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

Object 1 – 12 of 114

Scaling Up Youth Employment in Agriculture Initiative

01.05.2024 - 30.04.2028

In Zambia and Zimbabwe, due to a mismatch between the skills they have and those in demand, youth cannot access or create economic opportunities and overlook those available. The project builds skills and matches youth with firms, markets and finance to create more and better (self)-employment in agri-food, renewable energy and emerging sectors, contributing to Swiss priorities on human and economic development and climate change. This is a contribution implemented by SNV.


UNHAS - Accès aux bénéficiaires en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.03.2024 - 31.12.2027

Dans un contexte d’insécurité alimentaire croissante et d’accès humanitaire précaire au Sahel, le service aérien humanitaire des Nations Unies (UNHAS) permet d’accéder aux populations dans le besoin grâce à un transport sûr et rapide de personnes et de biens. La contribution à UNHAS permettra d’atteindre les populations vulnérables dans les régions reculées ou enclavées et d’assurer le suivi des programmes suisses.


CABI PlantwisePlus

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

PlantwisePlus is a global programme that is supporting countries and farmers to predict, prevent and prepare themselves for plant health threats in a changing climate. This will allow farmers to reduce their crop losses and produce more and safer food using agroecological and climate-smart practices that safeguard human health and biodiversity. The programme is implemented by CABI, a leading intergovernmental research and development organization in plant health, with research facilities in Switzerland.


Colombia: MIRE+, Assistance to Victims of Violence

01.10.2023 - 31.03.2025

The humanitarian crisis in Colombia continues despite growing efforts towards peace. Armed groups fighting for territory and valuable natural resources inflict extreme harm on rural and ethnic communities. In line with the Swiss interest to respond to humanitarian crises, SDC remains dedicated to supporting these communities, enhancing their individual and collective resilience. The project integrates humanitarian action with a developmental and peace orientation (nexus).


Accelerating Rwanda's Nutrition Outcomes

01.09.2023 - 31.12.2024

The recent Rwanda Demographic Health Survey showed only a slight decline of stunting from 38% to 33%, not fulfilling the target of achieving 19% by 2024. As a result, a special national-wide programme "Accelerating Rwanda's Nutrition Outcome" is needed to get closer to the set targets. In parallel, the process of developing the new Strategic Plan for Agriculture (PSTA-5) and the new National Transformation Strategy (NST-2) offers us a unique opportunity to influence their development by a world leading organisation.


Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Programme

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2027

This programme takes forward Switzerland’s global and in-country experience in working on agricultural microinsurance by addressing critical climate risks, hazards and resulting economic shocks for farming people. The programme will sustainably increase resilience of farmers and related micro and small enterprises through climate change adaptation practices, and stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth across multiple agricultural sub-sectors.


Strengthening Civil Society in Myanmar – Paung Ku

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2027

In Myanmar, civic space has considerably shrunk since the military coup. In the absence of a legitimate government, networks of independent civil society organisations (CSOs) are essential actors for basic service provision and promotion of democratic values and human rights. Showing commitment to localisation, Switzerland will enable local CSOs to further support vulnerable communities and to protect the foundations of a pluralistic and inclusive society.  


Building Resilient Communities for Sustainable Development in rural Afghanistan

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2026

Afghanistan is among the most exposed countries to climate change. Prolonged drought and progressive reduction of water reserves put at risk the survival of traditional livelihoods. By integrating innovative agriculture techniques and improving the management of natural resources, this project aims at promoting the resilience of rural communities. Climate change adaptation is key for the food security, and represents an institutional priority for the Swiss international cooperation.


Supporting returnee and host communities to rebuild livelihoods, generate income, and peacefully improve and manage natural resources for short-term relief and long-term food security (Triple Nexus) in South Sudan

01.07.2023 - 30.09.2025

This project will support returnees and the host communities to rebuild their livelihoods, generate income, and peacefully improve and manage natural resources for short-term relief and long-term food security. This will be achieved through increased food production, sustainable management and governance of natural resources, initiating alternative income opportunities, non-violent conflict resolution and GBV prevention. This intervention aligns with the humanitarian, peace and development nexus and will contribute to durable solutions. 


Enhancing Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Communities and Ecosystems in South Sudan

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2026

Local authorities and communities will be strengthened in their technical and managerial capacities to reduce people’s livelihood exposure, vulnerability and resilience to floods and drought thus increasing food production and reduce food insecurity as well as displacement of people and competition over natural resources. This will be achieved through improved communication, coordination and knowledge-sharing, early warning systems and appropriate legislation. 


PASEM 2 - Programme d’Appui au Secteur de l’Elevage au Mali

15.04.2023 - 15.04.2027

L’élevage, adapté à l’écosystème du Sahel, est crucial pour le développement des régions de Mopti, Tombouctou et Gao et ce en dépit des effets du changement climatique, de l’insécurité, de la faible productivité et de l’insuffisance des infrastructures. De par son expérience, la Suisse va renforcer la résilience de 85’000 éleveurs et pasteurs, concourir à l’apaisement des conflits et à la relance économique, et offrir des opportunités aux jeunes et aux femmes dans les filières bétail-viande et lait.


Seed and Knowledge Initiative

01.03.2023 - 28.02.2027

This initiative will address food insecurity and environmental degradation by promoting crop diversification and environment-friendly approaches. It is implemented by a partnership of 15 community-based organizations and their regional partners. The emphasis of the final phase of Swiss funding is on advocacy and movement building, while expanding the number of smallholder farmers, including women and youth, who practice and spread agro-ecology and farmer-led seed systems.

Object 1 – 12 of 114