Center for Development and Cooperation CDC

We make use of our competencies and technical expertise for capacity development in the fields of wood and construction in emerging and developing countries. Thereby we strengthen the capacities of individuals, organisations and communities from education, research and economy and contribute to sustainable development.

The Center for Development and Cooperation CDC is specialised in the cooperation with emerging and developing countries in the areas of wood and construction. Thanks to our extended experience in international cooperation, our closeness to the private sector and our tight links with the teaching and research divisions of the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we rely on state of the art knowledge and an extended pool of experts. Through our projects, we contribute to the advancement of emerging and developing countries while strengthening Switzerland’s excellence in knowledge and expertise through mutual learning.

Our competencies
The combination of expertise in wood processing and construction, together with approaches and capacities relevant for development cooperation allows us to develop, in close collaboration with our local partners, solutions to the challenges of emerging and developing countries. Thanks to our focus on applied solutions, we make concrete contributions to social and economic development. In all our work we are guided by the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations as well as the post-2015 Development Agenda.

Access to information
Knowledge and the ability to use it, is, in our view, the most prestigious capital of human beings and the basis for sustainable development. In an ever-more global world, researchers, teachers and students must be able to create and exchange knowledge and skills in an international, multidisciplinary context. In turn, qualified and well-informed human beings are the foundation for successful enterprises and well-functioning societies.

Our team
Our team has excellent professional and methodological know-how and outstanding social and management skills. We are used to working in intercultural contexts and are proficient in German, French, English, Russian and Spanish. On behalf of government agencies, development institutions, non-governmental organisations, foundations as well as the private sector, we plan, implement and support projects and advise our partners in areas related to our core competencies. In emerging and developing countries, we cooperate with government agencies, institutions of higher education, professional and technical schools, research institutions, enterprises, associations as well as non-governmental organisations.

We consider capacity development as an ongoing process that enables humans to formulate relevant questions, to mobilise resources and to develop adequate solutions, which then are conveyed and applied in context. Our work is focused on the needs of people and the challenges encountered by the wood and construction sector in emerging and developing countries. Together with our partners, we use applied research and development activities to search for practical solutions that are transferred to the private sector and communities through knowledge and technology transfer and professional education and training.

Applied research and development
In close collaboration with scientists in our partner countries, we conduct research and develop adequate solutions that are fitting the needs of our beneficiaries and clients. As such, we explore the use of tropical wood species, develop new materials from renewable, local resources, design and plan – under consideration of the prevailing social, ecological, and economic conditions – affordable housing, or design timber bridges that are easily assembled and replicated.

Knowledge and technology transfer
We offer our services in form of consultancies, studies, expert reviews and exchanges. We assist for instance research centers in the development and accreditation of testing laboratories or advice export promotion agencies in the wood sector. We exchange research insights and technological developments with our partners. With affiliated partner institutions in emerging and developing countries, we promote the professional and intercultural exchange and organise internships, international conferences and training opportunities. In emerging and developing countries, we value the close collaboration with the private sector and the society to promote the immediate practical application of the existing and the newly created knowledge.

Vocational and professional education and training
We promote vocational and professional education and training at all levels: from on-the-job skills training, to apprenticeship schemes and technical education at higher education institutions and universities. As such, we support the creation and advancement of vocational education systems through technical assistance to decision makers. For local experts in partner countries, we offer an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) with a focus on education management in the timber economy. In cooperation with educational institutions in emerging and developing countries, we develop concepts for basic and continuous training programs, introduce new teaching methods, define the necessary infrastructure, and develop teachers’ skills through methodological-didactic and technical courses. In the spirit of the Swiss dual track vocational education system, we encourage the cooperation between professional education and the private sector to create an applied, demand-oriented educational experience.

Private sector development
In collaboration with small and medium sized enterprises, we develop solutions for commercially viable products and services and promote development along the value chains of the wood and construction sector. To this end, we analyze industries and value chains, support product and technology development, and streamline production processes. We advise enterprises on management and marketing topics and support membership associations in defining and executing their tasks. In private sector development, we focus on improving the profitability of the enterprises while minimising their environmental footprint as well as creating as many inclusive long-term employment opportunities as possible.

Vocational training for strenghtening the wood industry in Gabon
More than 80% of the territory of the central African state of Gabon is covered by tropical rain forest. Within a framework of an ambitious plan, the country aims to sustainably develop forest exploitation and its national wood industry in order to constantly expand the value-added chain. Strengthening vocational training in the wood industry sector is one of the key issues for a successful implementation. The Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH contributes to this challenge with several actions in the field of vocational training both in Gabon and Switzerland.
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Executive Master of Business Administration Gestion de la formation professionnelle dans l’économie du bois (EMBA BFH TEM), Gabon
The Swiss dual track educational system is internationally known for its well-functioning, institutionalised cooperation with the private sector and the quality of its outcomes. The Central African Republic of Gabon decided to use the Swiss model as an inspiration for the reform of their own vocational and professional education schemes, starting with the wood processing industry as a pilot. They mandated the Bern University of Applied Sciences with the training of  Gabonese teachers in a tailor made Executive Master of Business.
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The “Sprungbrett” project. An international exchange and career platform for excellent Bachelor and Master students in the field of forest- and woodscience from Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia
Once a year, four universities and universities for applied sciences unite their best graduates in the field of forest- and woodscience at the international conference “Sprungbrett”. Sprungbrett, figuratively meaning “stepping stone”, gives them the opportunity to present their scientific work to an international audience of scientists and practitioners. Besides this key action, the students use the conference as an exchange and career platform.
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Market-oriented Vocational and Professional Education and Training, Gabon
Over 80% of the area of the Republic of Gabon in coastal Africa is covered by tropical forests. Until the export ban of roundwood in 2010 the country’s main wood products were logs. Now, the country is diversifying its economy away from the dominant oil industry by developing strategic, «green» industry sectors. In line with this strategy, Gabon’s forest shall be used sustainably and the timber shall be processed domestically. Thus, an increase of
the value added in the gabonese wood processing sector through the development of the domestic wood industry is being pursued. Special focus is given to strengthening professional education and training at all levels. Given today’s rapidly changing technology, an improved, market-oriented professional education system contributes to the reduction of unemployment, especially for the youth, and supports entrepreneurial initiative. The Center for Development and Cooperation CDC supports Gabon since 2011 and advises the ministry of education on the introduction of a dual track professional education system and the development of market oriented educational programmes..
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Leadership and Skills Development Project, Bosnia-Herzegovina
The existing skills-mismatch between education and industry needs in the furniture and wood processing sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina is putting a severe burden on companies. The Leadership and Skills Development Project intends to improve this situation through the following two interventions: A) the Leadership and Skills Development Training LSDT for middle management as well as trainers/teachers; B) the introduction of new approaches for a sustainable interaction between the related governmental bodies, the training providers and selected technical industries based on the Swiss experience.
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Capacity Development at a Technical School, Ghana
Since 2005, the Arthur Waser Trust AWS supports the St. Paul Technical School financially to further develop the vocational offerings and to create new infrastructure. Since 2008, the Center for Development and Cooperation CDC accompanies the St. Paul Technical School on behalf of the Arthur Waser Trust, supports the planning and execution of operational activities and is responsible for the project management of the partnership.
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Wood Value Chain, Ghana
For some years now, Ghana is making efforts to manage its forests and wood products industry sustainably. One measure is to increase exports of value added wood products, thereby retaining more value and employment in the country. However, this requires the compliance with demanding quality standards, with which currently only a selected few Ghanaian wood products enterprises comply. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the United Nation Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) support Ghana with a project for the improvement of quality called "Trade Capacity Building" project and have asked the Center for Development and Cooperation CDC to create a study on Ghana’s wood value chain.
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Testing Laboratory for Wood Products and Furniture, Ghana
After decades of uncontrolled harvest with associated losses of forest area, Ghana nowadays works on introducing sustainable practices in forestry and in the wood products industry. At the center of this project is the creation of an accredited testing laboratory for wood products and furniture at the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana FORIG as well as the implementation of a national, technical commission for the development of standards and norms.
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Trade promotion of wood products from emerging and developing countries
On behalf of the Swiss Federal Government, Switzerland Global Enterprise supports the importation of wood products from emerging and developing countries. To this end, small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in countries like Serbia, the Ukraine, or Indonesia, which are capable of exporting their products, are brought in contact with potential importers from Switzerland and the European Union. To support the establishment of contacts between trade partners and to help exporting SME to meet the requirements of the target markets, targeted support in the form of consultations, fair attendance, training, or B2B meetings is provided. We advise Switzerland Global Enterprise in the selection of enterprises and provide support regarding exportation and technical issues.
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Cocoboards – An affordable building material made of coconut husk and natural binding agents
The Philippines have an estimated deficit of several millions of housing units affecting especially low-income groups. In order to facilitate affordable housing, low cost and easy available building materials are needed. In this context, a project from the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH and various international partner institutions analyses the potential of fibres from coconut husk – the annual 5 billion tons of residues of the Philippine coconut industry – as a basis for manufacturing innovative fibreboards.
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Research on lesser-used timber species in Ghana
Only 70 of roughly 680 Ghanaian timber species are commercially used. The other, lesser-known species are seldomly used and do not access markets, because their properties are not known or have never been scientifically tested. In a joint research programme, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology KNUST the Center for Development and Cooperation CDC assessed the technical properties of ten of these wood species.
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Wooden pedestrian bridges in Ghana
Wooden bridges have the advantage of being easily constructed when accounting for some basic constriction rules. In a joint programme, a research institute, a university and the Center for Development and Cooperation CDC put into practice wooden bridge projects to increase mobility for pedestrians.
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Affordable building materials from recycled agricultural waste, Nigeria
Nigerian housing constructions are generally of low quality while being still quite expensive. In this context, the objective of the project was to develop new construction materials using locally available resources, such as corn cobs, rice husks and groundnut shells. Apart from the economic benefits of affordable housing and the job creation, the new materials replacing cement based products would also be ecologically sounder including a smaller carbon footprint.
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Medical wards for improved health care in Haiti
The Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Haiti is one of the most important hospitals of the country and offers basic medical care. As part of its reorganization, HAS decided to make conceptual and constructive changes to assure efficient medical care for the region. For this purpose, HAS obtained support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and other organizations. The Center for Development and Cooperation (CDC) was asked to analyze HAS’s infrastructural needs and to plan and execute the improvements.
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Markus Schär
Head of CDC
Phone +41 32 344 17 44
E-Mail markus.schaer(at)