Exploring market opportunities for Houaphanh bamboo handicraft and furniture products
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This report is the result of a four month internship period as a cooperation between Utrecht University and The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) in the Lao PDR. The internship is part of the master program International Development Studies. During these four months, data has been gathered for this master thesis. The thesis relates to SNV’s bamboo program and in specific, its activities in Houaphanh province. Houaphanh is one of the poorest provinces of the Lao PDR but rich of natural resources. The bamboo program is meant to help poor Houaphanh villagers diversify and increase their incomes and improve their quality of life. This goal is pursued by initiating bamboo handicraft and furniture producer groups. Currently, new market actors and channels need to be found in order to grow and make sure the activities provide a sustainable income for producers. Therefore, the focus of this thesis is to map current market linkages and marketing activities and to identify potential new linkages and marketing opportunities. In order to do so, interviews have been conducted with members of the eleven Houaphanh producer groups, village representatives, several government bodies, a trader and selected individuals with a related expertise. Besides that, a problem and solution tree are conducted to map the different constraints value chain actors are facing and to find solutions that can solve these constraints. Finally, a market survey is held to identify consumers’ requirements concerning bamboo handicrafts and furniture. This thesis presents the results and an analysis of primary and secondary research activities. The Houaphanh bamboo handicraft and furniture value chain is described in detail. Market requirements regarding the bamboo products are gathered and linked to producers’ capabilities. In combination with other types of data such as interviews with the government and certain selected individuals, statements are made about the development of market linkages and marketing opportunities. Collective action and an origin-based marketing strategy are key concepts discussed in the data analysis and in the recommendations.