SE134 Responsible Land Investment for Sustainable Food Systems: Taking stock of lessons from pilots, partnerships and multi-stakeholder platforms with governments, CSOs and business to implement the VGGT.


  • Department for International Development (DFID) LEGEND (Land: Enhancing governance for Economic Development) programme, UK
  • FAO
  • CFS Private Sector Mechanism (PSM)
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
  • International Land Coalition (ILC)
  • Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich, UK

This side event is proposed by DFID LEGEND (Land: Enhancing governance for Economic Development) programme in collaboration with FAO, the CFS Private Sector Mechanism, GIZ and ILC as a lead civil society partner (in turn supported by IFAD and CoRe). The session will highlight the importance of equitable governance of land and natural resource tenure to sustainable investment in agriculture and natural resources and ensuring this investment, whether private or public, contributes effectively to food security, improved nutrition and to the Sustainable Development Goals more broadly.

The specific objectives are:

  1. Review knowledge and learning on outcomes of Responsible Land Investment initiatives and pilot programs in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 5 years
  2. Present findings on uptake of responsible land investment tools & guidance by business and discuss barriers to wider implementation
  3. Assess the role of multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) in clarifying land rights, strengthening customary rights and governance arrangements, and promoting responsible land investment
  4. Prepare the ground for future CFS and partner stocktaking on implementation of VGGT principles in agricultural investment and policy reform processes

Perspectives and initiatives to be shared and discussed include:

  • Experiences piloting civil society and private business partnerships in Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Tanzania including new tools and approaches to improve land risk assessment, due diligence, documentation and mapping of land rights, civil society engagement and transparent partnerships between investors, land owners and users.
  • GIZ's and Ethiopia's experience with mainstreaming VGGT into responsible agricultural investment processes in Ethiopia.
  • FAO's and Sierra Leone's perspectives on the practical linkages between the CFS-RAI and the VGGT, including strengthening the investment approval process to comply with international standards, the role and main concerns of the private sector in this process and the challenges and opportunities for the government of Sierra Leone in implementation.
  • ILC experiences of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, highlighting initiatives in Malawi and Tanzania, and the scope to develop a global Community of Practice (CoP) bridging governments, CSOs, private sector and research to enhance the MSP ecosystem, advance equitable land governance and ensure that land investment is inclusive and responsible.
  • Perspectives of the CFS-PSM Secretariat and member companies on land, responsible investment and food security and the scope for improved partnerships.

After panelists consider lessons of recent experience, interactive discussion will focus on ways forward. This side event will feed into other stakeholder engagement meetings and planning for new facilities and partnership programs to improve land investment practice and national policy reform processes.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Chris Penrose Buckley, Senior Land Policy Adviser at DFID – opening and closing remarks
  • Prof. Julian Quan, technical leader of the DFID Core Land Support Team, NRU, University of Greenwich – Moderator
  • Anna Locke. ODI, LEGEND Knowledge Management Coordinator: Key findings on responsible land investment from the DFID Legend programme
  • Christian Graefen, GIZ,  Germany and Alemayehu G/Selassie Atachew, Director of the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate (AISD), Ministry of Agriculture, Ethiopia: Experiences in applying the VGGT in agricultural investment in Ethiopia
  • Samuel Mabikke,  Land Tenure Officer, FAO Sierra Leone, and Victor Bangura, Acting Director Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA): Agribusiness investment policies and approval processes in Sierra Leone
  • Yonas Mekonen, International Land Coalition (ILC) The role of Multi-stakeholder platforms in monitoring  land investment and promoting responsible VGGT based approaches
  • Brian Baldwin International Agri-food network / CFS Private Sector Mechanism: Discussant

Main themes/issues discussed

The principle lessons on RLI from analysis and practical piloting: i) timely identification of land rights issues; ii) prior documentation of legitimate land rights; iii) fair negotiation processes and community consent to investments; iv) independent, politically informed community legal support; v) mainstreaming lands issues in companies’ operations and business practice; vi) flexibility and inclusiveness in business plans and models vii) a systemic approach to building an equitable regulatory environment for land investments.
Progress by national investment agencies in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone in  strengthening systems and procedures for approval, management and practical delivery of responsible agricultural investments, applying VGGT principles, as supported by international partners (GIZ in Ethiopia and FAO in Sierra Leone)

The role and potential of multi-stakeholder platforms in promoting application of the VGGT to agricultural investments: positive results in bringing civil society voices to changing investment policy and practice in Tanzania and also in Sierra Leone; the scope for building a community of practice on MSPs for strengthening land governance.

Lessons for other countries and overall priorities in ensuring that investments in agricultural land respect legitimate land rights and strengthen rather than undermine the food and nutritional security of local communities.

Summary of key points

Results of an audience poll held suggest that three top measures to ensure that agricultural investments respect legitimate land rights:

Stronger national investment rules and procedures: (70% response),

Prior land rights mapping and registration of: (48% response),

Greater investment in smallholder and community business: (37% response.)

Strong VGGT-based national systems for regulation of agricultural investment are essential to obtain full buy-in from the private sector. Multi stakeholder platforms (advocated by 35% of respondents) play a key role in enabling dialogue between governments, private sector and civil society. Strong and sustained engagement between governments and international partners can strengthen national systems; there are significant capacity challenges, but much can be achieved through a multi-level approach engaging the right stakeholders inside and outside government.

Audience members also agreed that for companies themselves, better due diligence, access to relevant skills, technical guidance and public support to responsible investment had roles to play.

Where land rights are undocumented and held under customary systems, sensitive and careful investment procedures guided by the VGGT, and strong political commitments by government are needed.  Limitations on the size of investments and investment in smallholder farming and inclusive agri-business arrangements are key to successful national systems.

Key take away messages

Stronger national systems for regulation of land investments are critical to ensuring more responsible approaches that respect legitimate land rights; however lack of land rights documentation is a continuing challenge especially in Africa. Donors and governments need to pay attention to both of these aspects in future planning.

Attention to responsible land investment is growing in the private sector and there is more that companies can do but to ensure the right approach by investors as a whole, including large and medium scale domestic investors strong regulatory and enabling environments are needed, supported by effective multi-stakeholder
 platforms and processes.

Application of the VGGT to land investment processes is essential to ensure they are responsible. This remains a critical ingredient amongst efforts to achieve SDG 2; we should continue to promote monitor progress and foster debate at future CFS meetings.

Many ingredients for responsible land investment are now in place, including consensus on principles, available guidelines and tools, and lessons of practical experience, and investors are interested in responsible agricultural investment if the right conditions can be created on the ground: funding and practical partnerships are now needed for implementation, reaching down to engage communities and other stakeholders on the ground.

CFS 46 Side Event: SE134 Responsible Land Investment for Sustainable Food Systems


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