Sustainable soil governance and large scale land acquisitions originating in Switzerland


While more research is now being conducted on LSLAs and sustainability, there is a lack of:

  • A systematic typology of LSLA modalities, preventing understanding of LSLAs’ heterogeneity and their context-specific costs and benefits;
  • A broad, integrated perspective showing LSLAs’ relationship to wider disputes over “land control”, not just “land acquisition”;
  • A comprehensive approach integrating issues of LSLAs’ legality and their socio-economic and ecological effects;
  • An assessment approach that addresses LSLAs’ effects on agronomic soil characteristics;
  • Sustainability impact assessment tools capable of dealing with LSLAs’ multidimensional and cross-scale configurations.

As a result, there is a weak science–policy relationship when it comes to information about LSLAs. In particular, policymaking is not adequately informed by scientific evidence on the complex institutional relationships between countries and groups investing in land and those hosting the deals.


This research project was launched to achieve the following research and policy objectives:

  • To produce a typology of LSLA modalities that identifies their driving forces and effects, including relevant actors, institutions, and agronomic indicators. It will be based on analyses of over 920 land deals documented in the Land Matrix database by ILC, CDE, and other partners, and take into account the concept of “land control”.
  • To improve understanding and transparency around LSLAs, especially their impacts on sustainable soil governance, and provide stakeholders with a toolkit for assessing LSLAs’ sustainability.
  • To inform and advance policy debates in countries (including Switzerland) where land investments originate and in countries where land deals take place. This will include development of innovative policy options for promoting sustainable soil governance based on concrete LSLA cases.


The project uses an inter- and transdisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse scientific and non-scientific expertise, and seeks to develop a Sustainable Soil Governance (SSG) framework for LSLAs. It combines qualitative and quantitative methods, and incorporates a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) comprised of four scientific experts from three Swiss universities and one expert each from: the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL, Dr. Paul Mäder); the Global Programme Food Security of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); the UN Development Programme; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and four NGOs working on LSLAs.

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