, reduce the transportation cost and increase the village's income through rattan boiling, drying, bending, removing of rattan skin, sanding and weaving which is channeled through a village handicraft group. Danlao will be the supplier of the rattan core and skin to the other SMEs in Laos and also to other countries.

Danlao plans to create a fund to produce the rattan seedlings for rattan forest enrichment so that the density of rattan will increase in the natural forest causing a long term positive effect.



Mekong region holds one of the world's most spectacular species of trees, wildlife and other major eco players especially rattan. Here, WWF is working on several projects to protect biodiversity, while ensuring the local people's livelihoods.

The partnership between IKEA and WWF Sustainable Rattan Production started in 2006 and has since developed in several stages. An important aim of developing a sustainable industry for rattan production is to protect biodiversity of natural forests and to create more jobs for people in the Mekong region.

The projects are supported by IKEA, EU, DEG (Germany's Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation) Sida and SDC.


*Original source of this information is from Swedish translated to English. 


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