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VIU project in Ukraine receives federal funding

Vancouver Island University geography professors are sharing their expertise in computerized mapping with civil servants in the Ukraine to facilitate land reform and spur economic growth in that country.

The federal government announced Monday that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is contributing $780,584 toward the work by faculty in VIU’s Geographic Information Systems program.

The university is also contributing more than $350,000 toward the project, which will see professors developing six courses to deliver to Ukrainian civil servants.

The courses will assist with land reform by setting up a central registry of land, forest and water resources, called a National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

“Clear rules about land ownership will reduce opportunities for corruption and the unauthorized use of resources,” said Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney. “We wish you every success in this endeavour.”

The project is in partnership with Okanagan College and two Ukrainian institutions: the University of Kyiv and the Institute of Geography of the National Academy of Sciences.

Geography professor David Cake said VIU instructors, in partnership with Okanagan College faculty, will write the courses for delivery starting in September 2014 and then teach partners from the Ukrainian institutions to deliver the materials.

He said computerized mapping will help Ukrainian officials inventory and manage land resources at a time when the country is trying to reform its agricultural land tenure system to support a free market economy.

“The technology is available, but it hasn’t necessarily trickled down to the people who need to do the work,” said Cake.

Creating the digital data infrastructure will help civil servants determine where one person’s parcel of land starts and another person’s ends and it will make it harder to corrupt the land sale process or illegally occupy land.

“To sell land to somebody else, you need to know what to sell,” said Michael Govorov, another VIU geography professor.

He said there are currently no good land ownership records and this project will help farmers get on with the business of farming, which will help the country’s economy, as about a quarter of the Ukraine’s exports are agricultural products.

For VIU professors, this project provides an opportunity to expand the institution’s network and work on something interesting that will help people in another country, Cake added.

VIU President Ralph Nilson said the federal funding is a vote of confidence in the university and the quality of work faculty are doing there.

“This is another example … of how this institution steps forward and helps people,” he said.

Through CIDA’s Partners for Development program, the federal government doled out $58.9 million to 15 Canadian institutions for 17 projects to help reduce poverty abroad.

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