Higher Education Conservation Activity (HECA) in the Republic of Liberia

February 17, 2023
/ /
in Blog



For further information:
Please contact Cynthia L. Blandford
President & Board Chair UCL Consultant


UCL Higher Education for Conservation Activity Liberia Press Release & iF Magazine


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded the University of Georgia approximately $5 million for the implementation of a program entitled Higher Education Conservation Activity (HECA) in the Republic of Liberia. The timing of the project comes at a tipping point for Liberia’s forests which account for roughly half of the remaining rainforest in West Africa. Over many years, forests have been degraded by unsustainable forestry practices, land conversion, and other pressures.

The Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) grant aims to strengthen forest management and conservation in Liberia through education, training, and technical assistance. UCL in collaboration with Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, the University of Liberia, and the Forestry Training Institute in Liberia, the team will establish a Center of Excellence in Forestry, Biodiversity, Conservation, and Green Enterprise Development (“the FBC Center”). UGA units participating in Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) include the School of Public and International Affairs, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Odum School of Ecology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Center for Integrative Conservation Research, and the Office of Global Engagement.

“The United States Agency for International Development (USAD) is among a comparatively small group of bilateral donors that recognize how vital forest resources are for Liberia’s present and future,” said Matthew Auer, Arch Professor and Dean of the UGA School of Public and International Affairs and Principal Investigator of the Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) project. “This project’s contribution will be in areas we know well: curriculum development, capacity-building, and social inclusion.”

The FBC center will oversee the development of a national forestry, biodiversity, and conservation curriculum that aligns with global standards for sustainable forest management. In addition, it will develop and deliver a multidimensional soft-skills co-curriculum to promote professional development of forest sector employees, including in areas like organizational leadership and team management. As a vital part of the program’s mission, the team will design a social inclusion strategy to empower women and young people in the Liberian forestry sector. This strategy will also benefit people with disabilities, crisis- and conflict-affected individuals, first-generation post-secondary students, people from minority religious communities, and rural, forest-dwelling, and forest-dependent people.

“Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) is built on the premise that sustainable development must be inclusive development,” said Layli Maparyan, the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to advance environmental and social equality goals at the same time, in creative and synergistic ways.” These activities collectively strive to create a thriving forestry workforce with the knowledge to conserve Liberia natural resources while making significant advances in social inclusion. The higher education partnerships enabled by the new Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) program will create lasting linkages between Liberian higher education institutions and HBCU, liberal arts, and land grant universities in the United States.

“I am so excited that our team has played a significant role in securing this grant in support of Liberia’s forestry, conservation, biodiversity and green enterprise initiatives,” states Cynthia L. Blandford, President, and Board Chair of the University Consortium of Liberia (UCL) and Honorary Consul for the Republic of Liberia to the State of Georgia. “I am confident the Center of Excellence will be a model for the region. Many thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Liberia, for their faith and trust in the UCL partners in awarding this significant grant to help train and develop the workforce of tomorrow in Liberia.”


Check out our January-February Issue of iF Magazine Atlanta! Enjoy the read by clicking this link





Read More

International Focus (iF) Magazine Atlanta Press Release

January 26, 2022
/ /
in Blog

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Inaugural Edition of the International Focus (iF) Magazine Atlanta. The major benefit of this new print magazine is its global focus on the Diplomatic Corp & Trade Offices, International Businesses and NGOs. For more information, please contact Cynthia L. Blandford, Publisher & CFO International Focus (iF) Magazine (Atlanta)

PRESS RELEASE:                                                       


The International Focus (iF) Magazine will be celebrating the rollout of the magazine in Atlanta, Georgia, with a reception in early February 2022 as a new voice working to help increase Atlanta’s visibility as a true global city with international reach and promise. The private event will be held at the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (MAC) by invitation only.

“I would not have imagined that the COVID-19 virus would have allowed the sprouting of innovative ideas, unexpected friendships and new business ventures that seemed unimaginable in light of a pandemic that wreaked havoc all over the world.” As God would have it, it did, stated Cynthia L. Blandford, the new Publisher, and CFO of the International Focus (iF) Magazine in Atlanta, Georgia. iF Magazine was born out of Houston, Texas in 2016, under the visionary leadership of Mr. Val Thompson, CEO and Publisher and expanded into the Atlanta market in January of this year.

Blandford notes that in April 2021, Mr. Val Thompson called to request an interview to write about her journey to become the first African-American female Honorary Consul in Liberia’s 175-year history. He flew to Atlanta, Georgia, with a photographer and she notes with pleasure that “it was an honor to be placed on the front cover of the June-July 2021 iF Magazine and to share a first blush of my memoires.”

Publisher Blandford stated that “I was impressed with Val’s understanding of the power of diplomacy and that of the Diplomatic Corps, and we both understood how powerful cities like Atlanta could help promote international trade and development and become a center for global commerce at a much higher-level.” As Honorary Consul Blandford found herself in parallel with his vision to highlight the work and stories of the international community and that of her peers in the Diplomatic Corps, in late 2021, accepted Thompson’s offer to be the Publisher and CFO of iF in Atlanta.

So, as it seems, Blandford is now a Publisher and a Diplomat, and she looks forward to interviewing members of the Atlanta Diplomatic Corp, international businesses, and partners where information and insights can be shared. “We are all about promoting the great City of Atlanta where the City of Atlanta is also home to more than 70 consular and trade offices, 40 bi-national chambers of commerce and more than 2,700 international businesses and where we also have the most efficient and busiest airport in the world with ATL!”

iF Magazines Publisher and CEO Mr. Val Thompson, located in Houston, Texas, had his sights on Atlanta a few years ago as a part of iF’s expansion strategy into new markets as Atlanta was quickly being recognized as a go-to destination.

Blandford recognized that the iF operational structure provided an opportunity to have a digital magazine that has over 40,000 in their network reach, not including their social media friends and family. Blandford was also pleased with the fact that iF publishes professionally bound hard copies of the magazine that is distributed to strategic distribution sites throughout Houston. With a view towards Atlanta, Publisher Blandford also looks forward to sharing the iF Magazine hard copies with the City of Atlanta’s Mayor’s

Office, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta Air Lines, Chambers of Commerce, international businesses and of course, to members of the Atlanta Diplomatic Corps. Blandford noted that “iF Magazine has a special niche that no other international magazine currently has in Atlanta and that is a beautifully printed international magazine that is published by a diplomat.” She and Val both believe that “print is here to stay”!

For more information on iF Magazine, please go to for the latest edition of both the Houston and Atlanta Magazine. If you are interested in advertising with iF Atlanta, please also contact the Publisher at 678-612-2192 for a Media Kit Atlanta or email her at

Read More


November 21, 2021
/ /
in Blog

Liberia is open for business with great opportunities for investments. Join us on this 8-day & 7-night Trade Mission to Monrovia, Liberia.

About this event


8-days and 7-nights

As the continent of Africa’s first Republic, and the United States most loyal ally, Liberia is poised to become the jewel of West Africa. Liberia is open for business with tremendous opportunities for investments. Self-sufficiency in food production is essential to Liberia’s economy. Agriculture continues to be the dominant sector in the Liberian economy. Liberia’s natural resources offer significant opportunities for investors. The Liberian’s have strong desires for U.S.-made products including food, construction, healthcare, housing, textiles and energy.

Read More

International Partnership to Host Workshops to Prevent Human Trafficking in Liberia

September 8, 2021
/ / /

Wellesley, Mass. | 09/09/2021 — Together with academic, NGO, and private sector partners, the Wellesley Centers for Women will hold two workshops to address the problem of human trafficking in Liberia.

Human trafficking in Liberia has long been a pernicious form of violence affecting women and children, especially those most economically vulnerable. It has been flagged as a critical issue by the United Nations, and has put a damper on business development and private sector investment in Liberia. In the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, Liberia’s status declined from its ranking the previous year, raising concerns. The government of Liberia has taken recent strides to address trafficking by forming an interagency commission, and WCW will bolster those efforts with these workshops funded by the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia.

Read More