In 2021, Lantmateriet launched another phase of the international training program covering a three-year period 2021-2024 for Liberia and Zimbabwe. Applications were drawn from the central government, local government and non-governmental organizations from the two countries. After rigorous merit-based recruitment criteria by Lantmateriet, 15 participants were selected from Zimbabwe while 16 were selected from Liberia and were enrolled in the international training program (ITP) Year12021-2022.
The team for Year 1 Liberia and Zimbabwe were formally enlisted into the training program with an initiation phase and a debut briefing session via zoom from 30 November-2nd December 2021. On the Liberian side, a follow up training and official launch of the change project was held in Monrovia in March 2022 with a field visit to the future project site, Bensonville, the capital of Montserrado County, Liberia.
The Swedish phase which was earlier planned for February 2022 had to be indefinitely postponed due to travel restrictions imposed by Swedish authorities as a consequence of the upsurge in the number of COVID-19 infections particularly in Europe at the time. However, as the restriction regarding COVID-19 began to ease in Europe, the organizers, Lantmateriet announced that the Swedish phase would take place from May 1- 20, 2022.
Initiation Phase- Preliminary training in Monrovia and Visit to Bentol
The first initiation training was conducted by Lantmateriet and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) from 30 November-2nd December 2021 at the Cape Hotel in Monrovia via zoom. It was an orientation about the International Training Program (ITP) and its objective. It was also a briefing session for the participants to acquaint them with what to expect and what is required of them during the entire program phase. The training was facilitated by Dowahlyn Bestman, Local Administrator of the ILAMP Project, Lennart Wastesson, Benny Andersson, Kent Nilsson and Lena Hoglund from Lantmateriet of Sweden.
At hand from Folke Bernadotte Academy were Dominique Gorska Rasalingam, Lisa Ljungtrom, Head of Africa & Middle East Programe, Daniel Finnbogason, Thiyumi Senarathna and Rhodri William. The key focus of the initiation phase was about exposing participants to the ITP program, expectations, concerns and role of participants.
It also focused on promoting dialogue and rule of law. The second initiation training was held in person from 7-11 March 2022 also at the Cape Hotel in Monrovia, where the participants were exposed to different aspects of applied land governance, result based management and Swedish–Liberia land administration, deeding of government land in Bensonville by the Liberia Land Authority (LLA).
The session was facilitated by Lennart Wastesson, Program Manager of ITP, Benny Andersson also of Lantmateriet; Mencer T. Powoe and Dr. Mahmoud Solomon, all of LLA. The second phase of the initiation also took the team to Bensonville which was identified as the site for the pilot phase for deeding of government land in Liberia under the ITP Change Project.
Overview of the Swedish Phase (May 1-21, 2022)
The Swedish phase began with the processing of visa application for the Schengen which was facilitated by Lantmateriet. The travel to Sweden was sponsored by SIDA and covered payment for visas, tickets, accommodation and insurance for the members of the ITPLZ Year 1 for the period of their stay in Sweden.
Team Liberia departed Monrovia on Saturday, April 30 on the ASKY to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and connected with Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, where connection was made with Team Zimbabwe and both teams travelled from Addis Ababa to Stockholm Arlanda International Airport on Sunday, May 1, 2022 via Ethiopian Airlines. The both teams of the ITPLZ were received by Benny Andersson at the airport and boarded a bus to Gavle, where the team was lodged at 2 Home Gavle Hotel.
The first week of the Training began with briefing by the Team at International Services (which is also known as Globen) at Lantmateriet main office which is located in Gavle. On hand to brief the Teams from Liberia and Zimbabwe were: Lennart Wastesson, Project Manager for ITP, Lena Hoglund, Project Administrator, Benny Anderson, Program Manager for East Africa and Kent Nilsson.
Team members were issued materials bus card, ATM Bank Card with cash in Swedish 5000 Kroner ($500.00USD equivalent) loaded to cover incidental expenses. Souvenir items (Tea Cup, Back Bag, T-shirt and Sweater) from Lantmateriet were presented to team member, which were all intended to make the stay of team members enjoyable in Sweden.
During week one of the Swedish Phase, the both Teams (Liberia and Zimbabwe) were taken on turns to Horsalen, to get in-depth presentation on the Gavle Municipality and its workings and later taken to the Gavle Central Square. This tour was led by Eva Lena Lunden, Axel Erlanesson, Nugzari Batkikadze, Maria Karlberg. Also during week one, the Teams were taken on study visit to Gastrike atervinnare- the recycling company in Gavle. There the team was briefed by way of a presentation on how recycling is organized in Gavle and why is it important though. The lecture was conducted by Mr. Per Olof Hallberg. There was a visit to the Geodata SWEPOS/Topographical data Section of Lantmateriet where Andreas Ronnberg was on hand to navigate the team through geographical information about Sweden and how geospatial data is produced at Lantmateriet with a vivid display of the state-of-the-art equipment used in the process. At the Gastrike Vatten, Sara Larsson, Coordinator of the plant did a presentation on how waste water is treated in Gavle and the importance the residents of the municipality attach to the treatment of waste water before it is emptied in the sea. The team was later taken on a guided tour of the Gastrike Vatten treatment facility. Week one included a visit to a bowling recreation club, a bus ride led by Lena Hoglund to Hemlingby Mall and leading landmarks in Gavle; and a presentation on communication & presentation technique by Benny Andersson climaxed the week’s events. Lunch at Lantmateriet office during the entire tour was always at restaurant Kompassen.
Week two of the Swedish phase began with presentation by Elle Al-Kahwati and Cyrille Hugon of the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) at the Stora Bjorn at Lantmateriet in Gavle. The presentation dwelled on rule of law, accountability and effectiveness. The FBA presentation also covered human rights based approach to data collection and the change project. The week also covered status of work on the Change Project in Liberia and Zimbabwe; what has worked well in the team and the challenges attending the project as well as status of work in the Change Project. The outlook of customer service at Lantmateriet was part of sessions of week two. At the customer service, its manager, Jonas Erlandsson briefed the team on the tools such as surveys and statistics that are implored to improve customer service at the institution. During week two, an overview of Lantmateriet was done by Mr. Anders Lunduist, Deputy Director General of Lantmateriet who reflected on the arduous journey of producing maps and recording land information in Sweden dating as far back as 1628. The organizational structure of Lantmateriet and the total number staff of nearly 2000. Week two of the Swedish phase took the team to Norrtalje, the Land Registration office of Lantmateriet. On hand to receive the team were Lena Westman and David Fridh. The team was drilled through the rigorous process of getting a land registered in Sweden in a one way-in fashion for safe keeping of legal document. It was pointed out by David and Lena that it is safe and everything is done to keep data intact and safe. Later during the week, the Team was taken to Stockholm with a sight seen visit to the VASA Museum and were lodged at the Radisson Blu Hotel. In Stockholm, the Team boarded the underground train for the FBA office. At the FBA office in Stockholm, Elle Al- Kahwati, Cyirille Hugon and Klara Grenhagen drilled the team through a review of individual assignment back in November, practical exercise relating to the Change Project. There were also presentations by the FBA team on conflict analysis and dialogue, tools for inclusive stakeholders’ engagement and the week ended with a boat tour of Stockholm and the ITPLZ returned to Gavle.
Week three of the Swedish phase began at Lantmateriet office in Gavle at the Globen and Stora Bjorn rooms. Team members were drilled through defining outcome, output and impact. They were asked to set overall timeline and activities, apply RBM templates to form Change Project and to reflect on how the knowledge and experience gained in Sweden can be used in the Change Project in Liberia and Zimbabwe by evaluating personal insights from the Swedish way of life. Reflect on for example, FIKA (coffee break usually with sweets, hold pep talk and brief chats with colleagues). A key part of Swedish life–cooperation, building trust, collaboration, participation, clean and green environment, visit to the recycling plant, the gastrike vatten, Gavle market Square, women empowerment, decentralization of governance, observance of team spirit, etc. were named as takeaways and lessons learned by groups from Liberia and Zimbabwe. During week three, the team visited Orebu and was lodged at the Scandic Grand Hotel. The Cadastral and Surveying Office of Lantmateriet is located in Orebro. There, Ulrika Berntsson, Surveying and Mapping Engineer and other staff were at hand to receive the ITPLZ Year 1 and showed the team some of the oldest maps that can be found in Sweden dating as far back as 1628 when land registration and mapping began in Sweden.
After nearly three weeks of tour of Sweden marred with exciting visits and insightful presentations blended with compact period of study, work, recreation, closing ceremonies were held in Orebro with a review and analysis of the feedback from the visit to Sweden; the completion of the Change Project Template and the handling in of the Change Project Plan by participants from Liberia and Zimbabwe. A formal closing program was held at the Scandic Grand Hotel in Orebro where Certificates were presented to participants by the host and lead facilitator, Lennart Wastesson and Kent Nilsson on behalf of Lantmateriet with remarks of fond memories and appreciation to Lantmateriet for the opportunity afforded the both teams. The team members later traveled on May 20, 2021to Arlanda to depart for their respective countries to mark the end of what can be described as an enlightening and pedagogical Swedish phase of the ITP.
Observations / Takeaways
The Swedish way of life is indeed interesting, enviable and it is worth emulating. They have high level of consciousness about time. The Swedes take in a lot of coffee and sweets. A notable practice is the break they often take during working hours to cool off with bit of leisure, known as “FIKA”. During FIKA, coffee or tea is shared with biscuits and sweets while chip chats and informal interaction and conversation take place amongst themselves. A notable take away from Sweden is the team spirit, participation, accountability, transparency, good governance, cooperation between the citizens and the governing authorities. Sweden is highly decentralized in terms of governance and resources are heavily concentrated from bottom to top, more at the level of municipalities with 290 of them. An overarching philosophy or mantra on which the Swedish society reels is the building of trust between those who govern and those who are governed. This has created a clean and sustainable environment where constant awareness creation, cooperation, collaboration and participation are the bedrocks for the tapestry of development that the society boasts of.
Based on the observations accentuated hereinabove, the following are herewith recommended:
- More Liberians from all strata of the society, mainly local government, central government, NGOs, business organizations and community based groups should be encouraged to participate in the ITP program.
- Liberia should adopt a policy to have an integrated approach to land governance, land use and administration. Where all matters of land registration and map production are delegated to the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) that has the equipment and expertise to create a one stop center for all land matters in Liberia. In the new construct recommended herein, the Probate Court should play little or no role in the registration and probation of land deeds due to the fact that the Court does not have the expertise to determine if a given deed is fraudulent or represents an actual space.
- It will be a good idea to reduce the Swedish Phase to two weeks instead of three weeks. Most of the participants are working people. Hence being away from their jobs for three weeks seems to be tenuous, if not unhealthy for their jobs.
- That during the future ITP, the team be required to prepare and submit a synchronized report which can then be submitted to the respective participating institutions.
The Swedish experience makes a clear case for minimizing hierarchal structure in the work place as much as possible. Status should not be the basis for defining work spaces and their respective outlooks. For example, a boss office should not be the only yardstick to measure elegance and glamor, but rather all offices should be a true reflection of the beauty and glamor of the institution as well. Bosses should endeavor to build trust, by being exemplary, simple, promoting team spirit, cultivating collaboration and cooperation as well as creating space for participation. Moreover, a key lesson from Sweden is that without trust, participation and cooperation cannot be harnessed. Above all, it is pivotal for policy makers to reflect on the benefits of building trust, promoting clean and green environment and spicing up the work place with recreation, limited hierarchical structures as the defining yardstick of interaction. Finally, Liberia needs to adopt an integrated approach to land administration, land use, mapping and cadastral service by empowering the LLA to be a one stop center for land matters in Liberia where the Probate Court plays little or no role in deed registration and verification.
Members of Team Liberia
Benson Josephine Registrar, Liberia Land Authority
Brandy Florence Superintendent, Ministry of Internal Affairs
Browne Jenneh Rights Advocate Special Initiative for Community Transformation
Coker Marie Social Worker, Bensonville Community
Livingstone Bobby Director Financial Crimes, Ministry of Justice
McCrownsey Deimah Gender and Social lnclusion Officer, Platform for Dialogue and Peace
Sirleaf Morris Project Planner, Ministry of Internal Affairs
Wesseh Wilmon Chairman, Young Ambassadors for peace (YAP)
Dennis Joe President, Bentol Youth Network
Johnson David Development Superintendent, Ministry of Internal Affairs
Kimber Diana Survey Technican, Liberia Land Authority
Richardson Elsie Conflict Resolution Officer, Ministry of Justice
Salue Willet Programs Officer, Women NGOs Secretarlat of Liberia
Sheriff Hagi GIS Officer, Liberia Land Authority
Togbah Aretha Acting Executive Director, Organization for Women Empowerment (OWE)
Woheel Martha Mayor, Bensonville, Ministry of Internal Affairs
About the author
Cllr. Bobby F. W. Livingstone is a Liberian lawyer specialized in financial crimes. He is immediate past National Secretary General of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA). He is a Lecturer of Mass Communication at the United Methodist University in Monrovia. He holds passionate views about governance issues in his country and has written several critical articles accentuating such views. He is currently the Director of Financial Crimes Unit of the Prosecution Department at the Ministry of Justice. He was a recent participant in the international training program on land governance, land use and administration in Sweden in May 2022. He holds Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, Master of Art(MA) Development Studies institute of Social Studies the Hague, and Bachelor of Art(BA), sociology, University of Liberia. He is founder of the development think tank Liberia Development Dialogue (LDD), Inc.; and Managing Director of Resilient Partners and Associates (RPA),a private legal consultancy group in Monrovia .