Bishwas Chepang / August 16, 2013
Lack of Land Ownership Certificates:
Originally nomadic, Chepangs used to survive through hunting, fishing and collecting edible roots and shoots from local forests. Most of the land suitable for crop cultivation was consequently occupied by more sedentary communities, and Chepangs were compelled to settle in sloped, arid and stony areas.Furthermore, the Private Forest Nationalization Act 1957 included all forest land that had previously been used under customary systems of rights and usage under the category of ‘government ownership’. There was no compensation for highly marginalized indigenous groups such as the Chepangs who had traditionally managed and used these forests. Non-recognition and the lack of legal protection of customary land rights have slowly eroded their access to areas they traditionally used for their livelihoods.
Nowadays, most Chepangs are subsistence farmers and their economy is based on forest resources and shifting cultivation; their only means of survival as they do not own productive land. “We do not own land because we lack citizenship certificates required for land ownership”, said local Chepangs in Makwanpur. A member of the NCA further noted that almost half of Chepang households have been denied registration certificates for land they have cultivated for centuries and that, in 2005, still two-thirds of the Chepang population was considered landless.