Four genera of rattan palms, represented by 20 species, occur in West and Central Africa. In common with their Asian relatives, the rattans of Africa form an integral part of subsistence strategies for many rural populations as well as providing the basis of a thriving cottage industry. Although many of the African rattan species are used locally for a multiplicity of purposes, the commercial trade concentrates on the bulk harvest of only a few widespread and relatively common species.
African rattans have long been recognised by donor agencies and national governments as having a potential role to play on the world market as well as a great role within the regional Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) sector of Africa.
As increased interest is being shown in the potential role of high value NTFPs to contribute to conservation and development, rattan is frequently mentioned as a product that could be developed and promoted in a useful way. However, the development of the rattan resource in Africa has until recently, been hindered by a lack of basic knowledge about the exact species used, their ecological requirements and the social context of their utilisation. Hence it has not been possible to design appropriate management strategies that might be implemented to ensure their sustainable, and equitable, exploitation. Recent research has concentrated on the provision of information on the taxonomy, ecology and utilisation of these taxa. Now that this baseline information is available, rattan research in Africa is now concentrating of the development and promotion of the rattan resource from both ecological and socio-economic perspectives.
Sunderland, T.C.H.; Profizi, J.P. (Eds). (2002). New research on African rattans. 352pp. International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).