According to Jagat Basnet of the Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC) Nepal, the NES has for the first time brought together the six ILC members in the country to work together to engage with the government, and has also contributed to significant change in the political and legal situation concerning land rights. In fact, engagement with the Nepalese government has been so successful that it has resulted in the formation of a formal multi-stakeholder platform chaired by government representatives.
Land is the primary source of livelihood for many of Nepal’s rural households, with 66% of the population reporting in 2011 that agriculture was their main occupation. Inequity in land distribution has been created by a system of land tenure where the actual tillers of the land (tenants) do not have land certificates. They use the land without security of tenure and are at the mercy of landlords, many of whom are absentee owners with other means of income and have no interest in investing in land improvement projects. Those who have no secured (formal) tenancy or land certificates are denied access to state services, credit, and even citizenship documents.
In recent years Nepal has struggled with a lack of political stability and frequent changes in government, with the average government term lasting no more than a few months. This has made progress on important land rights issues extremely difficult to achieve.
The focus so far for Nepal’s NES has been on supporting changes to the 1964 Land Reform Act that would allow tenants working agricultural land to claim land certificates from landlords. Thanks to advocacy efforts undertaken though the NES to endorse the guidelines and regulations for the Sixth Amendment of the Act, 961 families to date have received land ownership certificates and 331 families have avoided displacement from their homes.
While the new law applies only to an estimated 120,000 people already certified as tillers of the land, it is seen by ILC members in Nepal as a political victory and a sign of the NES platform’s potential to build and maintain political priority for land rights issues.
Securing land rights for women has also been a major focus of the NES, which has supported a movement to distribute joint land certificates to ensure shared ownership of land between men and women. Land ownership means that women who have obtained a joint certificate are now eligible to apply for loans and access other economic benefits otherwise denied to non-landowners.
NES Nepal is linked to the following ILC Commitments: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
NES Nepal Achievements
NES Nepal has brought together stakeholders to influence:
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of NES Nepal, the government has decided to adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to land which will advance dialogue with CSOs and land actors through the formal establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform.
In addition, NES Nepal has been invited by the government to provide inputs to seven draft policies relating to land, helping authorities to include provisions for people-centred land governance in these new pieces of legislation.
In response to NES advocacy, the Council of Ministers endorsed guidelines and regulations for the Sixth Amendment of the 1964 Land Reform Act (August 2016); these state that “registered tenants can now claim half of the land that they till as their own; whereas the landowners will retain the other half”.
NES advocacy has also helped influence policy to secure land rights for victims of the April 2015 earthquake. Since the land reform guidelines were approved in 2016, the NES has mobilised landless farmers, sharecroppers, tenants, and smallholders affected by the earthquake but denied government grants as they lacked land certificates. CSRC and another ILC member, the National Land Rights Forum (NLRF), worked with victims and with political authorities, and eventually the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) passed new Land Registration Guidelines that covered all those affected by the earthquake, regardless of their titling status. As reported by NES Nepal in January 2017, a total of 12,955 earthquake victims filed applications at land registration offices.