A new beginning for the landless


A local initiative has been successful in fighting the rights of the landless from the most marginalized communities

It’s the beginning of a second chance in life for Bhadiya Bantarani, a single woman in Singhaie Rural Municipality of Mahottari district of Nepal’s Tarai area. After spending decades of her life as a tenant farmer, landless Bhadiya has been able to own a land.

“I’m no longer landless. I feel so safe and confident like never before,” said Bhadiya. Her sole source of income is this land, and with no family to support her, gaining ownership of the land she tilled most of her life is a gift, she says.

It was with the support of a local initiative ‘land rights forum,’ started by Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Bhadiya and many landless farmers are feeling secure. With support of the Governance Facility (GF), CSRC has been helping especially those from the most marginalised groups to fight for their land rights.

Land rights remain among the most important and sensitive issues in the governance arena. The National Land Rights Forum (NLRF), and the village and district ‘land rights forums,’ (VLRFs and DLRFs) formed by CSRC have been a valuable vehicle for advocating and sharing knowledge about land rights.

Through citizen engagement and leadership that has been fostered at all levels — feeding up from VLRFs to DLRFs and to the NLRF — CSRC has created a strong interest-based institution advocating for land rights issues, and for improving the situation of landless people and small landholder farmers. Their initiatives have supported consultative processes that bring together government officials, political leaders, parliamentarians, civil society, and other stakeholders. These processes have engaged, in particular, both the Ministry and Department of Land Reform and Management. Local concerns voiced at these dialogues have supported policy reform on land rights issues, including a key amendment to the Land Reform Act 1964.

For over 20 years, CSRC has been advocating for pro-poor legal frameworks and provisions that ensure full and better protection of land rights holders and their entitlements. By the end of 2016, 2,534 tenants acquired land under the new law, out of the 11,900 tenancy claim applications filed at different District Land Reform Offices. The CSRC leadership is supporting continuing dialogue among public institutions, landlords, and tenants to ensure effective and equitable implementation of the new provisions and to address new implementation issues in some places.

“I have the won the battle that I had been fighting for 17 years with the help of our land rights forum and CSRC,” said Semlal Tharu from Baijanatha Rural Municipality of Banke district of the western Tarai. He had been struggling for more than 17 years to own a land through tenancy, which he and his family had been tilling for a whole generation.

(Photo courtesy: CSRC)