Entrepreneurship and innovation by actors in the market for non-timber forest products (NTFPs) cannot be fully understood without a proper understanding of the position and behaviour of actors in the value chain of NTFPs. This paper places the market for NTFPs in the emerging literature on value chains which has, so far, lacked a detailed analysis of NTFPs. Our analysis reveals that certain key entrepreneurs are a driving force of success throughout several NTFP value chains in both Bolivia and Mexico. Where market information is scarce, e.g. where producers are distant from consumers, key entrepreneurs often govern entire value chains.
We argue that certain entrepreneurs are key to spreading success throughout the value chains of selected NTFPs offsetting potential negative consequences such as exploitation of more upstream actors (e.g. collectors and processors) in the value chains. Typical examples include the shopkeeper/organisation in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, who sources woven palm products from and supports several producers, and the entrepreneur in Mexico who established links between mushroom pickers in rural communities and brokers and consumers in Japan.
Rather than criticising the monopolistic position of individuals, it is important to understand how the activity of key entrepreneurs can be supported in spreading successful commercialisation further and where necessary control negative impacts of their role. Our analysis indicates that policies to support commercialisation of the case study NTFPs would also need to be tailored to each value chain.
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