Modelling the Factors Influencing the Commercialisation of Paper Mulberry Bark
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) can be an important source of income for rural inhabitants of Laos. One such NTFP, which has been promoted by the government of Laos, is the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera (L) Vent). This study was performed to understand the factors influencing the commercialisation of paper mulberry bark in Oudomxay province (Northern Laos) and to investigate the potential of the paper mulberry tree as a source of steady income.
The perceptions of the stakeholders along the supply chain were analysed and a causal map was built for each stakeholder group: farmers, district traders, exporters, manufacturers, extensionists and consultants. The results of causal mapping were discussed during a multi-stakeholder process (a participatory supply chain analysis). Stakeholder groups discussed and agreed on an action plan to improve the supply of paper mulberry bark. A year later, the same stakeholders met again to reflect upon the progress made and the issues that hindered them to implement the action plan. These results were used to triangulate the results of causal mapping. The main factors hindering the commercialisation of this NTFP are:
- no incentives to cultivation (insecure land tenure; no price incentives);
- poor information distribution (in relation to prices and to quality criteria);
- lack of village marketing group;
- insecurity of exchange contracts (distrust and no legal capacity for enforcement).
Under the current social, economic and political framework, it is unlikely that this NTFP can be a source of cash income, still it is harvested when other options fail. The study shows that none of the three models found in the literature of commercialisation (domestication, institutional and embeddedness) could alone capture all the processes observed for paper mulberry bark. However, the three models are complementary and allowed to situate the empirical evidence. This reinforces the need for a multi-disciplinary approach if the goal is to reach a holistic understanding of empirical data and real-life situations.
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