Central Sulawesi is one of the Indonesian provinces, which around 65% of its land area consists of tremendous tropical rainforest. The extent of the tropical rainforest amounts to 4,394,932 Ha and it holds enormous potential of forest products which includes non timber forest products (NTFPs), with rattan as one of the major NTFPs. The abundant reserve of rattan with diverse varieties and quantities in its region has long made Central Sulawesi one of the biggest center of natural rattan supply in Indonesia, contributing about 60% of the overall national supply.
The great economic potential of natural rattan in the region has long been seized by the local community as income generating commodity whether as a source of fixed income or side income. In Central Sulawesi, rattan harvesting is still treated as a side income generating activity where most of the rattan harvesters are coastal forest community. Most of these coastal forest rattan harvesters do not supply raw rattan in continuous way, since they only consider rattan harvesting as their alternative livelihood. Due to the continuous decline of raw rattan price in the recent years, many of these coastal forest rattan harvesters have stopped looking for rattans and turned into being plantation workers, other agricultural field workers or mining workers.
However, there is still hope for having sustainable raw rattan supply, coming from Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe that live around Donggala Regency, Central Sulawesi. Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe are indigenous tribes of Sulawesi that still practise a way of living as hunter and gatherer and nomad living.
People of Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe have traditionally been rattan harvesters and maintaining their local wisdom in managing rattan in the forest. Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe gather rattans and other forest products such as fruits or hunt the forest animals such as monkey and boar for their foods. They move from one area to another area in a large group of family to hunt animals and to gather forest products.
Rattan harvesting is the main income generating activity for people of these tribes. Their livings rely on rattans. Other than not having much alternatives of livelihoods, they do rattan harvesting as a part of embracing their custom which only allows them to live as gatherers in the forest. Rattan seeking is done daily by Lauje and Tajio people in a group of 10 up to 15 rattan pickers. The locations of rattans are forest areas nearby. The forest area where Lauje tribe has originally been living is actually a forest conservation area, known as Samalili conservation area.
As modernization pushes in and immigrants are coming to Central Sulawesi, Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe have been more exposed to the other ways of livings. They get to know other life from people in villages that surround them. As settlers build villages, Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe are pushed to live deeper in remaining forest area. Most of the Lauje and Tajio people cannot speak Indonesian language.
Through the meetings with other people, Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe have been introduced to the modern institution. They adopt the use of money and involve in trading activities with other people, where they sell their gathered or hunted forest products and get money for the exchange. They use the money to buy kerosene, rice and other farming products. They also start to use cellular phone. Most of them like to use cellular phones with music player. At night, Lauje or Tajio people usually come to the villages nearby to watch television (although they do not understand Indonesia language) and to charge their cellular phones with the price of one thousand Rupiah for one phone the house of rattan collectors. Despite the modern exposures, most of the Lauje and Tajio people do not want to embrace modern school institution or mainstream religions.
Amidst the shifting happen in the life of coastal forest communities and the fluctuation of rattan prices, Lauje tribe and Tajio tribe could be the future backbone of continuous rattan supply in Central Sulawesi.