Academic team aims to reduce poverty in Vietnam

UBC is leading a broad academic team in a unique program to reduce poverty in Vietnam.

More than 30 UBC faculty, staff and students will work with people from nine Vietnamese and Canadian universities and academic institutions.

"We aim to get local people involved with local officials in finding appropriate solutions to hunger and poverty," says program director Peter Boothroyd, chair of UBC's Centre for Human Settlements.

The Localized Poverty Reduction in Vietnam Program will receive $4.9 million in funding over five years from the Canadian International Development Agency.

UBC's centres for Human Settlements, Southeast Asia Research, and Research in Women's Studies and Gender Relations will play central roles in the program.

Among the ideas UBC will present to local people for their consideration are projects to help them upgrade their own homes and neighborhoods in Vietnamese cities and the introduction of credit schemes to provide loans to small businesses to create employment.

The UBC team and their Canadian and Vietnamese partners will also focus on community involvement in the management of Vietnam's forests and fisheries.

Boothroyd says the work will involve testing participatory planning methods in some of Vietnam's poorest communes. Special attention will be given to the participation of women in policy assessment and project design.

"We hope that by increasing university capacity for teaching effective public involvement methods, we will make a real difference beyond the test communes," says Boothroyd.

The objectives of the program are in line with Vietnam's new policy of hunger eradication and poverty reduction.

The policy calls for planning and policy-making to be more decentralized with the increasing participation of Vietnamese people as well as support for self-help initiatives.

"One thing we know about poverty is that it is a complex and often localized problem," says Boothroyd. "Governments everywhere can benefit by paying attention to local knowledge and by supporting community-driven projects."

Boothroyd says knowledge gained by the poverty program will also contribute to teaching programs at Canadian and Vietnamese universities.

Other Canadian partners include Université Laval and the International Development Research Centre, an Ottawa-based institution which supports research in developing countries.

The World University Service of Canada, an organization that sends volunteer university students overseas to teach English and French, is also taking part.

The Canadians will be working with people from Vietnam's National Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities and five regional universities.