What is Rattan?

Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world’s largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands. With over 261 million people, it is the world’s 4th most populous country. It has 34 provinces, of which five have special status. Jakarta, the country’s capital, is the second-most populous urban area in the world. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support a high level of biodiversity. The history of the Indonesian archipelago has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Indonesia consists of hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups. The country has abundant natural resources, like oil and natural gas, tin, copper, and gold, while agriculture mainly produces rice, palm oil, tea, coffee, cacao, medicinal plants, spices, rubber, and of course Rattan.

About 70% of the world’s rattan population exist in Indonesia, distributed among the islands Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Sumatera. Most rattans differ from other palms in having slender stems, having diameters from 2 cm up to 35 cm, with long internodes between the leaves; also, they are not trees but are vine, scrambling through and over other vegetation. Rattans are also superficially similar to willow. Unlike willow, rattan stems are solid, and most species need structural support and cannot stand on their own. Many rattans have spines which act as hooks to aid climbing over other plants. Rattans have been known to grow up to hundreds of meters long. Rattan is robust, flexible and most durable.

In forests where rattan grows, its economic value can help protect forest land. Rattan is much easier to harvest, requires simpler tools and is much easier to transport. It also grows much faster than most tropical wood. This makes it a potential tool in forest maintenance, since it provides a profitable crop that depends on rather than replaces trees. It remains to be seen whether rattan can be as profitable or useful as the alternatives to villagers.


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