Lessons Learned from Community Pilots of the Land Rights Act in Liberia: Final Report



As part of its activities related to the evaluation of the Community Land Protection Program (CLPP) in Liberia, NORC’s CLPP evaluation team conducted a desk-based synthesis of lessons learned from community pilots of customary land formalization under the Land Rights Act (LRA) in Liberia. The activity utilized desk-based document review and synthesis together with remote qualitative data collection and coding of Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) held with relevant project points of contact. The work was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago under the Communications, Evidence, and Learning (CEL) project.

The key objective of this activity was to collect and synthesize information on ongoing or recently completed donor-supported community pilots under the LRA and synthesize learning on these pilots into an integrated report. The report aims to be useful for USAID and other donors in the Liberian land and resource governance space as the sector moves forward with coordination and next-generation activity planning related to customary land formalization and governance in Liberian communities. The intended audience for this synthesis is USAID/Washington and USAID/Liberia, together with other donors in the land space as above.


The activity included the following steps:

  • Conduct desk-based scoping to identify and compile information on potentially 15 currently ongoing or recently completed donor-supported projects implementing the LRA, including where they are working, description of activities, extent of community-based implementation of land formalization, current status, and related information.
  • Catalogue these LRA community-level implementation efforts in the country, including spatial locations and community names if available. To do so, the NORC team built out existing work collated by the USAID- supported Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA), supplemented by additional outreach via web searches and direct outreach to non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs), other donors, and other stakeholders as identified on a snowballing basis.1
  • Synthesize desk-based information and lessons learned where available from existing documentation, to inform development of tailored KIIs guides for project points of contacts.
  • Conduct additional outreach via emails and remote KIIs with relevant points of contact from donors and implementers, with the aim of (1) obtaining and synthesizing systematic information on field-level donor and Implementing Partner (IP) experiences implementing key aspects of customary land formalization and governance in communities under the LRA; (2) challenges encountered and potential solutions, and (3) higher level lessons learned and/or recommended best practices guidance.
  • Compile a high-level synthesis of findings into an integrated report that may be useful for USAID and other donors in the Liberian land and resource governance space as the sector moves forward.

NORC identified 15 donor-supported projects related to LRA implementation support in communities from internet keyword searches, the USAID-supported Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program Implementation Plan for Liberia, and communication with USAID. Some projects were also identified through snowballing off other project documentation. NORC emailed implementing partners and CSOs affiliated with 12 of these projects. The key inclusion criteria for this outreach was that the project had confirmed or possible community-level implementation of customary land formalization. The purpose of this outreach was twofold. First, we asked implementers for any non-public documentation they could share with additional information on project progress or lessons learned on LRA implementation in communities based on their direct experiences. Second, we requested to schedule short interviews with the project point of contact or a designee to facilitate discussion on implementation experiences and lessons learned.

In total, we conducted 11 semi-structured interviews with 16 individuals who agreed to be interviewed based on this outreach (Annex B). Respondents represented 11 organizations and 10 projects involved in community-level piloting of customary land formalization.2 Interviews were conducted virtually between October 21 and November 25 using Zoom. The team audio recorded all interviews with respondent consent and took detailed notes. When needed, notes were reconciled with the audio recordings to ensure accurate records. The interview guide is provided in Annex C.

The team used content analysis techniques to analyze interview notes in Microsoft Excel, coding text according to key themes of interest across interviewees. The team then generated summaries to provide an overview of key themes and any major areas of congruence or divergence in respondents’ perspectives.


To stay within budget and keep the activity scope closely relevant for the CLPP endline evaluation that the NORC team will conduct, this activity focused on capturing high-level challenges and lessons learned from field-based community-level implementation activities directly related to customary land formalization and governance in communities. The activity did not focus on experiences related to implementing aspects of the LRA on private, public or government land (unless it existed within the boundaries of community land). This activity also did not focus on activities or experiences related to broader strengthening of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) or other aspects of LRA implementation, including: LLA and county land office institutional development, capacity building and operational support; land information system support; stakeholder coordination; community forest demarcation and forest management/governance issues, and issues related to urban land. Given that it was still pending or in planning stage for the projects covered, this synthesis also does not focus on lessons learned related to formal land use planning activities within self-identified communities.

While our outreach was to staff from projects and organizations involved in implementing customary land formalization in communities, and we particularly aimed to speak with field staff and project managers familiar with on-the-ground implementation, we acknowledge that the views and experiences shared by these individuals in no way fully capture a project’s implementation experience, nor do they reflect the experiences of community members themselves. The primary aim here is to summarize emergent issues and themes across multiple donor-funded projects and implementing organizations and a range of field-based experiences, rather than highlight differences in experiences or key challenges and solutions on the basis of project or partner.


Many organizations have long been active in the customary land space in Liberia, and there are several useful resources that organizations have produced over the years to document their experiences, highlight challenges, and provide lessons learned and best practices on various stages or elements of work to support communities in formalizing their customary land rights.3 Some of these resources are aimed directly at Liberian communities as the end user, and others are oriented for CSOs, NGOs and other implementing organizations who are supporting communities to formalize their customary land rights. Several were produced prior to the passage of the LRA in 2018, and others since. Many include sample checklists, documents or tool templates, and best practices for specific steps in the land formalization process. All were derived from the respective organizations’ substantial depth of experiences working with communities in Liberia to raise awareness on customary land rights and implement various aspects of the LRA.

This synthesis does not attempt to duplicate those existing efforts.5 Instead, it aims to serve a different purpose by using a rapid assessment approach across multiple donor-funded projects and several of the NGOs, CSOs and other partners that implement them to obtain and highlight a broad sweep of experiences related to selected issues that IPs face in supporting Liberian communities to formalize their customary land rights under the LRA. In doing so, the intent is to focus on summarizing key learning and broader best practices from the perspectives of multiple implementing organizations as they reflect on their experiences working in communities to implement different aspects of the LRA, and provide synthesis on common experiences and challenges across respondents from these multiple organizations working in this space since the passage of the LRA in 2018.