NEPAL: Invisible Farmers

In the southern lowlands of Nepal, where the cold still bites harshly in winter, lives a voiceless, landless community of marginalized ethnic groups who have spent their whole lives working for others. With no piece of land in their names, and no opportunities, they are Nepal’s invisible farmers.

NO LAND FOR US

I have worked on farms for more than forty years for landlords, and yet I don’t have a piece of land. What else can I do?
— Jaga Majhi
Above: Jaga Majhi, a landless inhabitant of Bagaiya village.

Above: Jaga Majhi, a landless inhabitant of Bagaiya village.

Meet Jaga Majhi, an elderly inhabitant from the small village of Bagaiya in the Bara District, located in the southern lowlands of Nepal. Like many of the older generation here, Jaga tells me that he can’t remember exact year of his birth, although his citizenship card states 1938. He died of old age in August 2015.

Jaga's grandchildren play within their home.

Jaga's grandchildren play within their home.

Over the last few decades landless squatters in this region have built meagre huts to house their families. They have been here for all or most of their lives, and yet have no formal title to the land they live on, and most of them work on farms for their landlords, on a daily wage basis.

Above: [1] Locals struggle with the cold in the early winter morning. Poor housing and lack of sufficient clothing make life difficult during winters. [2] Shyam Chaudhari works in the field for a daily wage. [3] Keeping goats can help earn a living. [4] Daily wage workers. 

Most of the inhabitants here belong to marginalized ethnic groups such as Tharu, Musahar, Chamar, and Majhi. These ethnic groups are also viewed as ‘untouchables’ by the traditional and complex caste system, that is still present in many parts of Nepal.

Above: [1] Children inside a classroom at the local primary school. The school has two rooms with no furniture inside. They were able to make this school building at the end of 2010. Around 60 children come to study here. [2] An old man walks into a village of landless squatters. 

With no piece of land in their name and an utter lack of opportunity, they remain as impoverished as ever. This is the story of those who have spent their entire lives working for others — they are Nepal’s invisible farmers.

Above: The women also work in the fields on a daily wage basis, but receive a lesser payment than men for an equal day’s work. 

Above: The women also work in the fields on a daily wage basis, but receive a lesser payment than men for an equal day’s work. 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAPTIA 

 

KISHOR SHARMA

@Kishor_ksg 

Kishor is a freelance documentary photographer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He studied Photojournalism at the Danish School of Media and Journalism and is interested in using photography as a means of storytelling.