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

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

Dans la région ouest africaine, le secteur de l’élevage est une grande opportunité d’intégration économique et de création de richesses pour les populations et les pays. En complément au soutien au secteur dans les pays prioritaires, ce programme vise le renforcement de la chaine de valeur régionale des produits animaux au profit des éleveurs. L’accent est mis sur le renforcement du secteur privé et l’amélioration des politiques et pratiques régionales d’échanges en  produits animaux.

Global Measurement of Diet Quality

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2025

Diets are the number one risk factor in the global burden of disease and multiple forms of malnutrition co-exist with overweight and obesity being the fastest growing form, particularly among poor populations in developing countries. Routinely collected information on Diet Quality is necessary to better understand dietary trends, help to create awareness, and inform policies to improve diets and health outcomes. Therefore, SDC supports an international initiative to develop diet quality measurements.

Programme d’Appui au Financement Adapté à l’Agriculture Familiale (AgriFinance-Burkina)

01.07.2017 - 30.11.2027

L’agriculture burkinabé, malgré son importance (30% du PIB, 86% de la population active et fournit 61,5% des revenus monétaires des ménages agricoles - DGPER, 2010), est confrontée à une insuffisance de financements des exploitations agricoles familiales. Cela constitue un frein à la modernisation et au développement de ces exploitations. AgriFinance vise l’amélioration de l’accès des producteurs-trices à des crédits, notamment de moyen et long terme.

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.

Strengthening Agro-biodiversity in Southern Africa

01.09.2016 - 31.08.2022

The project’s goal is to strengthen food security in Southern Africa by promoting 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.  

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.

Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme (BADIP)

15.05.2016 - 31.10.2021

Smallholder farmers in Bangladesh face considerable risks. Droughts, floods, winds, temperature shocks, pests and diseases can destroy their livelihoods and leave them indebted for years. To cope with such shocks, they are often forced to sell productive assets and fall back in poverty. By developing the market for agricultural insurance and related extension services, BADIP will sustainably increase poor farmers’ resilience, giving them the confidence and security to step up their productive investments.  

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.

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