Land rights

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.

Documents

Current projects

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International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) - core contribution

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2032

ICIPE is Africa’s leading insect research institute contributing to plant, animal, human and environmental health. SDC supports ICIPE as its work is highly relevant for the transformation to sustainable food systems, agroecology, healthy nutrition, and the promotion of the ‘One health’ approach. ICIPE’s development path is closely linked to Switzerland through longstanding partnerships with prominent Swiss experts and organisations. 


CORIGAP: Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia

01.04.2021 - 31.12.2022

SDC supports the International Rice Research Institute and national research and extension partners in six countries in Asia (China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam) to develop quantitative tools and methods to optimize the sustainability of irrigated systems in order to enhance regional food security while minimizing the environmental footprint of rice production. Through this contribution, Switzerland has initiated the development of sustainable rice production indicators which are now adopted by more than 100 private and public organisations.


Futuro Microbank

08.03.2021 - 30.06.2023

Limited access to financial services is a key constraint of rural micro and small women and men entrepreneurs (including farmers) to develop their business and to generate employment and income. The Swiss supported Banco Futuro is successfully providing affordable financial services to rural entrepreneurs (80% women), thus allowing them to enhance business and livelihood opportunities


Resilience for Pastoralist Communities in Northern Kenya

01.03.2021 - 31.07.2025

Pastoralism is a millennia old livelihood strategy adapted to the marginal and harsh environ-ments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In order to support pastoralists, this programme contributes to strengthening public and private institutions in the water and livestock sectors, putting policy frameworks in place to ensure efficient county-wide and cross-border water and rangeland management systems, and to increase access to water and pasture.


AgriPath: Empowering farmers’ transition to sustainable agriculture through effective and efficient digital pathways

01.03.2021 - 28.02.2026

500 million smallholder farmers need to increase their agriculture productivity, income and climate resilience. There is a lack of scientifically validated evidence on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of digital agriculture services. AgriPath aims to bring sustainable agriculture[1] to scale by identifying, evaluating, and promoting promising pathways for digitally supported agricultural advisory services. 

[1] The Consortium will embrace current concepts of climate resilient agriculture, climate smart agriculture, sustainable land management and agro-ecology. 


Programme d’Appui aux Filières Agropastorales de Sikasso - PAFA 2

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

En partenariat avec le Luxembourg, la Suisse soutient les exploitations familiales, le secteur privé et les collectivités, chacun dans leur rôle, dans le développement des filières pomme de terre et lait dans le Sud du Mali, générant ainsi des opportunités d’emplois et de revenus durables, en particulier pour les femmes et les jeunes. Le programme soutient ainsi le développement économique et la stabilité politique d’une zone peu touchée par le conflit, mais où ses précurseurs sont présents.


WOCAT 2020+ The Global Network for Sustainable Land Management

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Implementing sustainable land management is essential for reducing land degradation and achieving climate and livelihood resilience. WOCAT, the Swiss founded Global Sustainable Land Management Platform, offers robust and up-to-date knowledge and tools for evidence-based decision-making to implement the most appropriate practices within a given context to improve land resources, ecosystems and livelihoods.


PFNL Crédit d'ouverture Phase 1

01.01.2021 - 28.02.2026

Au Tchad, les PFNL constituent une importante source d’alimentation pour la population rurale (tamarinier, jujubier). Le projet facilite : (i) la valorisation de certains PFNL pour améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, (ii) l’accès à des marchés porteurs et rémunérateurs à travers le renforcement des petites et moyennes entreprises et, (iii) l’amélioration des conditions cadres socio-économiques visant la création d’emploi et de revenu pour les plus pauvres (gomme arabique).


Plantwise plus (PW+)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023

The project Plantwise Plus aims to help farmers face climate challenges and plant health threats. Through the provision of information on climate adaptation practices and technologies (agroecological practices), decision-making tools, and targeted climate risk analyses, the project will help countries to prepare themselves for and prevent plant health threats and reducing crop losses. In the past, CABI and Switzerland have made a proven difference to livelihoods and food security of 40 million farmers worldwide.


Global Forums for Rural Advisory Services and youth in agriculture. Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) Young Professional in Agriculture and Rural Devel-opment (YPARD)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

The COVID-19 crisis magnified existing inequalities. The people with less access to resilience mechanisms, such as the poor, women and youth groups are hardest hit, risking the loss of decades of improvement in poverty alleviation. Rural Advisory Services (RAS) are an important production input for millions of small farmers around the world. The two international networks based in Switzerland, and present in most geographical locations in the world will together develop and strengthen the ability of rural advisory services to better serve the smallholder farmers. 


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.


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.

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