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 1 – 12 of 175

Improving farm productivity in Georgia through dual vocational education and training

Three people in a greenhouse.

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022

Agriculture is Georgia's most important sector. However, farming remains uncompetitive as farmers' skills are out of step with the job market and technological developments. Switzerland is continuing to support vocational education and training to improve productivity, farm income and the employment situation for students of agriculture.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Georgia
Vocational training
Agriculture & food security
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Agricultural services & market
Rural development

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022


CHF 7'210'140



Improved Access to Markets for Female and Male Fresh Fruits and Vegetable (FFV) Small Scale Producers

Improved access to markets for fresh fruits and vegetable (FFV) small scale producers (men and women), occupied Palestinian territory

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

With focus on private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness, this program pursues systemic change in the agriculture sector and supports business modalities that favor small scale producers in the occupied Palestinian territory. The overall goal is to contribute to build a resilient economy with equitable agricultural growth, whilst contributing to protect small scale producers’ entitlements to natural resources and access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural services & market
Agricultural policy

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021


CHF 4'700'000



Higher Income in the South Caucasus Thanks to Competitive Agricultural Products

A man in a protective suit holding a honeycomb full of bees on the roof of a high-rise building.

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2022

Livestock farming is an important source of income for a large part of the rural population in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But many farmers live from subsistence farming and produce just enough food for their own needs. The aims of the project are to strengthen smallholder farms and to provide them with access to markets. This way, farmers can sell their honey, meat, cheese and wool products, and sustainably increase their incomes.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Employment & economic development
Agriculture & food security
SME development
Agricultural development

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2022


CHF 5'100'000



Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers’ Organisations

Reform and development of markets, value chains and producers’ organisations, occupied Palestinian territory

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021

Private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness in the Palestinian occupied territory (oPT) can play a key role in building a resilient economy towards economic growth and in safeguarding rights and entitlements to natural resources and markets. This program aims at improving income and productivity in the agriculture sector, through improved access to markets, increased share of local market, enhanced competitiveness and profitability of Palestinian agribusinesses.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural policy
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021


CHF 3'000'000



Sustainably managed pastures and healthy animals: Mongolia's 'green gold'

A woman holding a blue bucket tends to a herd of yak in a vast grassland landscape.

01.01.2017 - 30.09.2021

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of livestock in Mongolia has nearly tripled – to the detriment of the country's grasslands. The SDC is supporting an array of measures to encourage the sustainable use of pastureland, and to improve animal health and the marketing of livestock products. These efforts are helping to safeguard the livelihoods of nomadic herder families.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mongolia
Agriculture & food security
Employment & economic development
Agricultural land resources
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations
SME development
Agricultural policy

01.01.2017 - 30.09.2021


CHF 8'676'000



Supporting livestock traceability in the South Caucasus

The image shows a close-up of a calf with an identification tag in its right ear.

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021

Identifying where animals have come from and recording information about their health is essential in modern agriculture to prevent the spread of diseases and stop products from diseased animals reaching the market. A system to ensure traceability will help to improve the incomes of farmers in the South Caucasus by increasing both herd productivity and the producers’ access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'935'000



Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké. Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020

Dans les régions du delta intérieur du Niger, au centre et au Nord du Mali, les populations rurales sont confrontées à des crises structurelles multiformes dont l’insécurité alimentaire. La DDC appuie les autorités locales avec des projets économiques dans les filières agricoles porteuses pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire et réduire la pauvreté d’au moins 150'000 personnes. En plus, elle accompagne les municipalités de cette zone dans la maitrise d’ouvrage du développement territorial et la gestion pacifique des ressources naturelles.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Climate change and environment
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)
Decentralisation
Environmental policy

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020


CHF 9'445'000



Sustainable water and pasture management to alleviate the plight of Ethiopian pastoralists

A group of Ethiopian men and women beside a half dried-up pool of water, using picks and shovels to dig new basins.

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021

Drought, fodder scarcity and conflicts over natural resources make life difficult for pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The SDC has taken various measures to improve their food security and their resilience to crisis situations, ranging from the rehabilitation of pastureland and water points to the introduction of land use plans and the diversification of income sources for women.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Ethiopia
Agriculture & food security
Conflict & fragility
Climate change and environment
Agricultural land resources
Household food security
Conflict prevention
Disaster risk reduction DRR

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021


CHF 8'653'920



Livestock Development in the South of Armenia

Armenian Farmer with his calf

01.09.2014 - 31.08.2021

In the provinces of Syunik and Vayots Dzor in southern Armenia, the agricultural sector mostly comprises subsistence farming where farmers are barely able to support their households. This project aims to help farmers increase their milk and meat production, and thus their incomes, by supporting local veterinary services (to improve animal health), facilitating access to milk and meat markets, and promoting the sharing of know-how among farmers.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Armenia
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural research
Agricultural services & market

01.09.2014 - 31.08.2021


CHF 10'995'756



Programme d’appui aux communes urbaines du Mali (PACUM)

01.01.2012 - 31.12.2020

Un des enjeux de la reconstruction du Mali se trouve dans la promotion de villes secondaires délivrant des services de base aux populations et redevables devant leurs citoyens. C’est l’objet de ce programme financé par la Banque Mondiale à hauteur de CHF 65’000'000. Sollicitée pour son savoir-faire en matière de développement local, la DDC apporte une contribution de CHF 18'200'000 (21% coût global) pour structurer la gouvernance à la base et soutenir les dotations d’investissement pour les villes de Koutiala et Tombouctou.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Education
Rural infrastructure (till 2016)
Decentralisation
Public sector policy
Primary education

01.01.2012 - 31.12.2020


CHF 18'220'000



Youth-Inclusive Rural Finance (YIRF)

01.09.2025 - 31.08.2028

Millions of Tanzanian young people living in rural areas, in particular young women, are affected by vulnerable employment. Building on successful Swiss experience in youth employment, this initiative aims at increasing gainful self-employment through enhanced financial inclusion. It will support the design, market entrance and upscaling of innovative digital financial products and services tailored to rural youth, including female youth. In order to ensure scale and sustainability, a partnership with the private sector will be developed.


Horn of Africa: One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

01.09.2024 - 30.06.2032

The project aims at improving the well-being of targeted pastoral communities challenged with inadequate access to basic health/veterinary services and environmental conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya through integrated health service delivery for both pastoralists and their livestock. The project will contribute to stability and vulnerability’s reduction of citizens in the region, thereby reducing their displacement/migration which is in the interest of Switzerland and the international community.

Object 1 – 12 of 175