In the Nam Ha National Protected Area, located in the northern province of Luang Namtha in Lao PDR, community groups have been working hard to grow a local bamboo handicrafts and furniture production industry.
The 222,400-hectare Nam Ha National Protected Area hosts some of the most significant and largest wilderness areas in Lao PDR. The protected area supports a broad suite of biodiversity-rich habitats. As the sole ASEAN Heritage Park in Lao PDR, it is recognised as an area of outstanding biological, as well as cultural, importance. Eight ethnic groups live in and around the park and are highly dependent on its natural resources.
The Biodiversity-Based Products as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection, or the BBP Project, sought to support four pilot villages living along the buffer zone of the Nam Ha National Protected Area in gaining additional livelihood benefits from the local biodiversity resources. These four communities are composed of 251 families and have a total population of 1,297.
Bamboo resources in the area have been found to be sufficient to support the production of furniture and handicrafts, provided that collecting and harvesting are sustainably managed. There are approximately 200,000 hectares of bamboo forests in the entire Luang Namtha province, of which 150 to 180 hectares are in the four selected pilot villages. In these villages, it is estimated that around 350,000 bamboo poles are three years of age, making them ready to be harvested and turned into bamboo products.
Prior to the BBP Project, the local communities mostly harvested bamboo to make baskets and other products for their own households’ use, while some also collected seasonal bamboo shoots to be sold to outside traders. With these limited benefits, there was little motivation to protect the existing bamboo forests, and some have been lost due to slash-and-burn farming as well as destructive bamboo harvesting techniques.
The BBP Project adopts a value chain development approach, which means that support will be provided to address the biggest gaps in each step of the enterprise — from harvesting, processing, and marketing. Under this project, the involved community members were organised into groups and were trained on sustainable harvesting and manufacturing practices. Members of these groups, which include ethnic minorities, learned modern bamboo product designs, as well as bamboo preservation techniques (e.g., boiling and oven drying) without any chemical treatments.
These efforts were done to ensure that the bamboo value chain in the area will be environment-friendly and able to support year-long production. Among the products developed and produced by the groups are bamboo shelves, table sets, mats, and baskets.
Basic technique of drying bamboo Basic technique of boiling bamboo