‘Unregistered, Unlicensed Surveyors Pervade Liberia’

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USAID-LGSA Chief of Party, Dr. Yohannes Gebremebhin

-USAID-LGSA Chief of Party tells first Geomatics Education Program students

As fear resonates that Liberia’s peace may likely be undermined as a result of land conflicts, the Chief of Party (CoP) of USAID-Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA) Dr. Yohannes Gebremebhin says Liberia’s human resources gap in the surveying profession is often filled by unregistered and unlicensed surveyors who do not have any formal training.

Dr. Gebremebhin said the situation poses serious challenges to the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) on the highest technical, professional and ethical standards.

He said the country currently has 99 licensed land surveyors out of which eight hold college degrees and the rest are high school graduates.

The USAID-LGSA Chief of Party made the assertion on Thursday, February 21, at the official launch of the USAID-funded Geomatics Education Program (GEP), which was hosted at the Forestry Training Institute (FTI), in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

The launch also witnessed 30 persons from the 15 counties and who were recruited through a highly competitive process that involved entrance tests and interviews to the program, according to Gebremebhin.

The GEP is a 10-month training program that seeks to train students in geomatics education, with the goal of producing survey technicians that will go on to support the Liberian land sector. Graduates are awarded technical level certificates.

Gebremebhin further said only 13 of the 99 surveyors were graduates of the former Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy Technical Surveying School that was also hosted in Bomi County.

“The school ceased its operations in the early 1980s and there has not been any formal surveying education in the country since then,’” the USAID-LGSA Chief of Party said. “Most surveyors that are currently practicing surveying lack sufficient exposure to modern survey methods that are conducted with current technology,” he said.

According to Gebremebhin, the GEP’s aim is to fill the void informal surveying education and enhance the profession by producing a new breed of surveyors that would be trained in modern methods, tools, and technologies and would be able to serve as survey technicians in accordance with “international best practices.”

“LGSA views the rather substantial investment, which is being made by USAID in these students and their education, as a critical factor not only in building modern surveying and mapping (geomatics) capacity in Liberia but also in laying a solid foundation upon which a functioning land administration system can be built,” the Chief of Party emphasized.

He urged stakeholders to take a long-term perspective and be supportive of “actions that have the potential to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the program as well as its further development to an advanced level.”

Students of USAID-funded Geomatics Education Program (GEP)

In his launching remarks, USAID’s Mission Director Anthony Chan said the exercise represents a major step toward professionalizing land survey and mapping in Liberia, “and in a sense is one of the first steps in realizing the vision that is implicit in the passage of the Land Rights Law.”

To the students, Chan said, “Remember that if you approach the profession you have chosen with a strong work ethic and a commitment to integrity, you will make your families proud, you will make USAID proud to have supported you, and you will make your fellow Liberians proud of the good work that surveyors can do.”

“The program will also work to inculcate in the students the value of adhering to the highest professional and ethical standards in all that you will do,” Chan indicated.

Chan reminded his audience that land survey and mapping are core aspects of a fair and efficient land administration system with far-reaching consequences for the country. “They impact land tenure security, property tax assessment, land use planning and zoning, and the implementation of the Land Rights Law.”

“Securing land tenure,” he said, “is critical for the development of a robust financial sector supporting products like a home mortgage, housing development, improved credit availability and is essential if Liberia is to realize its potential in agriculture.”

He added that it was important that land survey and mapping is conducted in ways that prevent or minimize the risks of misinterpretation by, and conflict among, property owners and public authorities.

Chan said for Liberia to attain this goal, “the survey and mapping process must comply with strictly defined and predictable standards so as to achieve accuracy and timely reporting and certification of survey and mapping results.”

“The successful adoption and implementation of these standards will, of course, depend on the degree to which Liberia has qualified and properly trained surveyors,” said Chan.

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