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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KFPE - Kommission für Forschungspartnerschaften mit Entwicklungsländern

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Die Kommission für Forschungspartnerschaften mit Entwicklungsländern ist die zentrale Schweizer Informations-, Austausch- und Lernplattform für die Forschungszusammenarbeit im und mit dem globalen Süden. Seit über 25 Jahren fördert sie effiziente, wirksame und gleichberechtigte Nord-Süd Forschungspartnerschaften.  


PFNL - Programme d’appui à la valorisation des produits forestiers non ligneux au Burkina Faso

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Au Burkina Faso, le fort potentiel en produits forestiers non ligneux peut être davantage exploité au profit des populations vulnérables en améliorant la sécurité alimentaire et la création de revenus. Pour une dernière phase, la Suisse, avec le cofinancement des Pays-Bas, consolide les acquis d’une manière durable tout en soutenant l’extension dans une nouvelle région pour prendre en compte, en particulier les personnes déplacées internes (PDI), les femmes et les jeunes affectés par la crise sécuritaire.  


CHAIN - Cambodian Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2022

The last phase of the mandated Cambodian Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition Project will focus on sustainability and scalability of horticulture business models for farmers and businesses, supports quality extension services under the leadership of National and Provincial Agriculture Offices. Strengthened local market systems and improved water access for year-round safe vegetable production will increased income for 7,200 farmers and young migrants in four north-eastern provinces.


Covid-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (single phase)

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2022

Established by The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) addresses immediate impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on rural people, prevents the erosion of results from past and ongoing operations, and puts in place building blocks to support post crisis recovery and long term resilience. As an IFAD member state, Switzerland joins international efforts with this time-bound response to prevent the health crisis from turning into a food crisis.


Woody Weeds Plus

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2023

Based on the research results of CABI Switzerland and the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Berne, the Kenyan government implements the national Prosopis strategy aiming at sustainable management of this fast spreading invasive species. The Woody Weeds Plus project coaches this effort and implements a multi-stakeholder approach to address pastoralist livelihoods and to restore pastures and ecosystem services in arid and semi-arid lands. 


Resil - Projet de renforcement de la résilience et de la cohésion sociale au plateau dogon

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2022

Au Centre du Mali, les groupes armés exploitent la concurrence pour l’accès aux terres afin d’envenimer les relations entre communautés et de créer un climat d’extrême violence. En visant une meilleure productivité des terres et le renforcement des mécanismes de gestion des différends fonciers, le projet contribue à apaiser les relations et accroît la résilience. La Suisse contribue à la cohésion sociale, au développement rural et à la résilience des victimes du conflit. 


Aceli Africa

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2025

Aceli Africa is a market-led platform to catalyse finance for credit-constrained East African businesses along selected agricultural value chains that offer the best potential for income and job creation, food security and nutrition, gender inclusiveness, and promotion of climate-smart and agro-ecological smallholder agriculture. Key Swiss added values are the up-scaling of social impact financial instruments pioneered by SDC with partners, the involvement of the largest Swiss private impact investor, and the focus on two SDC priority countries.


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.

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