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Workshop Hue City, Vietnam

Workshop of the DFG Research Project:

“Impact of shocks on vulnerability to poverty:
consequences for the development of emerging Southeast Asian economies”

Date: February 22 – 26, 2009
Location: Hue City, Vietnam

Sponsor: German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 756)
Participants: DFG project members, national partners, international organizations and selected others.

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Background

The workshop was organized by the Research Unit 756 of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft = DFG). Research Unit 756 is a consortium of several German universities as well as universities in Thailand and research institutes in Vietnam. Partners of the consortium in Germany are the Leibniz University Hannover, the Georg-August-University of Goettingen, the Goethe-University of Frankfurt and the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. In Thailand, collaborators are the Kasetsart University, and in Vietnam the Center of Agricultural Policy, and the Center for Economic Planning and Management. The overall purpose of this research project is to advance the concept and the measurement of vulnerability to poverty and to assess the sources of vulnerability through interdisciplinary economic research in Thailand and Vietnam.

The project has started during the 2nd half of 2006. In 2007 and 2008 a survey of some 4400 households in rural areas in six provinces in Thailand Vietnam has been carried out.

 

Purpose of the workshop

The overall purpose of the workshop was to present first results to a wider audience of researchers and development experts. As outlined in the program above the topics cover the fields of concept and measurement of vulnerability, data collection, agriculture, financial institutions, economic geography as well as some crosscutting themes and future research.

1) To take stock of the results achieved by the different research groups Teilprojekte = TP)

2) To present results of the project to a wider audience in academia and development (and the donor)

3) To identify research options for a second phase

4) To undertake preparatory steps for the formulation of the extension proposal

 

Participants

a) Project leaders of DFG Research Unit 756 Post-docs and PhD students involved in the project and those dealing with related topics

b) Country partners in Vietnam and Thailand

c) Policy makers from Vietnam and Thailand

d) Experts of Development Organisations

e) Representatives from DFG

A total number of 63 participants attended the workshop (see list).

Workshop procedere

The duration of the workshop was three and a half days. The workshop started with an informal welcome reception in the evening of February 22, 2009. During the first day of the workshop on February 23, a visit to selected project villages in the province of Hue took place. On the second, third and fourth day results of research projects were presented (see program, p. 28).

The purpose of the field trip on the first day was to introduce some of the locations where the data were collected to the members of the research unit and to the research partners. Not all participants had joined this field trip due to time constraints and other commitments. The official opening of the workshop took place on Tuesday, February 24. Presentations were made by the research project leaders and/or PhD students. Presentations were grouped into themes. Each theme had three to five presentations. For each presentation a time slot of 20 minutes was allocated. This includes the time for short questions of clarification. The presentations of each theme were concluded by discussants (normally two). The discussants were not members of the DFG research unit but other researchers and development experts mainly from Thailand and Vietnam. The discussant received the papers to be presented prior to the start of the workshop.

The discussants identified the issues and raised questions that need further attention. The contribution greatly stimulated the general discussion on the respective themes. Thereafter, a thorough discussion of the papers and the contributions made by the discussant will take place. Each theme session had a chair. The chairs were mostly non-members of the research group. For Vietnamese participants from the relevant provincial organisations simultaneous translations from English to Vietnamese were provided.

The themes as outlined in the program below refer to the topics carried out by the respective subgroups of the research unit. On the last day topics which are cutting across the themes were presented as well as topics that could be introduced in a second project phase. In the afternoon of day 4 members of the DFG research group met to discuss the procedure for the development of the extension proposal of the project.

 

Major results

The value of the project from a scientific and from a development perspective was widely recognized by the participants of partner organisations including policy makers at international, national and provincial level, from the donor and by the external participants. In particular participants recognized that the data collected under this project are valid and provide a rich source of information that allow for answering many questions emerging with the current economic situation. However there was broad agreement among participants that there is a need to continue the panel data collection in order to fully capture the dynamics of poverty and vulnerability and also to reliably measure the reactions of the rural poor to the upcoming global crisis.

International partner organisations stressed the need to more effectively demonstrate the policy implications of the research. The possibility to develop policy briefs of the research findings was mentioned. There is however little encouragement from the donor (DFG) for the research group to engage in these activities as development of policy recommendations is not in the mandate of a DFG research unit. For such outputs other avenues should be taken, perhaps through follow-up projects in cooperation with bilateral or multilateral development organisations.

The discussion of the scientific quality of the papers presented at the workshop provided many valuable comments. These comments are reported in the different themes but the main points are highlighted here:

 

  • There is a need for more comparative studies among the two countries
  • The issue of land and tenure should be addressed in more detail in relation to agricultural production and access to credits
  • Migration is an important topic to be addressed by the group. However the group should go beyond the classic concept of migration as promoted in the World Development Report 2009 as a unidirectional movement from rural to urban areas. Instead migration research should focus on the dynamic nature of migration and capture the possible labour flow back to rural areas especially in relation to the upcoming economic crisis. The project in this regard offers a unique opportunity to develop a new theory of dynamic migration disequilibrium conditions (e.g. shocks which occur in the non farm sector, decision making to return to agriculture and effect on remittances and organisation of farm household systems, production and income).
  • More attention should be given to gender issues to analyse differences in vulnerability
  • The importance of the diversification topic in agriculture was recognized however the studies need to be put on a more sound theoretical basis and consider other variables such as land quality
  • The diversification in agriculture topic should be expanded to conduct comparisons between Vietnam and Thailand and produce a joint work between agriculture and economic geography.
  • In some of the papers econometric issues like endogeneity and self selection need to be addressed
  • The advancement of the vulnerability concept has not yet been effectively communicated by the research groups.
  • There is a need for more discussion and thinking about the need for quantities risk attitude measurements for the household sample. However some of the findings of the study in Ubon /Thailand) is consistent with other research.
  • The role of financial institutions to reduce vulnerability was recognized but in order to establish a clearer picture more analysis is needed.
  • To advance the analysis of data (panel data analysis) from the 1st project phase there is an urgent need to make the 2nd wave data available
  • The research group needs to be more specific on identifying the overall contribution of the empirical part to the economic theory of development. (The group would benefit from the contribution of economic theorists)

List of papers

List of participants