Even as Cambodian rattan producers have been looking for an international market, they warn that a lack of forest protection could end their livelihood.
Last month rattan producers brought their baskets, bags and other household items to a trade fair in Cologne, Germany.
Lip Cheang, president of the Rattan Association of Cambodia, said on “Hello VOA” Monday the exhibition had given him an opportunity to understand the preferences of international consumers, their needs and the designs that work for them.
Such a market requires small items for kitchens and bathrooms, he said, which are easy to supply.
“Within the next few years we will ensure our supply to the European market,” Lip Cheang said.
However, callers to “Hello VOA” said they were worried forest degradation and land concessions were threatening the industry.
“This is also a concern shared by conservationists,” said Ou Ratanak, a project manager for the World Wildlife Fund, said as a guest on the show.
The WWF and the rattan association are working with 20 forest communities in the provinces of Kampot, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong, training people to grow the vine and create products from it.
“Rattan products depend totally on the forest,” Ou Ratanak said. “If the forest is lost this means the rattan will be gone.”