The name game
One illustrated INBAR publication, Rattan Terminologies, is hoping to define common terms and help promote the development of an often neglected plant.
Forest-based enterprises, including the harvesting, collection, processing and sale of non-timber forest products, constitute a major source of income for millions of rural people, particularly land-poor and landless families, in many parts of the world. Rattan is one particularly strategic non-timber forest product. These scaly-fruited, spiny climbing palms are generally found near water courses in many parts of the tropical and subtropical world, and are prized for their cane: a long, flexible and uniformly thick stem, which can be used to create a number of products.
Rattans—a term derived from the Malay word for ‘rotan’—have long, rope-like stems, with a near uniform thickness along their complete length. Each stem has a diameter of 1 to 5 centimetres, and reaches a length of about 30 metres after ten years of growth. In rare cases, rattan can grow up to 200 metres long. Once harvested, the rattan stems (now ‘cane’) have a wide range of uses in traditional product creation: larger diameter canes are used for making furniture, carpet-beaters and walking sticks, while smaller canes can create baskets, mats, fish traps, tyres, bird cages and coarse wickerwork. Split rattan canes can be used to produce finer wickerwork, such as furniture, as well as casings and cords. Its flexibility and strength make rattan cane an excellent source of cash income for many people living in rural communities.
Because of its usefulness as a source of livelihood, and as a substitute or complement to wood products, rattan cultivation, processing and utilisation constitute a major topic of interest in many parts of the world. According to the World Checklist of Bamboos and Rattans, produced by INBAR and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, there are about 600 species of rattan, most of which occur in the wetlands of tropical and subtropical rainforest ecosystems in Australia, India, Southeast Asia, West Africa and the Pacific. In 2017, international trade of rattan products reached around USD 450 million; the domestic trade in rattan products is likely to be much higher.
Despite its potential to support livelihoods across the world, there remain a number of obstacles to realising rattan’s full potential. These include a better understanding and sustainable management of rattan stands and plantations, more research into rattan silviculture, and the development of technologies which can mechanise rattan harvesting: currently a laborious manual task. INBAR’s Rattan Task Force, made up of experts from around the world, was established in 2017, to help overcome these hurdles, and promote more widespread, sustainable use of this plant.
One particularly pervasive problem is the lack of standardisation around rattan-related terminologies. Different rattan-producing countries often use their own definitions for various aspects of rattan production and consumption, which can create confusion within international trade, and when trying to adhere to international product standards.
In 2018, INBAR’s Rattan Task Force compiled an illustrated manual of the main rattan terminologies. Under the guidance of lead author Dr. Wan Tarmeze Wan Ariffin, a senior researcher at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), and with illustrations provided by FRIM research officer Nik Adlin Nik Mohamed Sukri, the Task Force experts created a list of terms based on an extensive review of the literature, as well as consensus among those involved in rattan value chains around the world. Where possible, accepted definitions of terms used in harvesting and processing were retained; more difficult terms, which had previously been subject to different interpretations, were explicitly defined. Illustrations were added for additional clarification.
The book should serve as a useful hand guide for anyone involved in the rattan sector, as well as for people working to develop new standards for rattan products and processes. The book describes:
- Standard terms used for rattan plants and cane;
- Definitions for rattan processing and products, including primary, secondary and tertiary processing;
- Terms for rattan processing machines, tools and chemicals.
According to Rene Kaam, Manager of the INBAR Rattan Task Force, “This book is the first of the kind to be published. We hope it will meet the needs of rattan traders, students, scientists, and all stakeholders in the rattan industry.”
Find out more about the Rattan Task Force on this page.
Rattan Terminologies can be downloaded from the INBAR online library here.