After over two years of only engaging virtually, it was about time for the Land for Life cross-country team to meet again in person to reflect, plan ahead and reconnect.

25. March 2022
by Anna Schreiber

If you happened to work in an office job during the pandemic, you might know the feeling of communicating with your colleagues only through screen, fighting unstable connections and muted microphones. If you happen to work in an international context, you might have known this feeling even before the pandemic. And if both is the case, you might understand the feelings of the international Land for Life-Team, coming together for a cross-country meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, for the first time in over two and a half years.

The joy was huge when colleagues met again after a long – or even for the first – time in person. But the meeting was to be more than a reunion: The 22 participants from Liberia, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Germany participated in a reflection and planning workshop facilitated by CSA’s Joachim Schwarz from 07. – 11. March. In five tightly packed workshop days, the work and progress of the past years was reviewed and strategies for the future were refined.

What works well? What doesn’t? What are our goals and how can we get there? Can we learn from others? Sometimes it’s necessary to step back, reflect and adapt. The workshop equipped the team with several tools and strategies to guide this process.

One strategic milestone of the workshop was starting the development of a “Theory of Change” for each country. It is a method to define the desired systematic change with all activities and steps that are required to achieve it. ©Anna Schreiber

Having MAPs in four different countries with four individual and agile contexts, offers opportunities to learn from and inspire each other. Aligning with this spirit, the Land for Life communication team hosted a “Communication Market Place” during the workshop. Each country communication officer had the chance to showcase his or her work of the past years, sparking appreciation and inspiration across the whole team.

The Communication "Market Stand" of Burkina Faso. ©Anna Schreiber

A special highlight was a field trip to the Bomi District (Western Region) of Liberia, including the visit of local communities and an oil palm plantation.
The group was first welcomed for a guided visit of the Mano palm oil mill and plantation, before proceeding to a meeting with representatives of several communities in the area.
The team participated in a community discussion on the current land rights situation, also regarding the palm oil investments in the region. A joint lunch allowed for further informal exchange.

Learning about palm oil cultivation and processing. ©Anna Schreiber
Community Meeting in the Bomi district. ©Jacob Wilson

For the team, it was intriguing to experience the local Liberian land context at first hand. Some might even call it inspiring: Berns Komba Lebbie, national coordinator of Land for Life Sierra Leone, instantly drafted an open letter to the paramount chiefs in his country to inform them about the encouraging experiences and views of their Liberian counterparts.
Seeing that Land for Life’s work is bearing fruits all the way into the communities, was a valuable experience for everyone.

But beyond land rights and strategy development, the week in Monrovia was one thing above all: shared time with the team. There was laughter and football at the beach as well as sadness over the farewell of long-time program coordinator Constanze, while new and old friendships were built and deepened. The team was able to grow even closer together and set common goals for the future: together for people-centered land governance!

©Jacob Wilson

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