Through the Helvetas trail bridge program, Nepalese engineers have become world experts in trail bridge construction. In Burundi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere, trail bridges have been built by local communities and engineers advised by Helvetas engineers from Nepal.
Extensive expertise in building trail bridges has been developed over more than 40 years of experience in Nepal. Many countries have shown their interest to learn from this experience, including Bhutan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mozambique, Tanzania, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia. In response to such requests, Helvetas initiated a South-South Cooperation Unit (SSCU). This has been offering the technical services of Helvetas engineers to other countries since 2008.
SSCU works through pre-defined terms of reference signed with partner countries. The scope of the support varies according to the interest and needs of the country. Services vary from simple reconnaissance trips and trail bridge design, to capacity building of partners, to establishing entire trail bridge programs and providing long term technical assistance.
Currently there are 58 trail bridges in different countries around the world that were built through SSCU support, the majority in Ethiopia. It is not just the bridges themselves that are important. Just as important is the capacity building provided to local engineers, technicians and communities.
SSCU support includes creating new trail bridge designs to respond to local needs. This is well illustrated in Laos, where farmers wanted a bridge strong and wide enough to allow the passage of mechanical cultivators. SSCU engineers accordingly designed and oversaw the construction of two tractorable bridges.
Clients of the SSCU include the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Department for International Development of the British Government (DFID), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).