This case study focuses on sustainable harvesting regimes for bitter bamboo shoots and wild cardamom in one village in the northern mountainous province of Oudomxay in Lao PDR. Between 1996, when IUCN first initiated its Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) project in Nam Pheng village, and 2002, considerable advancement has been made in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. Poverty rates have reduced by about 50 percent; food security has been attained; child mortality of children under 5 was eliminated; school enrolment doubled (over half of whom are girls); and domestic savings increased. The village acquired new infrastructure and new services, while villagers' range of expenditures widened, improving quality of life and productivity. Although there were many different factors at play that led to these achievements, improved NTFP management and marketing clearly played a key role, as illustrated by their predominant position in households' economies and the villagers' own testimonies. Currently, collection of bitter bamboo, cardamom and other NTFPs continues to be a main source of income for the majority of households in Nam Pheng.
The case study showed that sustainable NTFP harvesting regimes can play a key role in reducing poverty and sustaining local livelihoods, while providing villagers with enduring incentives and adequate capacities to manage their forests. The achievements were also remarkable for their ability to foster equitable distribution of benefits among the villagers, their capacity to reach the poorest households, and the interest that they raised about sustainable NTFP use among development and conservation organisations.