A woman and a child walk across a field in Bangladesh with some goats in tow.
The SDC is working to ensure that the poorest population groups in rural areas have fair access to land and other natural resources. © IFAD/G.M.B.Akash

Just as in high-income countries, agricultural land in low- and middle-income countries is in increasingly short supply. Infrastructure, urban expansion and investments in large-scale farms are encroaching on land previously used by smallholders. Broad-based regulations are necessary to ensure fair access to land and other natural resources, especially for poorer population groups in rural areas. The SDC is committed to establishing such regulations at the national, regional and global levels.

The SDC's focus

The SDC works to ensure equitable access to land and other natural resources such as water, especially for poorer population groups in rural areas. As well as being vital to sustain life, they also act as important productive resources for smallholder farmers. Land law determines whether and how the right to use and control land, fisheries and forests can be exercised. Guaranteeing the right to use and own land is key to combating poverty and hunger.

With the aim of reducing poverty and hunger in poorer sections of the population, the SDC supports governments in the development, implementation and oversight of fair and transparent land use policies that recognise all existing rights of use, including individual, collective and customary rights.

At the same time, the SDC encourages the participation of all stakeholders in drawing up such principles and supports local communities and farmers' organisations so that they are able to exercise their land use rights. For the SDC, the inclusion of the private sector in such processes is of high priority.

At the global level, the SDC has participated actively in the creation and implementation of a set of targeted regulations that promote a just tenure and land management policy and establish criteria for responsible investment in agriculture.

Guidelines and principles on the responsible governance of tenure

As a member of the Bureau of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Switzerland was instrumental in developing the current UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security in 2012. Over the next two years, Switzerland led negotiations on a set of Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, intended to complement the Guidelines. In 2014, it brought the process to a successful conclusion with the adoption of the Principles. Together with other states, private sector organisations, civil society and UN agencies, the SDC is actively involved in implementing these Guidelines and Principles. This lays the foundation for securing land use rights for all and enabling investments into better production methods.

The SDC also supports implementation of the African Union (AU) Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, adopted in 2009, which pledges to ensure equitable access to and the efficient and sustainable use of land. To this end, the SDC works closely with the African Land Policy Centre, which is directly responsible for implementing the AU Framework and Guidelines. The SDC also broadens and strengthens the expertise of the relevant decision-makers and public officials in order to improve the assessment of land-related investment contracts.

Background

Approximately 70% of the more than 800 million chronically undernourished people in low- and middle income countries countries live in rural areas, the majority growing crops or rearing livestock. For them, security of access to land and other natural resources is especially important. Equally important is secure access to land for the rapidly increasing urban population, both for housing and for growing food in small gardens (urban agriculture).

Investments in land can have a major adverse impact on the food security of local communities. The legitimate call for increased investment in agriculture often focuses on the economic dimension, leaving aside social and environmental issues. As a result, such investments often restrict access to land and other natural resources such as water. Moreover, they contribute to reducing biodiversity in agriculture and threaten fragile ecosystems. In many cases, serious human rights violations occur.

Land-related investments are often concluded with no or minimal prior consultation of the affected rural populations. Most large-scale land transactions thus lack transparency and accountability at all levels. At country level, line ministries and parliaments are rarely invited to scrutinise investment projects involving large-scale land acquisitions and leases. When decision- and policymakers are involved, they often lack the capacity to thoroughly examine legal and transactional issues related to investment contracts at national level.

Land-law principles and guidelines such as those supported by the SDC are needed to make information on land deals available and to update it continuously. Dialogue with all stakeholders, including the private sector and government officials, helps create space for the needs and concerns of disadvantaged groups in policymaking processes. In this context, grievance mechanisms enable affected populations to hold governments and/or investors accountable and, where applicable, obtain appropriate compensation.

Switzerland is aware that existential issues such as those relating to land access, use and tenure have to be resolved in consultation with all stakeholders if conflicts are to be prevented.

Current projects

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Diffusion des produits de la recherche agricole en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2024

L’utilisation des innovations et technologies sont indispensables pour accroitre la résilience et la productivité des systèmes alimentaires en Afrique de l’Ouest, en vue d’y accroître leur adaptation aux changements climatiques et la sécurité alimentaire. La Suisse soutiendra le CORAF pour accroitre l’utilisation par les producteurs, transformateurs et autres acteurs des chaines de valeurs agricoles des innovations produites par la recherche en soutenant leur diffusion et mutualisation.


Urban Food Security and Resilience Building programme

15.10.2020 - 31.10.2024

Drawing on learnings by Switzerland in rural areas in Zimbabwe, this program addresses food insecurity in 3 secondary cities through a contribution to a World Food Programme initiative that combines humanitarian and resilience building solutions. Focused on the latter, this contribution provides food insecure urban people a comprehensive support including skills, finance and market linkages aimed at more gainful agriculture. It also supports the coordination and strengthening of related stakeholders, including policy makers.  


Upgrading Karm Abu Salem Crossing - Gaza

01.10.2020 - 31.12.2022

Switzerland will support improving the export/import conditions of goods to and from the Gaza Strip.

The project, implemented by UNOPS, will upgrade the poor infrastructure at the Palestinian side of

the only functioning commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel. The existing infrastructure con-

ditions are causing around 10% of damages to the transiting commodities thus incurring substantial

economic losses that are affecting the living conditions of two million people in the Gaza Strip


The Swiss Capacity Building Facility

01.10.2020 - 31.12.2026

The Swiss Capacity Building Facility (SCBF) is a Swiss technical assistance financing facility, uniting the expertise of key actors of the Swiss financial sector and of partners engaged in financial inclusion. The SCBF fosters the innovation and massive scaling-up of financial services and products centred on the financial inclusion of low-income women, vulnerable households, smallholder farmers and MSMEs in the Global South. Financial inclusion enables reaching the SDGs. 


Prabriddhi: Local Economic Development at District Level in Bangladesh

01.09.2020 - 31.08.2025

In six urban municipalities and their surrounding territories, the public and private sector and civil society will engage in participatory local economic development planning and implementation, generating income opportunities for poor and disadvantaged women and men. The project combines Switzerland’s expertise in market development and local governance to develop and refine a model of local economic planning and creates the right conditions for its wider replications by the Government of Bangladesh.


Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC)

01.08.2020 - 31.07.2024

Vector-borne neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and malaria are major causes of mortality, morbidity and lack of economic progress for the poorest. Targeting the vector (mosquito) is a main eradication approach. Due to climate change and natural mutation, insecticide resistance is affecting most malaria endemic countries. The Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) is the world-leader Product Development Partnership developing innovative and safe insecticides. SDC strategic support to IVCC complements Switzerland’s global action against malaria. 


MASAP - Markets and Seeds Access Project

01.08.2020 - 30.11.2025

This initiative promotes the utilization of quality seeds of drought tolerant small grains and legumes through support to farmers’ organisations and enterprises, private sector engagement and evidence-based advocacy. 94’000 smallholders will benefit from increased market participation, higher incomes, and consumption of nutritious diets.  It is implemented by NIRAS with the Community Technology Development Organisation and the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture.


VEGI - Inclusive and sustainable vegetable production and marketing

01.08.2020 - 31.07.2023

This exit phase further promotes vegetable production and nutrition in Mongolia, focusing on the most demanded crops with domestically-produced seeds suitable to agro-climatic conditions. It adds an organisational development’s support to the Mongolian Farmers Association for Rural Development and to the Vegetable Seed Reserve Unit to strengthen the sustainability of these critical institutions, based on SDC similar experiences in Africa.


COVID-19 - Prevention and Recovery in the Mekong Region

01.08.2020 - 30.09.2022

Vulnerable groups in Laos and Cambodia suffered disproportionally from the Covid-19 socio-economic crisis affecting their income, as well as access to public services and employment. Swiss support will combine institutional strengthening of local actors and provision of public services, skills development, access to credit and support to returning migrants. The long-term experience of Switzerland and trusted relationships with governments add value to the intervention


Strengthening Social Protection in Jordan

01.08.2020 - 31.12.2021

Switzerland's contribution to this multi-donor project will provide social assistance to Jordanians households which are unable to meet their basic needs, including as a result of COVID-19, and at the same time support the institutional reform process of Jordan's social protection system. Switzerland will contribute to the reform process of the National Aid Fund to make it more effective, inclusive, accountable and sustainable. This first phase orient Switzerland’s engagement in upcoming phases which will be manly focussed on the institutional reform process.


ENUFF - Enhancing Nutrition of Upland Farming Families

01.07.2020 - 30.06.2024

Despite a sustained economic growth of 7.7% over the last decade of Lao PDR, children under five, nationally, 21% are underweight, 33% are stunted and 9% wasted (2017). Based on initial achievements and lessons learned from phase one, Switzerland, with its leave no one behind value, will provide support for a second and final phase to the government­’s multi-sectoral approach that integrates agriculture, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. The geographical scope expands to 20 new remote villages and targets women, men and children.


Smallholder Safety Net Up-scaling Pro-gramme (SSNUP)

01.07.2020 - 31.12.2023

Smallholder Safety Net Up-scaling Programme is a multi-donor public private partnership to support small and medium agribusiness enterprises, farmer organisations and financial intermediaries in providing effective services to their smallholder farmer customers and members, thereby reducing their farm and livelihood risks. The programme will lead to higher incomes and more jobs notably for women as well as increased food security, contributing to improved livelihoods of an estimated 3 million smallholder households applying more sustainable farm practices.

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