Agriculture is the main economic activity in Nepal, occupying more than 80 per cent of its workforce. Poverty is widespread and is largely a rural phenomenon. Over 70 per cent of the people earn less than US$2 a day (IFAD, 2007). Conventional approaches to alleviate poverty have met with partial success as they fail to address the real needs of the poor people. This article describes the experience gained by SNV (the Netherlands Development Organization) Nepal in the cardamom sub-sector through the promotion of improved drying techniques and the strengthening of key actors in the cardamom value chain. Initial results show that the use of improved dryers has provided smallholders with an additional income of $117 per hectare as a result of improvement in the quality of dry cardamom and savings in fuelwood, labour and cracking losses of cardamom capsules. These improvements in quality have additionally enabled traders to secure a higher price per tonne for cardamom from Taplejung. Recommendations to improve and sustain the enterprise include: addressing the problem of pests and disease; replacing old planting stock with those tolerant to pests and disease; modifying improved dryers to bring down costs; diversifying markets; implementing an effective marketing strategy; and forming a cardamom development board.