Old Surveyors Affecting Land Issues

By Garmonyou Wilson

With only 70 registered surveyors in Liberia, many of whom are over sixty years of age, lack basic skills in modern survey technology; a situation which has contributed immensely to the mammoth land tenure insecurity issues prevalent in the country.

According to the Deputy Minister for Operations at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, Sam Russ, the archaic survey methods that do not properly demarcate property boundaries are used and that this has created many controversial land-ownership issues.

Minister Russ said, “To mitigate this problem the Ministry is on a rigorous mission to train a new generation of cadastral surveyors who will not only manage spatial data but move land administration in Liberia into the digital age.”

The Liberian government recently opened the Land Cadastre Training Lab, equipped with modern software and equipment capable to advance surveying in the country. The goal of the new lab is to have skilled young surveyors to establish a digitized land cadastre system.

However funding to keep the lab running has reached a stalemate and if the country is to combat the land crisis that is currently plaguing it, more resources and attention has to be focused on the lab to keep it motivating younger and better skilled surveyors.

A selective group of thirty-three trainees have been targeted for the trainer project. In 2013, twenty-seven members of this group of trainees completed the first phase of their training in a four-month survey technician course funded by USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

The trainees have been recently engaged in a training course in modern GIS and GPS survey technology, with professional instructors from SAMBUS Inc., Accra, Ghana at the Land Cadastre Training Lab on the compound of the Lands, Mines and Energy Ministry in Monrovia.

The cycle of World Bank funding for the lab ended March 31, 2014. That means that after the current training ends on May 15, 2014, the lab will close due to a lack of funding.

The World Bank Liberia Country Manager, Inguna Dobraja said recently, “It is essential to put into place a sustainability plan to keep the lab functioning.”

She said further, “Focusing on the support from other development partners, it is critical that such effective collaboration should continue in order to effectively support the Government in its efforts to create and sustain a functional land administration system – which is a critical element in the socio-economic development of this country.”

A student at the Land Cadastre Training Lab, Archibald Dean said that he and many of his colleagues started with little or no knowledge in surveying but can now boast of acquiring the necessary knowledge.

He then assured the Government and its partners that any funding given to keep the program going would be utilized.

Mr. Dean concluded that the Government and its partners should empower the lab to help solve many of the land problems that the country is currently faced with.