Community led land governance

Community members prepare a village map as part of preparing by-laws - Credit: Rasna Dhakal/Oxfam

Why is this program unique?

Oxfam’s Community Land Rights Project is a unique approach to encourage communities resolve land disputes and to increase access to resources for the landless. Land is viewed as a constant source of conflict in Nepal with unequal land distribution considered a driving factor behind the decade long civil war. Inequality in land ownership and accessibility has been the primary cause of tensions between the marginalised farmers and the elites of Nepal.

Oxfam initiated its Community Land Rights project in 2014 to strengthen land governance and tenure security in the community level. 

What does it do?

Oxfam in partnership with Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC) works in three VDCs of Bardiya district and one municipality of Kailali.  The project elects and trains paralegals at the local level. These paralegals help set up and manage local level structures called Community Land Rights Coordination Committees. These CLRCCs prepare by-laws and address conflicts related to land.

In order to bring about supportive changes at the policy level, Oxfam and CSRC have signed a MoU with the Ministry of Land reform and Management to work on the Land Use Bill and the National Land Policy.

How does it improve the lives of those involved?

By Mid 2016, over fourty CLRCC have been established, benefiting more than 8000 families. Four conflicts got resolved and six knotty issues are being handled at the moment. Communities are coming together to solve conflicts that have plagued them for a long time, sometimes over a decade. The project helps the marginalizing to get access to communities resources.

Can you give one example?

Rita Rijal from Bardiya found herself between a rock and a hard place when she joined community members in convincing her family to give up the school land it had been using illegally for the past forty years.

“My opinion was different from my families from the beginning,” she says. “Villagers used to tell that we are capturing land which always made me feel embarrassed.”

Rita tried to convince her relatives in a creative manner by saying that the land belongs to the Goddess Saraswati [Goddess of Learning]. “We should not capture the land that belongs to the goddess,” she argued.

However, Rijal’s family did not budge.  A mediator was needed to solve the conflict.

The local CLRC stepped in. “Seven political parties, former Ward president and other people were invited for meetings. We had up to three meeting a day,” says Rita.

Eventually her family agreed. And Rita felt a deep sense of relief.

With the newly acquired land, the school can introduce higher education so students won’t have to travel far. “That way they can assist their parents in the morning and evening,” says Ritu. "Once they get a good education they can become doctors, pilots and engineers in future.”

Find here how a village in Bardiya managed to resolve a decade-old conflict. 

How will it be replicated or built upon?

Oxfam aims to share the model and practices with concerned stakeholders. Among them are donor agencies, Ministries, local government bodies and the media. We have been coordinating with DFID, FAO, UN Habitat and other development agencies to expand the work. Linkages are also made with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT).

We also look forward to extending our MoU with the Ministry of Land Reform and Management to build the learnings into upcoming policies.