News story 3rd Nov 2014

Grant success for Monash economists

A grant from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research for a Monash University research project will assist in improving food security in Lao PDR.

Economist and lead researcher Dr Paulo Santos from University's Centre for Development Economics has received the $1.5million grant over five years for his project on improving food security in the northern uplands of Lao PDR.

Grant success for Monash economists

Dr Santos, and his team of researchers from Monash, Sydney, James Cook universities and the National University of Laos will work closely with a team of local anthropologists, as well as the Lao PDR government.

Despite strong economic growth and reductions in poverty rates during the last decade, the prevalence of food insecurity in Lao PDR remains largely unchanged. This is especially true for the Uplands and in the north of the country.

The lack of a relationship between economic growth and food security is one of the main reasons for this project. Food security is when people have constant access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their needs for a healthy and active life.

Dr Santos said it was unclear what drives food security.

"There also isn't a clear picture of how current policies of promoting commercial agriculture are impacting on traditional food security strategies for small farmers. These unknowns make it difficult to define useful interventions," Dr Santos said.

The project addresses the gaps in knowledge on what drives food security status and what the impacts are of interventions to address food insecurity in the Northern Uplands of Lao PDR.

"We hope to identify the past drivers of food security status (and its dynamics) and current constraints and opportunities in regards to improvements in food security at household level," Dr Santos said.

Co-project leader Dr Anke Leroux from the Department of Economics said the group will take a multi-pronged approach by looking at past interventions.

"By looking at the household level to determine the decision-making process in relation to food and food production we will be able to understand what has worked and what hasn't," Dr Anke Leroux said.

We hope to identify the past drivers of food security status (and its dynamics) and current constraints and opportunities in regards to improvements in food security at household level.

Dr Paulo Santos

Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability

The research team will work in close collaboration with a steering committee which includes representatives of the Lao PDR government and several aid organisations.

"The steering committee will be able to advise us on what is feasible in regards to our proposed interventions," Dr Santos said.

Other members of the Monash research team include Professor Lisa Cameron and Professor Lata Gangadharan.