Interventions in rural supply chains and sectors have the potential to alleviate poverty and achieve economic development if they are able to achieve sustained growth over the medium to longer term horizon. But how might we identify which sectors offer the best potential for poverty impacts? How might we achieve the goal of scaled impacts across multiple supply chains? This article suggests that sector development opportunities in a liberalized market depend upon three critical factors: 1) outlook, segmentation and scale of demand, 2) local production-side competitiveness to gain and sustain market share, and 3) the nature and distribution of resulting impacts for the poor primarily through demand created for farm products and labour. The paper presents a worked example of the bamboo sector potential in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Opportunities and challenges across the three sub-sectors of industrial bamboo, handicrafts, and bamboos shoots are clarified, and the importance of benchmarking is borne out. The article concludes that on a strategic horizon, these countries can develop bamboo supply chains to compete and gain market share in a growing regional and global market currently dominated by China. This growth, if supported by appropriate policy and intervention, has the potential for scaled benefits to the poor and therefore high returns for donors, development actors and governments investing in poverty reduction.