Sustainable Investment in Land, Agriculture & Food Systems

Increased investment in agriculture and food systems is critical. When sustainable, such investment supports food security. It helps address climate change and contributes to sustainable development. Yet unsustainable investment in agriculture, land, and food systems does the opposite. Worse, it can dispossess people of their land and livelihoods and result in rights abuses. CCSI focuses on maximizing the benefits and minimizing the harms of investment in agriculture, land, and food systems.

Legal & Technical Support Gaps

We address legal and technical support gaps faced by governments, communities, and civil society. We analyze the challenges and present creative solutions. We develop practical resources, provide trainings, and offer other direct technical support. Through this work, we aim to strengthen the governance of land investments and to support communities’ abilities  to protect their rights and interests.

This training equips participants to address the challenges and opportunities of international agricultural investments. Bringing together government officials, civil society representatives, and other participants, the training also enables a rich dialogue about practices from around the world. Learn more.

Beyond our annual Executive Training, we provide trainings that respond to specific needs. We also support peer-to-peer learning, so that stakeholders can learn from each other. Learn more.

Project-affected communities often struggle to access and pay for deeply-needed technical support. Such support can help communities with consultations, contract negotiations, grievances redress, and more. The private sector can help meet the financing gap for community support. This is why we are advancing the concept of basket funds for technical support. By receiving contributions from various actors and then paying for community support, basket funds can empower communities and help avoid rights violations and costly conflict. Learn more.

We are partnering with IIED and Namati to support governments, civil society, local communities, and private sector actors in improving the governance and practices of land-based investments. This initiative combines in-depth work in select countries; responsive technical support in additional countries; and action-oriented research and experience sharing to support more responsible investment. Learn more.

What types of legal support do host governments use in the context of land investments? When negotiating investment deals, are governments out-lawyered at the negotiating table? CCSI investigated how governments use legal support in the planning, negotiation, and monitoring of land-based investments. We identified various legal support gaps for governments at different investment stages. The resulting report also describes practices that governments, donors, support providers, and investors can pursue to address support gaps and achieve more responsible investments. Read the report.

Existing guides and resources can assist communities and their advocates when interacting with investors. Yet these are not always easy to find. This directory highlights and links to relevant guides so communities and their advocates can find what they need, easily. Find it here.

Job creation is often touted both by governments and by companies in support of investor-friendly policies and large-scale investments in natural resources. Yet outcomes may fall short of expectations. CCSI has examined the factors that influence job creation and the quality and sustainability of those jobs. Our recommendations focus on policies that can improve employment outcomes. Read the report.

We support civil society in analyzing land contracts (or model contracts) for human rights and other implications. We train governments and others on contracts. We also provide resources so stakeholders can better understand land contracts on their own. Learn more.

Contracts & Land Investment Transparency

We enable increased transparency of land investments. We also support better contracts and contracting processes. We do this through research, resources, and advocacy, including tools that enable contract scrutiny. is the first global repository of publicly available investor-state contracts for commercial agriculture or forestry projects. Users of the website can search contracts by different categories; view summaries of key social, human rights, environmental, fiscal, and operational provisions; compare provisions across contracts; and download full contracts. Learn more. 

CCSI and Namati wrote two guides for communities and their advisors on interacting with investors. The guides help communities to protect their rights and interests when investors want to use their land. Guide 1 focuses on preparing for potential investors. Guide 2 focuses on negotiating contracts that protect the community’s interests. Find them here. is a collection of publicly available agreements between local communities and investors. These agreements include benefit sharing agreements, leases, memoranda of understanding (MOUs), and revenue sharing agreements. These agreements were concluded in the context of agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas extraction, renewable energy, and other natural resource projects. Learn more.

We take a demand-driven approach to land-investment transparency, focusing on the needs of local and national stakeholders, and interrogating the incentives and challenges associated with further advancing transparency. This work includes leading field and desktop research, as well as providing technical support and creating tools on the various types of contracts linked to land-based investment. Learn more.

CCSI is exploring how free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) and consultation processes can be integrated into investor-state contract negotiations, taking into account the practicalities of contract negotiations, to better safeguard the land rights and human rights of members of project-affected communities. Learn more.

CCSI has a growing portfolio of policy and research on best practices around Community Development Agreements (CDAs) and benefit sharing for extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects. Learn more.

Land Rights & International Law 

Land rights are critical to sustainable resource investments. We influence legal frameworks and international agendas to strengthen land rights protections. And because international law affects how investments are governed, we research related challenges and offer relevant solutions.

Advancing land rights are a crucial step to ensure that investments have positive rather than negative impacts for local communities. CCSI undertakes strategic activities to influence existing international legal frameworks and agendas to strengthen land rights protections, particularly for the most vulnerable of land users, and to support new actors and sectors in focusing on land rights. Learn more.

Dealing with land-based investments and the grievances that they raise can be difficult for host governments, who face a complicated landscape of legal obligations and pragmatic considerations. This project examines the different legal frameworks governing what governments can do to address and remedy land-related grievances after investment concessions have been awarded, with a specific focus on government obligations under international investment law and international human rights law. Learn more.

This briefing note provides an overview of the ways in which international investment treaties and investor-state dispute settlement affect the governance of investments in agriculture, and highlights how policy-makers can address challenges posed by these treaties for responsible agricultural investment. Find it here.

Among the critical issues that arise from the interaction of human rights and investment law is whether and how the relatively greater access to justice provided to aggrieved investors by the international investment regime undermines access to justice for other individuals and communities, including those affected by large-scale land-based investment. Learn more.

Investment Approval Processes

We evaluate the laws, policies, and processes that apply to the assessment and approval of land investments. These processes range from screening and due diligence to negotiating agreements. We offer solutions for challenges faced by governments, communities, and civil society engaged in these processes.

Under the umbrella of ACToday, the first Columbia World Project led by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), CCSI and the African Center of International Law Practice (ACILP) are undertaking scoping research to understand the laws and processes that apply to the approval of large-scale, private agricultural investments in Senegal. The study will seek to highlight opportunities for integrating climate services into approval processes, and will also identify ways in which approval processes can facilitate responsible investments. Learn more.


Investment approval processes are the gateway through which governments set the agenda for their country’s investment environment. Yet too often these processes fail to incorporate meaningful requirements regarding participation in decision-making by Indigenous and other affected communities, increasing the risk of under-performing and conflict-ridden investments. This briefing explains how host governments can incorporate FPIC and meaningful consultation into each stage of the investment approval process. Find it here.


CCSI and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) co-organized a virtual peer-to-peer forum designed to facilitate exchange of experiences and good practices among government officials from Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Forum focused on key stages in investment approval processes for land investments.  Learn more.


Sustainable Food Systems & Responsible Agricultural Value Chains

Our research supports more sustainable food systems and more equitable agricultural value chains. In this area, we focus in particular on business responsibility, producer power, human rights, and the role of investors and governments.

What does it mean for the food sector to be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals? Alongside partners, we are developing a framework to define SDG-aligned business practices in the food sector. This framework focuses on products, operations, value chains, and good corporate citizenship. Learn more.


Most coffee producers are price-takers and the majority are unable to consistently earn a living income. They also shoulder the biggest climate risks in a sector that will be deeply affected by climate change. Our research supports efforts to improve farmer livelihoods and increase coffee sector sustainability. Learn more.


Our resources help governments promote more responsible investment in agriculture and food systems. In partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), we support implementation of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS-RAI). This work includes an online course on enabling environments, as well as a technical guide on investment incentives. Learn more.

Our global food system is in crisis. Global hunger is on the rise. Poor diets result in severe negative health impacts around the world. The food sector is a significant contributor to climate change, while climate change will wreak havoc on agriculture. We co-host critical conversations that improve understanding of the challenges and paths forward. Learn more.

While all our work takes a rights-based approach, we have a particular focus on realizing human rights within food systems, including the rights to food and nutrition. Through our scholarship, we increase understanding of these rights. Through our trainings and advocacy, we encourage protection and respect of rights. Learn more.

Private sector actors are paying more attention to their negative impacts on climate, nature, and biodiversity. We engage with private sector initiatives, frameworks, and benchmarks in this area to ensure the core corporate responsibility to respect human rights is prioritized and addressed. Learn more.

Climate Justice & Land

The climate crisis threatens to dramatically alter people’s relationship with the lands and ecosystems on which they rely. Land-based climate solutions, such as renewable energy and carbon sequestration, risk exacerbating the injustices suffered by the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable. At the same time, the countries least responsible for historical greenhouse gas emissions are often the most vulnerable to climate change’s pernicious effects.

We focus on holistic and practical responses to navigating the challenges that lie at the intersection of climate change, land use, land-based investment, the just energy transition, and the human rights of Indigenous peoples and other affected and marginalized communities.

See more in Climate Change & Land and Investment & Trade law & Climate Policy