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

Object 25 – 36 of 168

Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE)

01.03.2020 - 31.05.2024

Inspired by aspects of the Swiss Vocational Skills Development model, the Opportunities for Youth Employment project aims to improve the livelihoods of young rural and peri-urban out-of-school women and men. In addition to building youths' skills-set and connecting them with existing markets for gainful selfemployment in agriculture and renewable energy, this project will also contribute to a more youth friendly and effective market system and policy environment Co-funding is provided by the private sector.


FAO Desert Locust Emergency Response in the Horn of Africa Region

20.02.2020 - 19.06.2021

To control the spread of the worst outbreak of desert locusts in decades in the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya) and safeguard livelihoods of thousands of affected vulnerable households, Switzerland intends to contribute to the regional desert locust crisis appeal by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. 


WFP Haiti Supply Chain Response

06.01.2020 - 30.04.2021

Face à la hausse de l'insécurité en Haiti depuis 2018 avec un pic ces 3 derniers mois, l'accès des acteurs humanitaires et de développement à leurs zones d'intervention est devenu difficile. Les populations en besoin d'assistance sont à la hausse sans pouvoir être assistées à cause des lacunes des capacités logistiques. La DDC supporte cette intervention en vue de faciliter la reprise/continuité des activités, renforcer les capacités logistiques (aérienne, maritime, terrestre ..) en vue d'atteindre les populations en besoin d'assistance.


Mine Action for Human Development in Cambodia 2017- 2025

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2025

Over the past 20 years Cambodia has made significant progress in clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Nevertheless 1,640 km2 of land remain contaminated as suspected minefields at this moment. SDC plans supporting national and regional mine action initiatives to ensure that development of poor rural communities is no longer impeded by disablement and restricted access to land, forests and water resources due to landmines and ERW.


Solar Irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.01.2020 - 31.07.2027

To adapt to climate change farmers rely increasingly on irrigation, ultimately depleting groundwater resources and raising energy demand. The project aims to address these challenges by promoting solar irrigation, water efficient agriculture and groundwater governance. The project will harness Swiss expertise on hydrogeology and technical innovations to contribute to climate resilient agriculture and facilitate knowledge sharing in South Asia and at the global level.


CGIAR Contribution 2020 - 2021

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2021

The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global research for development partnership in the fields of agriculture (crops, livestock, aquaculture and forestry). CGIAR holds in trust unique genetic resources for agriculturally significant species of central importance to advancing and sustaining productivity for the world’s smallholder farmers in the 21st century. CGIAR has a singular role in providing international and global public goods through high-quality agricultural research, partnership, and leadership in the areas of poverty and hunger reduction, improvement of human nutrition, enhancement of ecosystem resilience. 


Small Irrigation Programme (SIP)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2024

Swiss engagement through this project assists farmers in doubling their agricultural income through year-round irrigation and better access to markets. Doubling of agriculture income will contribute to poverty reduction and reduce poor farmer’s need to migrate. In addition, Swiss pioneering work in operationalizing federalism, through this project at local level will address issues related to historic over-centralization and social exclusion and will contribute to peace and stability in the country.


Strengthening Drought Resilience in Pastoral and Agro-pastoral Areas of Somali National Regional State, Ethiopia (SDR - SNRS)

01.01.2020 - 30.04.2022

Pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods in Ethiopia's Somali National Regional State (SNRS) are increasingly threatened by environmental (climatic) changes and land degradation. GIZ along with Local Government partners aims at building the resilience of vulnerable pastoralist communities through proven land rehabilitation measures, the promotion of livelihood activities and capacity development of government and private sector institutions.


Responsible Agricultural Investments Leveraging (RAIL) by IFAD

15.12.2019 - 31.12.2023

The International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD is a key partner for Switzerland in the efforts to lift smallholder farmers out of poverty. SDC supports the IFAD-led Agricultural Business Capital Fund to finance responsibly African farmer organisations, small and medium agribusiness enterprises, and rural financial intermediaries. The Fund will lead to higher incomes and more jobs notably for youth and women as well as increased food security, contributing to improved livelihoods of an estimated 430’000 smallholder households applying more sustainable farm practices.


African Risk Capacity (ARC)

10.12.2019 - 31.12.2022

The African Risk Capacity is a disaster risk management pool and early response mechanism established by the African Union member states against natural disasters like drought, flood, and tropical cyclones, and the outbreak of highly contagious diseases. Its drought insurance and the new insurance products for flood and tropical cyclones enhance the safety nets of smallholder households and thus contributes to food security in Africa.


South Sudan, Caritas Switzerland: Restoration of resilience in livelihoods for rural and semi-urban communities in Torit State

01.10.2019 - 30.09.2022

This project is designed to increase the resilience of women, men and children in Torit State in South Sudan. This will be achieved through improving agricultural production and access to value chains for farmers and small scale businesses. In order to improve productivity and reduce water-related diseases, the project will improve access to water. This will ultimately reduce vulnerability to the threat of food & nutrition insecurity, and bring the target population to engage in increased productivity with financial benefit.


Advancing Sustainable Agriculture in Ukraine

01.10.2019 - 31.12.2022

Agricultural production in Ukraine is unsustainable. SDC and Nestlé join efforts to improve agricultural production practices in two selected value chains which will contribute to an improved farm performance and life of farmers. The project will pilot a business model for farm sustainability with 10 farmers and 5 pre-processing lead suppliers. Good business cases showing sustainable farm performance and supply to pre-processors will be disseminated for potential replication.

 

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