Using non-timer forest products efficiently and ecologically

Project partner: HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation

Managing natural resources sustainably

Despite resource wealth, people in the highlands of Laos are disproportionately affected by poverty. Most families live exclusively from what they grow and from collecting forest products. But on the one hand, they cannot feed themselves year-round on these yields. On the other hand, the pressure on the forests is increasing massively due to infrastructure projects and the expansion of monocultures. In addition, the level of education is generally low; more than half of the population has never attended school. 

Helvetas' PHOLIN project supports smallholders in using naturally occurring plants and trees in a more sustainable and productive way. In addition to collecting wild plants, the project promotes their targeted cultivation near the village. The smallholders learn the technical skills to market their produce successfully and to manage natural resources sustainably. At the same time, the project enables the producers to effectively represent their concerns to authorities and service providers.

Waldprodukte wie Harz und Gewürze nachhaltig nutzen

In demand as food and medicine

Non-timber forest goods are an important source of livelihood for families as food or for medicinal purposes. Cardamom and resin are particularly central. Although the products are in high demand on the market, there are problems with exports. Obstacles include poor product quality and lack of access to markets. 

Managing forest products sustainably

Forest products can be cultivated sustainably in a targeted manner. Cardamom, for example, needs shade and can therefore be integrated into forests in an environmentally friendly way. Farmer families only need to invest in seedlings. Since cardamom needs neither fertilizer nor pesticides, it can easily be certified organic.

Achieve a supportive environment

The producer families receive training on the cultivation, processing and marketing of their products as well as entrepreneurial and legal knowledge. At the same time, they learn to organize themselves in order to effectively represent their concerns vis-à-vis authorities and service providers and to bring about supportive framework conditions.

The smallholders in the highlands of Laos should be able to secure their incomes in the future through sustainably obtained forest products such as resin and spices (not wood). To this end, they learn the technical, organizational and entrepreneurial skills. By establishing stable value chains, the economy in the region can thus be set up in a fundamentally sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

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Happel Foundation | HELVETAS

⇒ The Happel Foundation is a long-standing partner of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation. The aim of the commitment is to secure the income of small farmers in the highlands of Laos in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way by establishing value chains for naturally occurring non-timer forest products. ⇐

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The Happel Foundation Switzerland is a charitable Swiss foundation based in Lucerne.