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Gretchen Hernandez

SFU to build major training network in Latin America

November 14, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

SFU is initiating what it hopes will be an extensive network of economic development training programs throughout Latin America with the creation of its first such program in Bolivia, in partnership with the country’s Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar (USAB).

The new Bolivian Specialization in Community Economic Development program will be financed with a $990,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

It will be based on a proven curriculum developed by SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development (CSCD) for a pilot project in Mexico, which the centre is adapting for Bolivia with an eye to using it in other Latin American countries.

"Bolivia is in an exciting phase in its history," says John Brohman, professor of geography and an associate professor of Latin American studies with the CSCD.

"On the one hand, it faces extreme poverty levels of more than 63 per cent. On the other hand, the country’s indigenous peoples have recognized their potential as a majority population and have elected their first indigenous president.

"The training people will receive through this project will help communities to develop local economies and enterprises that are both equitable and sustainable."

The CSCD’s Bolivian project coordinator, Gretchen Hernandez, says the program’s immediate beneficiaries will be Bolivian women, the poor and indigenous and otherwise marginalized populations who will gain improved access to new jobs, sustainable incomes, resources and markets.

"In addition to La Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, we’ll be working with a network of 27 non-profit organizations," says Hernandez, one of a dozen SFU staff and faculty who have been planning the program for the past two-and-a -half years.

"We’ll be providing training directly to those organizations, as well as people in the municipalities, in six regions around the country."

CSCD director and SFU geography professor Mark Roseland adds, "Our Bolivian partner, USAB, also has campuses in Venezuela and Ecuador. So we’re hoping this is the first step in setting up a continent-wide network of programs and people actually working locally in economic development."

SFU currently has four projects, involving about $12 million in CIDA funding, in China, Bolivia, Southeast Asia and Ghana.

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