We have a saying in Nepali “Ja Pachi Jha Aaucha”, which means with land follows a dispute (disagreement/argument). Land dispute seems to be widespread throughout Nepal. Sometimes it is between two parties, for instance two siblings competing over parental property and sometimes it could involve a range of stakeholders for instance; it could be a dispute between a host community, squatter’s community and local government agencies.

Most common disputes in the districts include dispute between landowner and tenant over tenancy rights, land owner evicting a tenant from his/ her land without informing or providing compensation, dispute related to inheritance rights, boundary dispute due to old and new survey techniques, tenants not sharing rightful share with the landowner, mismatch between records of survey and revenue office, husband selling land without wife’s consent and vice versa, different person claiming ownership over a same piece of land, encroachment of private, public and communal land, dispute between national park and conservation area authority and surrounding community, dispute over land seized during the conflict period, dispute over compensation of land that was lost due to road expansion, dispute over distribution of property between divorced couple, dispute relating to property inheritance for single women after death of a husband, among other.

Not only the district land offices are occupied with land disputes but also the judicial courts have high number of registered land disputes. In the fiscal year 2070/ 2071 (July 2013 to July 2014), a total of 42, 910 land related cases were registered in the Supreme, Appellate and District Courts in Nepal. Out of different category of cases registered in the courts, land related cases marks the highest percentage i.e. almost 27% of all.

Most of us opt to take our land related disputes to the court and seek for legal settlement without realizing that most of the civil cases including land can also be settled through ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Mediation, a branch of ADR allows a neutral third person to help the disputing parties resolve their dispute. Experience has shown that ‘Mediation’ is one of the cost effective, less time consuming and helps to preserve relations between the disputing parties. With adoption of Mediation Act 2011 and its regulation in 2014, government and non-government agencies in Nepal are now promoting community mediation for effective resolution of disputes. These days, District, Appellate and the Supreme Courts in Nepal have introduced court based mediation for settlement of disputes which in the meantime also reduces backlog of cases.

The International Organization for Migration, together with the Ministry of Land Reform and Management (MoLRM) organized three back to back training in the project districts of Morang, Nawalparasi and Surkhet. The trainings were organized as a part of ‘Catalytic Support on Land Issues Project’ for the district level government and non-government officials who are either directly or indirectly involved in resolving land disputes in the three districts. In total, 84 participants representing Land Rights Forum, Local Peace Committee, Survey Office, Land Reform Office, Revenue Office, District Administration Office, District Police Office, District Court, Town Development Committee, District Development Committee, District Women and Children Office and Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs), among others, attended the trainings.

The aim was of the training was not to produce mediators, which requires at least 40- 72 hours of professional training but to aware the participants of the mediation techniques, introduce tips and tools to understand needs, interest and position of the disputing parties for resolving land disputes. The learnings from the training can be applied in both professional and personal life. Through these trainings, IOM is making an effort to resolve and minimize local level protracted land disputes, which if resolved can contribute to national level peace-building.

I was also one of the participants of the training. For me, the interesting part was that the training was it created an environment where the participants could learn from each other through the sharing of their knowledge, experience, challenges, solutions and their agencies’ procedure and mechanism for handling local land disputes.  I also like the role playing session that was designed to maximize the learning experience of participants and summarized the key take away messages from the training.

At the end of the training in each district, the evaluation was conducted. See below what some of the participants wrote in their evaluation form in the three districts:

  • In my 20 years of government services, this is my first training on Dispute Resolution and Mediation’. I always thought that land disputes could only be resolved through the implementation of the existing policy. But I now realize that they can be also be resolved through mediation if we are concerned about peace and maintaining social harmony in our community.
  • I learned that disputes can be resolved through mediation but we strictly need to follow the stages and processes of mediation. We also need to have patience and continuation for obtaining a desired outcome through mediation.
  • This training has enhanced my confidence in taking a lead role in resolving land and other community disputes.
  • Three days of training program is not sufficient to get a clear picture of all dimensions of dispute resolution and mediation. It should be at least seven days long training program. I really liked the participation of officials from various government offices who often have to deal with land disputes in Surkhet district. We, the government officials never had the opportunity to sit together and discuss land disputes and land issues of this district, but this training has been an important forum to understand the status of land dispute in the district and build consensus.

[1] Supreme Court Annual Report, Nepal, 2014