In March 2023, Land for Life team members have finally been reunited in Ethiopia after twelve months of exclusive online meetings. Delegations from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Burkina Faso have been welcomed by their Ethiopian colleagues, who hosted this year’s cross-country meeting, consisting of both a Communication and a Strategy & Planning Workshop.
What do the Land for Life MAPs need to become strong and independent structures that sustain themselves in the future? How will they continue to create an impact on responsible land governance? These were some of the questions that guided the Land for Life face-to-face meeting in Ethiopia.
The mid-term assessment of Land for Life, which was conducted and finalized in 2022, highlighted the pivotal role of communication to engage old and new platform members, and to increase ownership of their activities. One of the main conclusions of the assessment has been the importance of further strengthening the visibility of the MAPs to boost advocacy, impact, relevance, and attraction of influential actors. A first delegation of Land for Life communication officers met from 15 to 18 March for the first of two workshops in Bishoftu, a town in central Ethiopia, which is around 50km from the capital Addis Ababa. The main objective of the communication workshop consisted in boosting the communication capacities, while specifically focusing on the two key areas of member engagement and advocacy. The workshop was facilitated by Jonathan Tusubira, an expert working for the Civil Society Academy (CSA), and the MAP expert Mino Ramaroson, who has been working with the International Land Coalition (ILC) in the past.
In terms of member engagement and advocacy, participants discussed the role of media in civic engagement and the various ways media can be deployed to influence politics and shape public perception about pressing land issues. Communication officers learned how to deconstruct such complex issues in order to better convey ideas and to increase their accessibility. Against this backdrop, current communication strategies of the platforms have been assessed and reviewed in a collaborative way. But also practical skills like interviewing and mobile journalism were on the agenda. For instance, the participants learned how to utilize a smartphone to collect qualitative audio and video material as well as how to edit it.
“I will use the skills that I learned to teach my colleagues in the districts. It will be so much easier to collect qualitative pictures and videos from the field and to show what we are doing.”
– Jacob Wilson, Communication Officer of Land for Life Sierra Leone
In light of the current funding cycle of Land for Life ending in December 2023, the Strategy & Planning Workshop, which took place from 20 to 24 March, enabled to review current country strategies and to jointly plan and strategize for the coming year. For this workshop, the facilitators, communication officers, as well as further actors from the MAP government structures in each country traveled to Ethiopia. With their long-standing experience in consulting MAPs, the CSA-experts Joachim Schwarz and Retta Menberu guided the 22 participants through a wide range of highly relevant topics, which also covered focus areas identified in the mid-term assessment.
The core components of the Strategy & Planning Workshop were the country-specific Theories of Change (ToC), which were developed at the last cross-country workshop in Liberia and can be considered as a roadmap for social change as well as a framework for planning, management, and evaluation. During the workshop, the country teams were animated to reflect on their MAPs’ position on the theory of change as well as their strengths and challenges. Using methods of change management, peer-to-peer coaching, dimensions of collaborative culture, participants learned how change can be planned and managed and identified concrete goals and pathways for the coming months.
“We are very motivated now. We now know exactly which aspects to tackle to become a vibrant and truly collaborative MAP.”
– John F. Kelvin, MAP facilitator from Liberia
Furthermore, the meeting aimed at peer exchange between the countries. Each country had inspiring practices and learnings to share with the others. Burkina Faso presented their approach of stationing paralegals within communities to enhance access to land rights in the field. Liberia shared their learnings of engaging rural women and other vulnerable groups and the hosts from Ethiopia had the opportunity to show their Community-Investor-Local Government-Forums (CILGF) firsthand, with a field trip. The group visited a flower and strawberry production farm and met with the Dutch investor in Modjo. Afterwards, they were welcomed at a community meeting where they had the opportunity to meet the local government and exchange directly with the community.
“We are very grateful for Land for Life and the dialogue that it brought with the Investor. The new investor is listening to us, and many things have improved."
– Female Community Member from Modjo
Both workshops have created a conducive environment for mutual learning and improvement, enabling an enriching experience for all participants. Not only the sessions and the field trip with meaningful and inspirational learnings, but also the valuable face-to-face time with new and old teammates, boosted the spirit and the motivation to look ahead, to strengthen the established multi-actor platforms and to continuously engage for people-centered land governance.
Interested to learn more about the community visit?