Land Reform from Below

Land Reform from Below

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The idea builds on the conviction of people’s power to effect a bottom-up change, power that gets reinforced through collective ‘action’. People develop a land reform framework which they think is suitable in their ecological context, ensure its bye-in from all stakeholders and initiate land reform from the community level.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

a). Skewed distribution of land (over history): According to official data, there are 4.2 million families in Nepal. Some 25 percent of them (1.3 million) are the landless or land-poor falling under absolute poverty line. Majority of these people are Dalits, ethnic minorities and women, who are solely dependent on farming for sustenance, but have no land, which is controlled by those who do not work the land. b). Lack of common framework to translate political slogans into action: All major political parties have committed themselves to “scientific land reform”. Yet, they do not have a common understanding of the issue, nor a framework to transform the concept into practice leaving the situation unchanged. C). Exclusion of women from ownership of land: Women have historically been excluded from having access to, and ownership of, property and the means of production. Only 10.8% of Nepali women own land and many of these are only nominal owners.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The idea is unique and different from many others in the way it engages with the poor people. While many NGOs and development agencies “work for” the poor as the recipients of material assistance and technical know-how, the project (which in fact is the campaign for land reform from below) initiated by CSRC “works with” them to develop them as skilled leaders, negotiators and change makers, committed to bringing about change in their situation in a non-violent way. It is a campaign of the poor led by the poor themselves, unlike most other social campaigns in Nepal. The modus operandi adopted by CSRC also makes the idea unique. CSRC has adopted a two-pronged approach to work both with the people at the community level and with the State at the central level. At the community level, the focus is on organizing and educating the poor so that they are able to articulate their voices and claim rights peacefully. At the national level, the focus is on building consensus amongst political parties and state institutions to initiate pro-poor land reform as a central policy. Central to the approach is to create power from below to influence central level policies and laws by maintaining intact micro-macro linkages. The campaign’s mission is to enable the poor to live independently in a peaceful environment with their basic socio-economic needs fulfilled. It has already significantly contributed to establishing pro-poor land reform as one of the main agenda of social and economic transformation of Nepal.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

a. Power from Below : In a major impact of the movement, it has organised 57,629 families (24,194 of them are women and 26,596 dalits) in 1,653 community-level organisations. Through education, awareness raising and sensitization events, a total of 293,320 household representatives have been made aware of their rights, their duties and ways to achieve peaceful social transformation. The organization and mobilisation of the landless and tillers has, thus, created a groundswell of change from the grassroots level. b. Property Transfer to Tenant and Landless Families: The campaign has facilitated the direct transfer of land ownership to the tenant and landless families. By end of December 2009, a total of 14,863 tenant families have received land entitlements to 3,608 hectares of land. At current pricing levels, the total value of this land is NPR1027 million (around USD14 million). Of the total number of tenants who received their tenancy rights, Dalit families accounted for 3,573 (24%) and women accounted for 1120 (7.5%). In addition, 402 landless families, who had been working the public land for generations, got entitlements to 345 hectares of land, worth around NPR 99 million (USD 1.35 million) at a current market value. This is a significant shift of resources to the poorest section of the community, and with this shift comes to the poor socio-economic power, prestige, identity, food and livelihood security and dignity. c. Inclusion of land reform in Interim Constitution: The land rights campaign has been recognised and rewarded by the inclusion of land as a major agenda in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006, which ended a decade-long Maoist insurgency, and also in the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063 (2007). The Interim Constitution has a provision to “Pursue a policy of adopting scientific land reform programmes by gradually ending feudalistic land ownership”. CSRC and its collaborating partners have been demanding this for a long time.
About You
Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC)
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, XX

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC)

Organization Phone

+977 1 4360486, 4357005

Organization Address

Dhapasi-8, Kathmandu Nepal, Post Box No. 19790

Organization Country

, XX

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Do you have a patent for this idea?


The following actions are part of the three-year land rights campaign.
- Building, strengthening and expanding landless and tillers’ organizations
- Context analysis and framework building at the community level
- Discussion amongst stakeholders for consensus on the framework developed by the communities
- Mobilisation of trained and capable staff/facilitators
- Setting up of 30 cooperatives, with some 30,000 members
- Capacity building and other backstopping support to people’s organisations
- Policy dialogues and consultations with policy makers
- Policy advocacy focusing specifically on promoting women’s access to land
- Linkages and collaborations with national and international civil society organisations
- Establishment of collaborative partnerships with academic instituions
- Research studies
- Close collaboration with the Ministry of Land Reform
- Support to alternative land policy and programmes
- Promotion of simple technology for land productivity and marketing
- Mobilisation of the media at all levels


It promotes people-oriented agendas compatible with the needs of Nepal’s complex socio-cultural landscape, which involves everyone concerned consciously, including the landlords, who are opposed to the idea of land reform, in the process. In the next three years, the campaign has expected to achieve the following results:

- Some 30,000 families of the landless farmers and tenants will have their land entitlements secured, and, as such, have their freedom from exploitation protected and dignity enhanced. Of those at least 10,000 would be women.
- The landless and tillers’ organizations will have been institutionally strengthened at least in 50 districts, where they will have been engaged in a process of community-led land reform.
- National policies on land will have been changed and the State institutions, including Planning Commission and the Ministry of Land Reform , will have become supportive to the community-led initiatives.
- 50 cooperatives will have been set up with some 30,000 members, 60 percent of them women, organised and engaged in a number of agricultural activities supporting livelihood and food security.
- Land productivity will have increased

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

Change of policy is one of the main objectives of the land rights campaign. The problem of landlessness and resource deprivation has emanated basically from state policies and laws developed in the past through which the rulers institutionalized the practice of land grants to those close to the ruling circle (cronies, military officers, chief of state administration, and so on). A certain area of arable land was given to certain individuals through a decree in recognition for their service and favour to the rulers. Similarly, the State facilitated the registration of vast tracts of land in the name of religious institutions, mostly temples. These lands are either unused or captured by local elites today. On this background, when the campaign focuses on land reform, it basically focuses on the change of state policies and laws about land management and administration.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

The partnership with like-minded institutions is crucial to the success of the innovation, which deals with an issue that is too big and complicated for an NGO to handle alone. First, the State has, over history, continued to lack political will to undertake land reform, which is its prime responsibility. Partnerships are necessary for collective actions to help the State generate the political will and build mechanism to work for the poor. Second, the capacity of the beneficiaries to claim their rights constructively is low. They need support to build their agency so that they are able to claim their right entitlements in a framework of the rule of law. Third, multi-stakeholder partnership is also imperative to build a ‘knowledge’ base about the land. In Nepal, much remains unknown about the actual quantity of the quality land being owned by individuals as well as institutions, without which reform becomes useless.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Part of the initiative is supported by a consortium of bilateral donors and international Non-Government Organisations, including Danida’s Human Rights and Good Governance Advisory Unit, ActionAid Nepal, Care Nepal and Oxfam GB. A significant amount, some 30 percent of the total cost, is generated locally through volunteer services, donations, collection in kind from the landless and the tenant farmers themselves and mobilization of resources from local governments. For example, it is mandatory for a community-level organization to raise NPR 2,000 (around USD 28) for local level campaigns. For national level campaigns, to which they are part of, they should also raise a certain portion of costs locally.

The business plan for the future includes the mobilization of resources from various funding partners, including the above, as well as from local bodies. Collection of membership fees from Land Rights Forum members, collection of donations, and organization of funfairs and carnivals at local levels will be the other ways of resource generations.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

One of the defining moments behind the innovation was the mayhem Nepali people saw in the name of the “People’s War”, which promised land to the landless following the overthrow of the existing state. The slogan of the “land to the tillers” being raised by a party to the conflict attracted the landless people to the “War”. But it was those people who became the primary target by the state security forces mobilized to counteract the “War”. To a group of people engaged in the non-violent social campaign for promotion of human rights, this was a difficult moment. The slogan of “land to the tillers” was right as the tillers who toiled over land were the ones deprived of its produce. They were the ones who were held in a state of slavery (as debt-bondage to the landlords), who committed suicide unable to feed their families, and had their children forced to child labour. But the means pursued was totally unacceptable. A form of violence could not be corrected through another form of violence. It is this scenario that led to the initiation of the campaign, some seven or eight years ago, to address the problem of landlessness through a peaceful way by organizing and empowering the affected people.

The issue of land entitlement is crucial in many other respects. One deprived of land is also deprived of such basic government services as, among others, water supply, electricity supply, and children’s enrollment in school. It was, and still is, mandatory to have land ownership certificate to access to these facilities. So the access of the poor to land was imperative to the fight against this level of deprivation.

The other crucial issue is the deprivation of the poor of any opportunity to engage in gainful/productive business. Those who do not have land certificate are deprived of loans from banks as well as local money lenders, and, thus, are unable to engage in small businesses which would give them some respite from poverty. To see the people plunge into the vicious cycle of poverty every day is excruciatingly painful. The innovation was a response to this pain as well, which aimed to mitigate the impact of poverty to whatever small scale it would be possible.

So it is not only one or the other, the defining moments behind the innovation are many, some of them historical and some others structural.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Behind the idea are a group of a few individuals committed to democratically just and peaceful society. However, Jagat Basnet is a mentor of them. Born in a rural district of Sindhupalchok in central Nepal, Jagat faced poverty from an early age and often forced to borrow food from relatives and suffered from diseases. He did not have enough land to work. And the produce from the land whatever they had was not sufficient to earn the living of the family.

As a teenager, he used to walk two hours daily to attend school, driven by his pledge to work towards alleviating poverty, and injustice through rightful means. In 1994, he decided, with a few of his fellow colleagues, to start an organization which would dedicate to the cause of the poor. This led to the establishment of CSRC.

Now, Mr. Jagat Basnet is the Executive Director and founder member of CSRC, an organization that has gained national recognition as the organizations that champions the cause of the rights of the poor and marginalized.

An activist who began his career in social services from his home area of Talamarang, Sindhupalchowk 16 years back, Mr Basnet has grown to an outstanding social leader committed to the service of the poor and marginalized. In recognition of his innovative work for the landless and tenant families, Mr. Basnet was awarded with the prestigious Maja Koene Award in 2006 from India; the Ashoka Fellowship Award in 2007; Annual Human Rights Prize 2009 by Leitner Centre for International Law and Justice, USA; and, the “Farmer Voice Award 2010” by the UK-based Agriculture Learning & Impacts Network (ALINe). He believes in the power of peaceful activism that operates within legally defined territories. As such, he believes the gruesome problem of landlessness and resulting poverty can, and should, be resolved through a constitutional process backed by appropriate legal arrangements.

In contrast to many development agencies that work in rural areas for poverty alleviation and economic empowerment, Mr. Basnet works directly with the affected people helping them to workout solutions of the problems facing them. For him, the marginalized are the store of knowledge that can only be exploited for their good. Mr. Basnet has edited and authored a number of publications, including “Land Politics and Conflict in Nepal: Realities and Potentials for Agrarian Transformation". He is also seen to write regularly in national dailies on land issues.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

International Land Coaliton (ILC)

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Policy advocacy to strengthen property rights or increase security of tenure, Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights, Other.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

Other: Enabling and strengthening of community groups to develop the land reform frame work from below - the ‘capacity building’ measures (education and organization in particular especially land law and policy) of the landless and land poor. Unless the poor have the capacity to articulate themselves and are able to influence policies.