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 61 – 72 of 175

Plant Variety Protection Legislation and Farmers’ Rights in Developing Countries

01.10.2018 - 30.09.2022

Plant variety protection legislation in accordance with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is gaining importance in developing countries. This kind of legislation often neglects the existing informal seed systems and Farmers’ Rights. SDC supports APBREBES, a network of civil society organizations, to raise awareness and contribute to capacity building on alternative legislation that better reflect smallholders’ needs and practices.


Blue Peace Financing: transboundary, multisectoral and transgenerational investments

01.10.2018 - 30.06.2023

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals government efforts do not suffice, additional private capital deployed towards sustainable development are needed. Blue Peace advocates for investments to be re-directed to two levels: transboundary entities and to municipalities. This will have a transformative impact. As a door opener, Switzerland through its partnership with UNCDF contributes to the development of innovative financial products that enable transboundary, multisectoral and transgenerational investments leading to sustainable development and peace.


China: Rehabilitation and management strategy for over-pumped aquifers under a changing climate

01.09.2018 - 31.12.2021

In the past 30 years the aquifers in the North China plain have been over-exploited. Based on cutting-edge Sino-Swiss expertise in real-time groundwater monitoring and modelling, the project will implement groundwater and agricultural management policies to stabilize groundwater levels as a buffer to climate change induced droughts. The project will work with farmers and local authorities to facilitate policy uptake. Findings are relevant for many water-stressed countries and will be shared globally.


Scaling Up Youth Employment in Agriculture Initiative

01.08.2018 - 31.10.2023

Education systems in Southern Africa do not prepare youth for work; they cannot access or create economic opportunities and ignore the available options. The project will scale up in Southern Africa a model already tested by Switzerland in Tanzania. It will improve (self)-employment of 20’000 young women and men in Zimbabwe and Zambia by strengthening their skills and matching them with existing job opportunities, thereby contributing to the implementation of youth policies in-country and regionally.


Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging economies (RIICE) - Phase 3

01.08.2018 - 30.06.2021

Extreme weather events increasingly affect small-scale producers in Asia. Satellites and other information technologies present tremendous potential for improved country-wide monitoring of crop growth and insurance solutions for extreme weather events. With RIICE, SDC supports the integration of expertise from Swiss private actors and international public research centres toward modernizing public agricultural services and crop insurance programmes, offering performant solutions to Governments and producers to cope with production shortfalls.


Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Africa

01.08.2018 - 31.07.2026

Today, only 12 plant species and five animal species provide more than 75 percent of all human food. Quality seed and maintaining the agrobiodiversity are key concerns for food security and nutrition. Aiming at enhancing access of smallholders to quality seed of their choice, the Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa programme combines public and private efforts. With its contribution and policy work, SDC supports healthy food systems, as well in fragile contexts.


Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa)

01.08.2018 - 31.08.2022

Smallholders in Africa need to have access to affordable quality seeds. The Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa project assesses critical factors of the seed sector in the continent and offers innovative solutions that respond to the diversity of needs of African smallholders, bringing together the assets of informal, intermediary and formal seed systems. Through its existing seed sector related engagement, SDC is well placed to support policies at country and African Union levels.


Solar irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.08.2018 - 31.12.2023

Farmers increasingly rely on irrigation to counter rising temperature and rainfall variability, leading to growth in energy demand and depletion of groundwater resources. The project aims to promote solar irrigation as a water-energy solution for climate-resilient and socially inclusive agrarian livelihoods in South Asia. Swiss innovation in groundwater monitoring through electricity use, efficient solar pumps and smart micro grids will be applied in the partner countries.


Programme de Développement des Infrastructures Économiques et Marchandes au Bénin (PDIEM)

01.07.2018 - 30.06.2022

La phase 1 du PDIEM a rénové 6 infrastructures économiques et marchandes d’importance nationale/régionale, pour dynamiser l’économie locale. Le gouvernement a demandé de répliquer ce projet à d’autres endroits. En cofinancement avec les communes et l’Etat, la phase 2 rénove 4 autres infrastructures, intégrant la gestion des déchets. Les revenus contribueront à entretenir les marchés, les taxes générées seront réinvesties pour des services publics améliorant les conditions de vie.


Renforcement de l’élevage pastoral au Tchad (PREPAS)

01.07.2018 - 30.06.2021

L’élevage pastoral est une activité économique capitale dans la zone sahélo-saharienne dont les indices de pauvreté sont très élevés au Tchad. Ce mode de vie est cependant fragilisé par les aléas climatiques provoquant crises pastorales et transhumances précoces, sources de nombreux conflits. Afin de renforcer la résilience des éleveurs, la DDC finance un projet qui valorise les ressources pastorales, en favorisant leur accès à l’eau, créant des couloirs de transhumance et améliorant l’offre de services en santé.


Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) Phase 2

01.07.2018 - 31.12.2022

Land governance remains at the centre of development challenges in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), and land expropriation is a key driver of new poverty and food insecurity. The governments in the region have begun to turn their attention to legal and policy issues on land governance. This creates an opportunity for MRLG and the Reform Actors it brings together, to contribute to improvements in policies and practices regarding land tenure security for family farmers.


Backstopping SDC Climate Change and Environment (CC&E) Network

01.07.2018 - 30.06.2022

A climate smart development cooperation requires continuous knowledge management and a sound thematic expertise. The next phase of the Backstopping Support Mandate (BSM) will help to capitalize on SDC’s key learnings, stimulate capacity building, foster mainstreaming and provide thematic support in the field of climate change and environment This will allow the SDC Climate Change and Environment Network and the Global Programme Climate Change (GPCCE) help improve the overall quality of SDC’s operational activities in this thematic field.

Object 61 – 72 of 175