Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Legal frameworks key to responsible agriculture investments

Agriculture is the most important economic activity in Guatemala, employing around 32 per cent of the country’s labor force and contributing 14 per cent of national GDP. As in many low-income countries, the sector has suffered from serious underinvestment for decades. Guatemala has not had the funds to modernize its agricultural production system, resulting in a lack of opportunities for the country’s rural producers by hampering employment and sustainable income.

While funding is needed, investments must occur in a responsible way. To this aim, the Committee on World Food Security in 2014 endorsed the ‘Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems’, a comprehensive international guidance instrument aimed at promoting agricultural investments that contribute to food security and nutrition.

Imerio Vicente Lobo, Community Forestry Association of Guatemala UTZ CHE'
"Rural and indigenous communities generally produce small quantities for subsistence farming and are therefore often marginalized from national and international investment projects. Sustainable development should start from there. Responsible investments can support food security in rural and indigenous communities.”
Ana Gricelda Bac Quiix, young rural entrepreneur, Committee for Education and Tourism
“Guatemala has NGOs, institutions, ministries that all have certain responsibilities – but they don’t fulfill them. We have laws – but they don’t get implemented. It’s important for us to increase our knowledge about what they are meant to do. The Principles also promote the participation of indigenous peoples; I think this is crucial.”
Cesar Sandoval, Coordinator for National Policy on Integral Rural Development, Executive Secretariat of the Presidency of Guatemala
“The Principles are an instrument that helps us understand how to invest and how to ensure programs are sustainable, both environmentally and over time. A legal framework is key to establishing clear rules on how investments can be made, what to do and what not to do. It’s fundamental for the implementation of rules and principles.”
Samara Zelada, Executive Coordinator, Women’s Cooperative ‘4 Pinos’
“I think the legal framework is very important. Public policies should focus on ensuring that investments are responsible. Currently however, some are, some aren’t, and in some cases the law isn’t even applied. We should conduct a detailed analysis of all the legislation in our country to ensure responsible investment lies at the heart of it.”
Rolando Lemus Galicia, National Network for Food Sovereignty in Guatemala (REDSAG)
"Guatemala doesn’t really have a legal or institutional framework. The rural farmer who depends on his crops to cover his family’s expenses is not being considered, while exports and monocultures receive all the attention. Land grabbing and terrible pollution have caused huge problems in our country.”
Gloria Yesenia Aguilar Gomez, young entrepreneur of La Esperanza, Quetzaltenango
“The institutional framework influences not only the production systems, but directly conditions the national context in which agricultural systems are developed. Guatemala has complex legislation, but how it is applied is what really determines the environment for small-scale producers.”

An enabling legal environment is essential for countries to translate the Principles into action. Inclusive institutional frameworks and platforms, adequate legal frameworks and policies all contribute to ensuring that investments increase not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality.

As part of an umbrella program implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to support stakeholders apply the Principles, IDLO has been helping local actors to promote responsible investments by strengthening the enabling legal environment in their country.

In Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, IDLO has partnered with FAO to facilitate dialogue with public institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector on policies, incentives and legal frameworks.

During a recent IDLO-FAO capacity building workshop in Antigua, participants representing a range of sectors and organizations agreed on the importance of a clear legal and institutional framework to promote and guide responsible investment in agriculture in Guatemala and identified the priority areas for capacity building. They emphasized the need to strengthen the technical, political and legal knowledge of small producers, build institutional capacity to hold actors accountable for responsible investments, and improve multi-sectoral coordination, dialogue, monitoring and advocacy.


10 Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems

  1. Contribute to food security and nutrition
  2. Contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development and the eradication of poverty
  3. Foster gender equality and women’s empowerment
  4. Engage and empower youth
  5. Respect tenure of land, fisheries, and forests, and access to water
  6. Conserve and sustainably manage natural resources, increase resilience, and reduce disaster risks
  7. Respect cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, and support diversity and innovation
  8. Promote safe and healthy agriculture and food systems
  9. Incorporate inclusive and transparent governance structures, processes, and grievance mechanisms
  10. Assess and address impacts and promote accountability