The word ´rattan’ is an anglicized version of the Malayan term´rotan.’ It is the collective name for the climbing members of a big group of palms with scaly fruits .Rattan belongs to the family Palmae. Its leaves and climbing organs are variously covered with thorns or spines, hairs and bristles. The stem of a mature rattan becomes relatively smooth with more or less regularly spaced scars left by the fallen leaves.
Rattans are climbing palms exploited for their flexible stems that form the basis of a significant market for cane and cane products. The thriving international and domestic trade in rattan and rattan products has led to substantial over-exploitation of the wild rattan resource. This exploitation, coupled with the loss of forest cover through logging and subsequent agricultural activities, is threatening the long-term survival of the rattan industry, especially in Ghana.
There are about 600 species belonging to 13 genera of rattan. This group of plants mainly occurs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Only 22 species are found in the lowlands of Tropical Africa.
RATTAN SPECIES IN GHANA
The three rattan species found in Ghana are:
POTENTIAL APPLICATION OF RATTAN
The most important product of rattan palms is cane; this is the rattan stem stripped of its leaf sheaths. This stem is solid, strong and uniform, yet is highly flexible. The canes are used either in whole or round form, especially for furniture frames, or split, peeled or cored for matting and basketry.
Other plant parts of some species of rattan are also utilised and contribute to the indigenous survival strategies of many forest-based communities. However, it is for their cane that rattans are most utilised and rattan canes are used extensively across their range by local communities and play an important role in subsistence strategies for many rural populations.
The range of indigenous uses of rattan canes is vast; from bridges to baskets; from fish traps to furniture; from crossbow strings to yam ties. Despite these many uses, there is a common misconception that all rattans are useful, and therefore all have potential commercial applications. However, whilst there may indeed be substantial spontaneous use for many species it is estimated that only 20% of the known rattan species are of any commercial value with the remaining species not being utilised due to inflexibility and being prone to breakage or possessing other poor mechanical properties, or due to biological rarity.
1. Primary products
The primary rattan products can be generalized as raw or whole canes which may be treated or polished rattan.
2. Secondary products
In general, the secondary rattan-based products are mostly splits, wickers, and cores. The small canes are the ones usually split, the length depends on the market requirements.
3. Finished products
The list of products include furniture items such as chairs, tables, cabinets, and dividers, backpacks, hand fans, mats, canes picture frames, jewel boxes, vanity cases, handbags, cloth hangers, flower bases, and lampshades.
4. Other uses
Rattan fruits and roots are used as traditional medicine. The fruit is a source of colorant for the ceramic and pharmaceutical industries. Small amounts of skin waste are used as filler for car jock or chair. In the Philippines, other uses of rattan include cordage, construction, thatching, broom handles, and walking sticks.
CURRENT APPLICATION IN GHANA
The list of products includes furniture items such as beds, chairs, tables, cabinets, and dividers. Rattan is combined with bamboo to produce furniture and other handicraft products.
STATUS OF NATURAL RATTAN STANDS
Natural stands of rattan are found in high forest zone of Ghana. However, the indiscriminate harvesting without any regulation has caused total destruction of the resource.
CURRENT STATUS OF RATTAN PLANTATIONS
In Ghana, little effort has been made to plant rattan in the ecological zones that it does well. The Subri Industrial Plantation Limited at Daboase in the Western Region has planted 5 hectares of rattan introduced from China. The BRU is now encouraging interested individuals to go into the planting of rattan on a large scale.