Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) Phase 2

Project completed

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.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural policy
01.07.2018 - 31.12.2022
CHF  13’770’000
Background From around 2000 onwards, governments in the region have promoted large-scale agriculture and granted economic land concessions over formerly family-farmed land, to corporate investors for activities which often requires that more land be excluded from its former use. These policies are derived from the priority given to economic growth. Large scale concessions have led to a reduction in land area available for family agriculture and have played a major role in deforestation and thus reduced access to forests by communities that used to contribute to family farmers’ food security. Communities, in particular ethnic minorities, are often facing resettlement, and are sometimes driven out of agriculture altogether, with limited prospects of finding alternative employment. In recent years, there is a growing recognition by the states that the large-scale concession allocation policy has had many negative consequences for the poorest and has not brought the expected results in terms of agricultural production and GDP growth. As a result, moratoria have been put in place on new concessions in Cambodia and Lao PDR, and a process of “return of land” has started in Myanmar. This includes the development of responsible agricultural investment guidelines and code of conducts integrated in investment policies.
Objectives Smallholder women and men farmers have secured and equitable access to and control over agriculture land and forest in the Mekong Region.
Target groups
  • Reform Actors and directly with decision-makers to improve the policies and practices affecting smallholder farmers’ tenure security.
  • Ultimate beneficiaries are smallholder farmers in the CLMV countries (estimate 15 million people, of a total of approx. 30 million people).
Medium-term outcomes

Objective: Improved policies and practices implemented in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.


Outcome 1: Reform Actors and networks engage strategically in improving policy and practice regionally and nationally;

Outcome 2: Evidence-based options for improved policy and practice are available regionally and nationally; and 

Outcome 3: Channels for policy dialogue are identified or established, and utilised regionally and nationally. 

The expected key result will be the evidence of at least four adopted policy and practice changes benefitting over 15 million smallholder farmers, including women, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups. The assumption is that if policies are improved for the rights of ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups (est. 30 mio in CLMV), MRLG could attribute results for a large proportion of this population.  


Expected results:  

  • Reform actors are engaged in cross border networking and learning platforms.
  • Policy and Stakeholder Analysis for each work stream[1], including Strategy and implementation plans for each work stream.
  • Work stream activities implemented by reform actors support smallholders’ tenure security.
  • Work stream knowledge products of lessons learned consolidated and disseminated to target audience/s.
  • Research knowledge products inform Reform Actors and contribute to regional capacity building.
  • Evidence-based policy recommendations are produced, disseminated and presented to target decision makers.
  • Effective channels for policy and practice dialogue are established for each work stream and MRLG.
  • MRLG periodic review of the political economy analysis of policy and practice change including assessment of effective communication strategies and channels.

[1] This is a coordinated program of work developed by an alliance group using the theory of change process to reach a common objective with identified areas of influence and assumptions. The Work Stream is detailed in a document, ‘Strategic Work Plan’ that outlines the specific objectives to be met, pathways of influence and change, assumptions and activities for implementation.

Results from previous phases:  

  • Successful transition from stakeholder engagement, predominantly civil society and academia, to a project accepted by and working directly/in alliance, with governments and the private sector.
  • Successful deployment of Grants Funding of a total of USD 5.8 million. 65 organisations in the Mekong
  • region benefitted and conducted activities (local & regionally based CSOs, governments, academia, private sector).
  • 80 different Reform Actors across the CLMV have improved their methods of addressing farmer tenure security, either through rights awareness and training, improved conflict resolution and mediation techniques to solve land conflict cases, development of responsible community-business partnerships, or through policy advocacy on laws and policies to recognise customary and community land rights in protected/conservation areas and forests.
  • Improvement of the legal and regulatory framework in favour of smallholders tenure security such as: the recognition of Customary Tenure in the new National Land Use Policy (Myanmar) and in the Forest Law in Vietnam, as well as in the Environmental Code in Cambodia, and ongoing efforts to improve the Lao Land Law to recognize Communal Land Tenure.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
International or foreign NGO
  • SDC Field Office
  • LEI

Coordination with other projects and actors Like-minded Development Partners such as Germany. Global, regional and bilateral projects engaged in land governance reform processes, particular those funded by Switzerland and Germany (Food and Agriculture Organisation - FAO, International Land Coalition - ILC ).
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    13’770’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    13’179’332
Project phases

Phase 2 01.07.2018 - 31.12.2022   (Completed)

Phase 1 01.05.2013 - 31.12.2018   (Completed)