Highlights from the DiFF project workshop in Luang Prabang, Laos

The DiFF project (Digital Finance and Farming)  held a workshop in Luang Prabang, Laos from 23 -27 January 2023. The workshop was a critical step for the project team to meet and discuss the project objectives, concepts, research questions and research planning for the next five years. 

Project team visiting farm in Xienglom village, Luang Prabang

Project team visiting farm in Xienglom village, Luang Prabang (Pictures: Rida Akzar)

The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), titled “Building the evidence base on the impacts of mobile financial services for women and men in farming households in Laos and Cambodia (SSS/2020/160)” – Digital Finance and Farming (DiFF). This project brings together economics, anthropology and human geography to study the impacts of mobile finance from different social science perspectives. 

The project aims to develop an evidence base on the economic and social impacts of mobile financial services for women and men in farming households with a particular focus on Laos and Cambodia. The lead commissioned organisation is the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at  Western Sydney University (WSU) and the Centre for Global Food and Resources (CGFAR) at the University of Adelaide (UoA). The project was started in May 2022 with expected completion in May 2027. 

The workshop was attended in person by project team members including Dr. Erin Taylor and Dr. Isaac Lyne (WSU); Dr. Alexandra Peralta and Dr. Rida Akzar (UoA); Prof. Dexanourath Sengeduangdeth, Dr. Salika Onsy, Dr. Daovy Kongmanila, and Mr. Khamtou Kanyavong (National University of Laos); Dr. Spoann Vin, Dr. Thath Rido, and Mr. Vibol San (Royal University of Phnom Penh); ACIAR Research Program Manager, Dr. Todd Sanderson and Mr Isaac Ewald (ACIAR Graduate) also attended the workshop in person. Other project members also joined remotely Prof. Heather Horst and Prof. Katherine Gibson (WSU), Associate Professor Robert Schupp (Michigan State University), and Dr Adam Loch (UoA).  

Some highlights from the workshop: 

Research focus and context 

  • The main focus of the research is the use of mobile financial services by farming households through mobile handsets, particularly mobile phones, and also may include the tablets and laptops. 
  • The research focuses on building evidence of the impacts of mobile financial services on farming households globally and regionally in Laos and Cambodia.  
  • The current state of mobile financial services (digital finance) in Laos and Cambodia is developing with the high use of mobile phones and being highly supported by the governments in both countries with the aims of increasing people’s access to financial services. 
  • The potential of mobile financial services in the agricultural sector is promising. With the dispersed location of farmers, mobile financial services provide alternatives to accessing services easily, for example for payments, credits, and savings. 

Research implementation 

  • The overall five-year project milestone is laying the base of the project in Year 1, conducting desk-based research in Year 2 to inform research methods, designs and instruments for research activities in Years 3 and 4, and disseminating results to key stakeholders in Year 5. 
  • The workshop discussed potential strategies and ways of working given the research will be using qualitative and quantitative methods. 

Beside spending time in the room for discussion, the project team also had the opportunity to visit a local market, Phosy Market in Luang Prabang, a market where the local people go for their fresh produce such as vegetables, fruits, and meats. The idea of visiting the market was to observe market activities, especially the use of mobile money. The project team observed the use of mobile money in the market both by sellers and buyers.

farm in Xienglom village

The project team also had the chance to visit one farm in Xienglom village, Luang Prabang.  The farm’s main product is eggplant which is sold through community markets in Luang Prabang. The team found that the use of mobile money for farming was still limited, however, the farmer uses digital transfer for sending or receiving money from family members outside the village. 

For more info and future updates about the project visit: Digital Finance and Farming (DiFF).

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