Responsible land governance: a commitment to improved livelihoods

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

Investment in agricultural land in developing countries is on the increase. 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.

SDC focus

The SDC is working at various levels to establish just tenure governance, i.e. for fair access, especially for poorer population groups in rural areas, to land and other natural resources. It encourages the participation of all stakeholders in drawing up principles on just tenure governance as well as the independence of rural communities, for instance in Africa, Central, South and East Asia and in Latin America. For the SDC the active participation of the private sector in such processes is important.

The SDC supports governments in the development, implementation and oversight of land use policies that recognise all existing rights of use, including individual, collective and customary rights.

At the global level, the SDC actively participated in the creation and implementation of a set of targeted regulations that promote a just tenure governance policy and establish criteria for responsible investment in agriculture.

Transparent and fair land-use systems help to overcome obstacles to development such as corruption, land speculation, and environmentally destructive agricultural investment.

Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure

Together with other states, private sector organisations, civil society and UN agencies, the SDC supports the implementation of the "Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security".

The United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), based in Rome, adopted the document in 2012. Switzerland has a seat on the board of the CFS and actively participated in drawing up the text. One of the aims of the guidelines is to ensure access to and control over natural resources for the poorest rural population groups in developing countries. 

The CFS adopted the "Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems" in 2014.  The principles complement the guidelines adopted in 2012. Switzerland managed the two-year process to draw up and negotiate the principles.


In the last ten years, agricultural land equivalent to 50 times the size of Switzerland (about 2 million km2) was leased for the production of food and non-food crops (e.g. biofuels) as well as other purposes throughout the world. Developing countries were among those affected by this.  In many cases large-scale investments in land have had a negative impact on the food security of local communities through restrictions placed on access to land and other natural resources such as water. Moreover such investments contribute to reducing biodiversity in agriculture and threaten fragile ecosystems.

Approximately 70% of the more than 800 million chronically undernourished people in developing countries live on the land. For them, security of access to land and other natural resources is especially important.



Current projects

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Scaling up Nutrition Multi-Partner Fund (SUN – MPTF)

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2025

800 million people still do not get enough food and 2 billion people suffer of micronutrient deficiency. Sound nutrition relevant policies and strategies are a prerequisite to eliminate malnutrition. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement brings together governments, civil society, donors, UN agencies, researchers and private sector actors to collaborate in support of country-led, multi-sectoral strategies to combat malnutrition. SDC participates in the SUN Multi-Partner-Trust-Fund, which strengthens multi-stakeholder platforms and their capacities in SUN countries.

Responsible Governance of Land Tenure through Voluntary Guidelines

01.10.2016 - 30.06.2020

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) are an international standard that promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means of eradicating poverty. SDC supports a multi-donor programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that assists a number of countries in West Africa and East Asia in the implementation and the integration of the VGGT into their legislation by providing technical and institutional support.

Strengthening Agro-biodiversity in Southern Africa

01.09.2016 - 31.08.2019

The project promotes seed diversity and agro-ecological practices through an inclusive, evidence-based dialogue with governments at regional and country levels by empowered farmer’s and farmer support organizations ensuring that their experiences are taken into account in the development of policies and programmes in agriculture. This will thus strengthen food security in Southern Africa.

Green Initiative for Afghanistan’s Agriculture (GIAA)

01.07.2016 - 30.06.2020

Land and water resources in Afghanistan are overexploited and deteriorating fast with severe consequences for rural households. The Green Initiative for Afghanistan’s Agriculture will upscale the professional and institutional capacity for sustainable land and water management to prevent further degradation, improve production and reduce disaster risks, especially in mountainous areas. It will contribute to improved food security and better livelihoods for poor rural families.

Programme d’appui à la commercialisation du bétail en Afrique de l’Ouest (PACBAO)

01.07.2016 - 31.12.2021

L’élevage et les marchés des produits animaux contribuent à l’intégration régionale et à la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique de l’Ouest. La Suisse soutient la Communauté Economique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO) et le secteur privé de la région afin de fluidifier les échanges des produits animaux entre les 15 Etats plus le Tchad. La finalité est d’accroitre le revenu des éleveurs, développer des emplois surtout pour les femmes et les jeunes et favoriser une transhumance apaisée dans la région.

Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS)

01.06.2016 - 31.12.2020

Agriculture and Rural Advisory Services (RAS) are an important production input for millions of small farmers around the world. The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) is a global network of 16 continental and regional RAS federations currently covering around 130 countries. With SDC’s contribution, GFRAS supports these federations to develop better and more effective RAS at the benefit of millions of smallholders, many of them living in poverty.

Soutien au Dispositif National de Prévention et de Gestion des Catastrophes et Crises Alimentaires au Niger (DNPGCCA) – Phase 5

01.05.2016 - 31.12.2019

Au Niger, plus de 3 millions de personnes sont affectées chaque année par l'insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle. Ces crises entrainent les ménages dans un cercle vicieux de pauvreté et de vulnérabilité. Pour faire face à ce défi, les autorités du Niger ont créé un dispositif national de prévention et de gestion des catastrophes et crises alimentaires. La Suisse accompagne ce Dispositif afin de soutenir durablement la sécurité alimentaire des populations les plus vulnérables.

Agriculture and Food Security Knowledge Network

01.04.2016 - 31.12.2020

The Agriculture and Food Security (A&FS) Network was launched in 2008 and is now well established. By mutually sharing relevant knowledge and expertise the network becomes a major content provider of knowledge to make SDC interventions more effective. The relevance of A&FS for SDC is high: more than 200 projects are currently implemented, with more than CHF 250 million of investment every year. These projects approximately reach 2 to 3 million beneficiaries. In the next five years the network aims at applying more shared expertise by network members, sharpening the thematic profile of the network and connecting all network members.

Capacity building programme in support of the Palestinian National Authority – Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures

01.12.2015 - 31.12.2019

The single phase project seeks to develop national sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures responsive to World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements, contributing to enhance domestic and international trust and demand for Palestinian agriculture and agro-industrial products. The intervention will increase potential for Palestinian agro-economic growth and ultimately contribute to increase income of farmers. Last but not least, the project will contribute to develop and create pre-conditions for the implementation of a national food safety strategy, enhancing food sovereignty in Palestine.

AFR55, EcoWap, Phase 2

01.04.2015 - 31.12.2019

La politique agricole de l’Afrique de l’ouest vise la sécurité alimentaire en mettant un accent particulier sur la modernisation des exploitations familiales et au développement des filières agricoles. Pour défendre les intérêts des petits producteurs, les organisations paysannes faîtières jouent un rôle important dans la mise en œuvre de la politique agricole régionale. La DDC appui les trois principales organisations faîtières de la région à travers des contributions.

Programme d’appui à la Modernisation des Exploitations Familiales (PAMEFA)

01.01.2015 - 30.06.2019

Au Burkina Faso, les activités agricoles constituent la principale source d’emploi et de revenu pour 86% de la population active[1]. Elles s’organisent essentiellement autour des familles, qui fournissent la main d’œuvre (entre 3 et 10 actifs), en majorité féminine. Ces exploitations familiales, du fait de leur faible productivité, n’assurent pas la sécurité alimentaire du pays de manière durable et ne procurent pas suffisamment de revenus aux ruraux. Le présent programme vise la modernisation de ces exploitations familiales pour qu’elles satisfassent mieux les besoins d’une population dont la croissance est de 3% l’an.




[1] La population active du Burkina Faso est estimée à 8 millions de personnes,



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