QUANG NAM — Twenty-six members of ethnic minority communities from Thanh My Town in the central province of Quang Nam finished the first 10-day rattan products making course funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) today.
The course, held in the province's Nam Phuoc Town, is a part of the WWF Sustainable Rattan Project, which has been implemented since 2007.
The project targets that by 2015, at least 50 per cent of rattan processing in Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam is sustainable, leading to environmental improvements, strengthened competitiveness, poverty alleviation and other national economic benefits.
The action focuses on the three neighbouring countries as the Indochina region is rich in rattan resources, with more than 50 species.
This forms the basis for a growing rattan processing industry, particularly in Viet Nam, which has recorded an average increase of more than 30 per cent per year in rattan product exports.
The growing international and domestic market demand for rattan products, combined with uncontrolled and unsustainable harvesting practices, has led to overexploitation of the rattan resources and forest degradation.
The rattan processing industry is falling short of minimum, internationally accepted production standards and market requirements, resulting in environmental pollution, health risks for workers and less competitiveness in the global marketplace.
Poor ethnic minority communities in rural Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia heavily rely on rattan as an income source. Rattan sales account for up to 50 per cent of cash income for many villages.
"I hope to have a stable income from making rattan products when I have free time (from farm work), thanks to the project," said Plon Kiep, 26, from Dzung Village, Thanh My Town.
The WWF, which said six more courses would be held soon, said in a statement that strengthening the villagers' role as rattan pre-processors/traders in the value chain would result in more benefits and better livelihood security for them.
"The specific objective is that by end of the action, at least 40 per cent of all targeted SMEs in the supply chain are actively engaged in cleaner production of rattan products in Viet Nam and at least 15 per cent of targeted processing SMEs are providing sustainable products to European and other markets," the statement said.
This would deliver a "measurable improvement of this sector's environmental performance," it added.
In Viet Nam the rattan sector employs up to 400,000 people.
Although Viet Nam is an important exporter of finished rattan products with 58.5 per cent of its total production going to the EU in 2005 (UN Comtrade database), the rattan sector cannot yet compete with other rattan manufacturing countries such as China, Indonesia and Philippines.
Environmental under-performance was a key reason for this, with wastage going up to 55 per cent, pollution, unsustainable harvesting, low quality as well as unreliable or illegal supply, the WWF noted. — VNS