Up-scaling of Pro-poor Rattan and Bamboo Value Chain Development

Across Southeast Asia, rattan and bamboo play an invaluable part in rural people’s livelihoods. In Vietnam, roughly 15 million poor people living in mountainous areas depend on non-timber forest products, with rattan and bamboo among the most important. More than 80 percent of those who work in the bamboo and rattan value chain in Vietnam are women. 

Rattan and bamboo are traditionally used for weaving and making handicrafts and furniture, and Vietnam is a major exporter of finished rattan products. However, the increased demand for these products is leading to unsustainable exploitation and depletion of the forests in which rattan and bamboo grow.

Markets for both rattan and bamboo are monopolised by traders and companies who often take advantage of farmers’ lack of market information and bargaining position. Ethnic minorities, the main rattan and bamboo producers, are particularly disadvantaged by not having large-scale production capacity or adequate processing and storage facilities. They also have few opportunities to expand their economic benefits from producing rattan and bamboo.

Improving skills and reducing poverty

Oxfam seeks to increase the income of ethnic minorities and poor women working in the bamboo and rattan value chains. Our overall goal is to reduce poverty, increase livelihood diversification, and enhance the resilience of ethnic minorities and poor women by ensuring they benefit from their work in the rattan and bamboo value chains.

Since 2013, Oxfam has worked in four districts in western Nghe An province in collaboration with a number of partners, including the Vietnam Rural Industries Research and Development Institute, local government agencies, Duc Phong company, and Vietnamese NGOs.

The Nghe An project aims to create employment for ethnic minorities and poor women and to increase their annual income from the sustainable production and marketing of rattan and bamboo raw materials. Oxfam and partners provide technical assistance to develop rattan nursery gardens, encourage the maintenance of bamboo forest areas, and help to form rattan plantation interest groups, which are trained in rattan plantation and harvesting techniques.

Secondly, Oxfam creates jobs and higher incomes by adding value to rattan and bamboo products. As part of this, the project is helping to set up rattan and bamboo processing units and provides training on how to improve rattan and bamboo processing techniques and handicraft production.

Finally, we advocate for local and national policies that promote pro-poor rattan and bamboo value chain development. Oxfam and partners support farmers and handicraft production groups to sign long-term purchase contracts with buyers and traders, thereby helping to link different market actors.

Achieving higher incomes for rural women

This approach has achieved a number of significant results. In terms of job creation and income improvement, by June 2015 more than 2,200 men and women had increased their average annual income by VND 5.77 million (approximately US $250) through their involvement in improved rattan and bamboo production, harvesting, processing, trading and handicraft production. This has contributed to significantly reducing poverty in the project districts.

Women have actively participated in all project activities, from agricultural production to the management of farmer groups. As a result, more than 60 percent of those who have increased their income are women.

Supportive policies

In addition, there have been encouraging results at the policy level. The provincial People’s Committee has approved a master plan on rattan and bamboo development in the western districts of Nghe An, which will help to further expand the value chains. Local authorities in the four target districts have formulated legal documents and frameworks to guide the sustainable development of rattan and bamboo products, creating favourable conditions for poor men and women, especially ethnic minorities, to further improve their livelihoods.

Oxfam and project partners are establishing a platform of stakeholders engaged in the rattan and bamboo sector, including the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Vietnamese Forestry Academy, the Forest Management and Certification Institute, local NGOs and private businesses. The aim is for these actors to collaborate, share lessons learnt and seek additional resources to ensure that impacts on the rattan and bamboo value chains are sustained.

Building on the success in Nghe An, Oxfam is now developing a new rattan and bamboo project. This initiative will replicate good practices in other provinces and explore additional ways of engaging with the private sector, including promoting compliance with sustainable and responsible production standards.

Details

Project: Up-scaling of pro-poor rattan and bamboo value chain development for women and ethnic minorities

Location: Nghe An province

Time frame: 2013-2016

Funding: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation