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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Mainstreaming Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) into Agricultural Systems in Africa

01.05.2019 - 30.04.2023

Current agricultural and food systems rely greatly on non-renewable external inputs, impact negatively on soils, water, biodiversity, nutrition and health. Switzerland supports the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative that promotes a viable alternative in Africa to ensure sustainable agricultural development, food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers in an environmentally sustainable manner, thereby contributing towards a more sustainable global food system.


One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods (HEAL)

01.03.2019 - 31.10.2024

Transmission of diseases between humans and animals are frequent in pastoralist societies of

Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya and related to environmental conditions. The HEAL project

promotes sustainable rangeland management and access to integrated human/livestock health

services. Thereby, it contributes to improved health, to reduced vulnerability among pastoralist

communities and to prevention of their displacement/migration, which is in the interest of Switzerland.


BLOOOM: Agricultural Technology for the Bottom of the Pyramid

01.02.2019 - 31.12.2023

Blooom, a newly founded social enterprise provides innovative digital solutions to connect smallholder farmers to input suppliers and consumers. Smallholders get access to information, financing, local and international markets via mobile phone technology. In this public private development partnership, Swiss support serves to expand Blooom’s services to smallholder farmers in low income countries in which the risks of entry for private sector companies are generally too high, including countries in Africa.


Programme de Valorisation du Potentiel Agro-Pastoral dans l’Est du Burkina Faso (VALPAPE) Phase 2

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022

La région de l’Est du Burkina Faso, malgré un fort potentiel agropastoral, reste l’une des plus pauvres du pays. Le programme va soutenir des dynamiques de développement local par la valorisation durable des potentialités agropastorales pour la création d’emploi et la génération de revenu, en particulier pour les jeunes et les femmes. En réduisant leur vulnérabilité face à l’insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, la migration et l’extrémisme violent, le programme promeut la stabilité et soutient les intérêts de la Suisse.



Improving Food Security and Land Governance through investment standards

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2023

Investment in agriculture is needed to feed a growing global population. These investments need to respect the situation of the local population and the environment. Switzerland chaired the drafting process of the Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investments that have been adopted by the Committee on World Food Security. Consequently Switzerland supports the application of the Principles by training development country stakeholders in the negotiation and application of sustainable investment frameworks to increase food security for the poorest populations.


Social Accountability Programme

Tanzanian citizens

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2023

Against the backdrop of shrinking civic space in Tanzania, the Social Accountability Program supports four key accountability Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country. It aims to enhance transparency and accountability of public resource management at national and local level and to empower citizens – including youth and women - and local organizations to engage effectively in public oversight, decision making and advocacy on social issues of concern.


Contribution au Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CSAO)

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022

L’Afrique de l’Ouest est confrontée à d’énormes défis : insécurité alimentaire chronique, pauvreté élevée, insécurités, emplois des jeunes, extrémisme violent etc. Le Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest est une plateforme internationale unique qui nourrit par ses analyses et ses recommandations la prise de décision des acteurs politiques et de développement de la région afin de mieux traiter ces défis. L’appui de la DDC contribuera ainsi à la sécurité alimentaire et la stabilité de la région


Somalia Information and Resilience Building Action (SIRA)

10.12.2018 - 30.11.2022

The Somali population has remained chronically food insecure over the years with acute emergency needs during the cyclic drought periods. Switzerland contributes, through its support to enhanced fodder production and income, to the longer-term resilience building of the Somali communities. By supporting the provision of information and data for decision making, the formulation of evidence-based policy making and the use of the data for increased protection and resilience will enhanced.


Enhancing security coordination and local contextual understanding to increase humanitarian access

01.12.2018 - 30.11.2020

This project aims at enhancing security coordination and local contextual understanding to increase humanitarian access to insecure locations both inside and outside of Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites. Through enhanced understanding of the context, operational threats can be better mitigated by NGOs, facilitating scale-up of programme and service delivery to the affected population in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity States.


Gestion des Eaux de Ruissellement dans le Tchad Sahélien (GERTS)

01.12.2018 - 30.11.2022

Ce programme vise l’aménagement des vallées avec des seuils d’épandage en vue de leur exploitation agro-pastorale au bénéfice direct de 350'000 personnes dans quatre régions au centre-est du Tchad. Cette approche est promue et mise à l’échelle avec l’appui d’organisations publiques et privées. Les femmes et les jeunes sont particulièrement encouragés à s’investir en production maraîchère à but commercial et pour améliorer la nutrition. Le programme contribue aussi à la stabilité au centre-est du Tchad, et à la prévention de la migration et de l’extrémisme violent.


Long-term farming system comparisons in the tropics

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2022

Conventional agriculture based on high external inputs resulted in productivity increases but has high negative external costs. Alternative systems exist but information on their performance is scarce. This long-term system comparison led by the Swiss Research Institute for Organic Agriculture provides scientific evidence on the productivity, profitability and environmental impacts of organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture in four production systems of the tropics.

Object 97 – 108 of 223