Habitat for Humanity Nepal advocated for local authorities to allocate land and housing to landless, flood-impacted families, thus increasing secure tenure and disaster resilience for 500 people.

Habitat Nepal’s advocacy efforts arose naturally from Habitat’s on-the-ground disaster response efforts. In August 2017, floods destroyed homes in Nepal’s eastern city of Biratnagar in Province 1. In response, Habitat Nepal built temporary shelters for those who had lost their belongings, homes and land.

Habitat Nepal surveyed land in the province to determine which areas were most prone to future flooding. Additionally, Habitat Nepal determined which families had been living on disaster-prone land who would need access to safer ground for houses.

Armed with evidence from their study, Habitat Nepal and their partners began to consistently lobby Biratnagar officials to allocate land and funding to these landless families, as envisioned in the constitution and various federal policies.

As a result, Biratnagar Metropolitan City allotted land and NPR 10 million, or around USD $100,000, in funding to support the construction of houses for 100 landless, flood-affected families. Authorities recently drafted new procedural guidelines for future disaster response that will include the allocation of land and funding for housing for the most vulnerable flood-affected families. 

Habitat Nepal and their partners are in talks with local authorities in the flood-affected districts of Jhapa, Morang and Siraha to encourage a similar allocation of funds and land for tenure-insecure populations. These discussions are expected to bear results in the coming months, with other local governments likely to follow suit. 

While Nepal’s constitution—ratified in 2015—provides a framework for land rights by safeguarding the interests of marginalized populations, remnants of the nation’s feudal system cause significant disparities in land access today. Provincial governments, influenced by wealthy landowners, often fail to implement these land policies. For example, women continue to own only around 20% of private land, despite having equality under the law.

Disasters, like floods and earthquakes, exacerbate land inequities and disproportionately impact economically and socially marginalized populations who lack secure tenure. Without secure land tenure, it’s difficult to rebuild a home. When marginalized populations live on the most disaster-prone land, like river banks, they are even more likely to be affected by disaster.

Habitat Nepal is not only influencing provincial authorities to respond to flood and disaster victims, but also encouraging increased policy implementation of land rights for socially and economically marginalized populations, including women and Dalit people, a group discriminated against due to caste system social stratification. In this way, Habitat Nepal has not just influenced governments to allocate funds, they have also led disaster resilient strategies that will benefit those in greatest need.