25 Aug 2022 - News
The women of Kahayan Hilir sub-district villages various weave rattan products but many times struggling to find wider market to sell them. © Lestari Capital
Meet Wina and Marlinie. Like generations before them in Gohong village in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, they are rattan weavers. “I’ve been learning how to weave since I was in third grade,” says Marlinie.
Rattan is a beautiful and versatile material grown in peatland ecosystems, which makes it a ‘paludiculture crop’. In Gohong, it used to be used to make floor mats. Now, under the Social Forestry Business Group (KUPS), six local rattan businesses manufacture everything, from bags and bracelets to hats and shoes. The complex patterns they weave hail from the Dayak, a native group of Kalimantan.
A rattan bracelet sells for 25,000 rupiah (USD 1.7), while a large floormat could be 1 million rupiah (USD 70.5). Thanks to support from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, KUPS has received capital and equipment to help local rattan businesses grow.
It’s a hot day in the wet season when we visit Gohong. Wina and Marlinie regularly wipe the sweat from their brows as they talk and work.
But in the summertime, it’s even hotter. Like many others in Indonesia, the community here remembers the wildfires of 2015 that devastated great swathes of peatland landscapes. Sadly, the sunlight is still often blocked by smoke from forest fires.
The 2015 fires cost Indonesia USD 16.1 billion and took over three years to control. In Gohong and elsewhere, they also cost people their livelihoods, health, and in many cases, their lives.
So, rattan harvesters in Gohong are now also the unofficial fire patrol. It’s a two-way exchange. The Gohong community depend on the peatland for their culture and livelihoods. In turn, the local rattan industry sustains the peatlands.
Wildfires aren’t the only threat to nature and the community in Gohong. The piles of beautiful rattan products surrounding Wina and Marlinie are gathering dust. KUPS businesses survive but struggle to access markets beyond their immediate vicinity. And workers understand that their range of output is limited.
“We need help,” explains Wina. “We need heavy-duty sewing machines (cangklong) to help us sew rattan to leather and small vacuum cleaners to help us take care of the available products.”
“[And] it would be useless to have the machines if we don’t know how to use them or to fix them when they get broken. That’s why we also need trainings,” added Marlinie. “Not only that, we also need investors.”
The Rimba Collective is working with KpSHK, a network of NGOs that support forest management in Indonesia. Together, we are supporting long-term training and technical monitoring in Gohong and helping the community access bigger markets, including Jakarta and international buyers.
Eddy “Oeban” Subahani, Field Project Manager from KpSHK, says, “It’s going to be a step-by-step program, making sure people know what they are doing. At the first stage, we will evaluate existing programs, socialize the new programs, and design plans with the village forest management agency and KUPS.”
“With good long-term programs, mentoring, marketing, and investors, we will be able to preserve the forest and peatland area as well as improve the livelihood of the people in Kahayan Hilir district.”
The Rimba Collective is about building nature positive supply chains, which means supporting local communities and protecting and restoring local landscapes. We’re delighted to be working with KpSHK here in Gohong, as well as in Buntoi, Mentaren I, and Kalawa, to conserve peatlands and support local cultures and livelihoods – which means workers like Wina and Marlinie can realize their business potential.