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.

Current projects

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KENYA - Strengthening Livestock Sector in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) Counties

01.04.2022 - 31.03.2026

60% of the population in northern Kenya depends on livestock production in an environment of recurrent droughts and natural resource-based conflicts. The programme will contribute to poverty reduction, improved resilience to shocks and enhanced socio-economic inclusion of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist men and women by supporting climate-smart livestock production, improving rangelands management and promoting peaceful coexistence of communities.


Appui à la mise en œuvre de la politique agricole de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ECOWAP)

01.02.2022 - 31.12.2026

En Afrique de l’Ouest, plus de 64 % de la population a moins de 24 ans. La faiblesse des chaînes de valeur agricoles ne permet pas à ces jeunes d’accéder à des emplois décents. La Suisse soutient la création d’emplois rémunérateurs dans la filière lait local au profit des jeunes. Elle compte sur l’effet levier de son action pour contribuer à réduire l'exode rural et l'émigration non contrôlée et offrir aux jeunes des alternatives à l'adhésion aux groupes violents.


FASL - Food-security and Agricultural Sustainability for Livelihood improvement

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2025

Poverty and food insecurity are widespread all over Afghanistan and even more accentuated after the political change after the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021. Therefore the support of the poorest farmers in the most remote areas by improving and securing their livelihoods is crucial in order to strenghten sustainable natural resources management and the communities’ resilience. It is interwoven with the humanitarian appeal of Aga Khan Foundation supported by Switzerland. 


International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 12 Core contribution 2022 - 2024

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

IFAD aims at transforming rural economies and food systems by making them more inclusive, productive, resilient and sustainable. During 2022-2024, IFAD plans lifting 68 million poor rural women and men out of hunger and poverty, en route to doubling its impact by 2030. IFAD is one of the 15 priority multilateral organizations of the Swiss international cooperation and shares its priorities of leaving no one behind; addressing issues of climate change, nutrition, gender and youth; and engaging more with the private sector and promoting innovation.


Rural Markets

01.01.2022 - 30.09.2023

The political and health crisis in recent years has affected the economic activity of the Family Production Units (UPFs, in Spanish), which is why their resilience needs to be strengthened. The market development approach, applied in phases I and II of the project, has proven its potential to solve major bottlenecks.  In the last phase, the proposal is to consolidate and scale up the achievements in the market systems, as well as of the public and private services supporting them, focusing on knowledge management and sustainability mechanisms.


Improving National Animal Identificationand Traceability Systems (NAITS)

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2025

In Georgia, the livestock sector is dominated by small-scale subsistence farms, using common grazing and increasing the spread of diseases, which reduce productivity and farmers’ incomes. Switzerland has been supporting the authorities to introduce a digital system of animal identification and registration to improve health control since 2016. The system is operational, but further support is needed to ensure that it is effectively used and contributes to increasing competitiveness and farmers’ incomes.


International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Core contribution 2022 - 2024

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

CGIAR’ is a global research for development partnership for a food secure future in the fields of agriculture, nutrition, environment and their adaptation to climate change and the enhancement of ecosystem resilience. With its new strategy, governance and research portfolio, the 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.  Switzerland is a founding member of the CGIAR and many Swiss scientific institutions are involved in common research programs. 


International Land Coalition (ILC) Core contribution

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

Equitable land rights are key to sustainable and resilient food systems. ILC is a global network of organisations working on people centred land governance in over 80 countries. ILC aims at securing land rights for people, who live on and from the land. SDC supports ILC since it contributes to many Swiss core interests such as peaceful and democratic societies, and addresses growing inequalities in food systems– particularly gender inequality.


LURAS - Lao Upland Rural Advisory Services

01.12.2021 - 30.11.2025

Laos is an agriculture-based country in transition. Farmers in the Northern region require additional knowledge, skills and access to resources to organize themselves within the ongoing agricultural socio-economic changes. Switzerland’s expertise in inclusive economic development, climate change and environment will support rural advisory services during this final phase to sustainably stimulate climate resilient and lasting improvements in agricultural production and income generation for these farmers.


Enhanced resilience of viticulture in Abkhazia

01.12.2021 - 30.11.2026

A vast area in Abkhazia was contaminated by the explosion of an ammunition warehouse in 2017. Clearance efforts supported by international experts are about to be completed, enabling the restoration of the land for agricultural purposes. Endemic grape varieties will be reintroduced fostering biodiversity and resistance to disease. Growers’ resilience to climatic and economic shocks will be enhanced by setting a sector association and training in advanced agricultural practices.


RAPID+ The Kenya Arid Lands Partnership for Integrated Development Plus

01.11.2021 - 31.10.2026

Pastoralist communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) have for a very long time adapted to the harsh environments to derive livelihoods (mainly livestock). Communities in the ASALs are facing multiple pressures of climate change, degraded natural resources and conflicts. This program supports the historically marginalised and under-developed pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya to access safe, reliable and affordable Water and manage their rangeland ecosystem sustainably.  


BIOREST - Appui au développement d’une agriculture biologique durable et résiliente dans un contexte de changement climatique en Tunisie

01.11.2021 - 31.10.2025

A travers cette l’intervention, la Suisse consolide les efforts du gouvernement tunisien pour la résilience au changement climatique en accompagnant le développement des systèmes d’agriculture biologiques appliquant les principes de l’agriculture intelligente face au climat. L’appui portera sur les axes de la production végétale et animale, l’encadrement des acteurs et le système de contrôle de l’agriculture biologique. L’approche territoriale adoptée consolide la résilience alimentaire et environnementale des régions ciblées et de la Tunisie.

Object 13 – 24 of 229