AGTER is an international association, created in 2005 under French law. AGTER works on the governance of land, water and natural resources.

  • It was built on the basis of the experience of a worldwide network which had been working informally for many years (developing workshops within the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre - Brazil and organizing the World Forum on Agrarian Reform in 2004 in Valencia - Spain). 
  • AGTER was asked by FAO to prepare the second issue paper of the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) en 2006.
  • AGTER is a member of the International Land Coalition from 2008. It carried out in 2009 the scoping study of the global research on Commercial Pressures on Land.
  • AGTER prepared with the French Land Tenure and Development Technical Committee in 2010 a position paper on Large Scale Land appropriations which was used as the basis for the definition of the France's official position on this issue.  

Based on its networks of persons and organizations, AGTER develops various spaces for discussion and reflection among distinct peoples and cultures, aiming at reinvigorating our collective thinking and learning from different (best and worst) experiences worldwide. The objective is to help partners and members to make proposals for renewed policies in order to address the considerable planetary challenges of the XXI century as far as the management of living beings, waters, and lands are concerned.

Therefore, AGTER develops, with the support of various Foundations (Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l'Homme, Ford Foundation) :

  1. innovative pedagogic tools (including video documents), and mobile workshops, or learning journeys.
  2. a knowledge base, which conception and content are the result of the international thinking of AGTER's network (members and partners). This specific website is still under construction.

AGTER takes part in teaching and research conferences, Civil Society meetings, and organizes periodically thematic conferences on issues related with the governance of natural resources.


Public profile

Public profile

Public profile

AGTER Resources

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Format: 2016
Date of publication
January 2011
Geographical focus

The original French version of this article was prepared at the request of the Nature & Progress (Nature & Progrès) journal and published in November 2011 (No 85) issue in the section Resources : the plundering (Ressources: la spoliation).

Translated by Levi E. Johnson

Extracts :

"The world in which we live is changing more and more quickly, and the global threats that weigh on humanity are multiplying. One billion people suffer from hunger, not including those children and adults that die every year of famine, malnutrition or lack of access to safe drinking water. One in four people have less than the equivalent of one dollar of income per day. The world changes, but these figures do not improve in spite of the priority given to the discourse around the fight against poverty.

For two years, the media have reported extensively on the massive land grabbing of agricultural lands. They have alerted public opinion to violations of people’s rights and to the dangers of food insecurity in concerned regions. They do not state, however, that this phenomenon constitutes a global threat to humanity with irreversible consequences just as serious as those associated with climate change or loss of biodiversity. (...)

(...) Few people or institutions dare to denounce the nonsense of the current system. Consequently, the efforts of international institutions and civil society organizations work to design “voluntary directives” suggested to States as “guidelines for responsible agricultural investments”. These approaches can help in moving forward, but only on one condition, when constantly seeking to demystify what is understood by investment, that which is called property, and to carry out the widest possible public debate with the various implicated parties and populations.

In reality, true production investments have always come from producers, farmers, stockbreeders and fishermen. (...)

(...) Solutions exist, (...). Some are ambitious but essential, such as the establishment of a binding law at the global level around all the subjects concerning humanity’s future, making possible a world that protects global commons and public goods. Others are easier to gradually put in place, such as taxing ground rents and other kinds of unearned incomes, that would help identify resource theft and increase economic efficiency. These imply a re-examination of our conception of property and to recognize, regardless of the legal framework, that individual and collective rights always coexist, and the rights of future generations must also be given weight, even if they cannot be directly involved in the debate."

Read the full article on AGTER's website here.

Date of publication
January 2012
Geographical focus


A key issue in the context of increasing large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries is how poor populations can prevent their land rights being encroached upon by more powerful actors. To date, the majority of policy recommendations have been directed towards the legal recognition and formalization of land rights in order to safeguard local and historical land rights holders, as well as towards the design and implementation of ‘voluntary’ guidelines or codes of conduct which should regulate large-scale investments in land, in order to contribute to positive development outcomes. We argue, however, that these types of recommendations tend to depoliticize the debate surrounding access to land and natural resources. This paper therefore aims to reintroduce a political dimension into the analysis, by proposing a framework
based on the socio-institutional definition of land rights consistent with the legal pluralist approach. It acknowledges a multiplicity of land rights and rights holders, governed by the existence of several superimposed normative orders and social fields. It also implies that state and non-state normative orders interact to determine land management practices and, as a result, also the actual ‘rules in use’ that are followed and enforced locally.

We demonstrate the analytical potential of this theoretical framework using case studies from Ghana and Madagascar, two countries with different legal traditions and distinct levels of recognition of non-state tenure systems. Our tentative analysis reveals that what is fundamentally at stake are power relations and social struggles between actors in a variety of social fields. The key is therefore to strengthen the bargaining capacity of weaker actors within certain political arenas when it comes to land. Their capacity is not unrelated to the nature of formal national and international legal orders, since these co-shape and affect actors’ bargaining position, but we should not expect a one-way relationship between formal rules and the effective enforcement of the rights of the poor. Related issues that will also play a critical role in the analysis are broader discursive struggles regarding the concept of ‘idle land’; the role of small-scale family production versus large-scale entrepreneurial production in agricultural development; and the requirements of social and environmental sustainability.

Pierre Merlet holds a Master’s degree in Globalization and Development and is currently a PhD candidate at the IOB. He is also an active member of the international association AGTER

Johan Bastiaensen is a senior lecturer at the University of Antwerp’s Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB)

Date of publication
January 2010
Geographical focus

This document, available in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, considers the meaning of ‘investment’ and the types of investment the world needs to achieve food security and protect the environment, distinguishes the privatisation of common resources from the concentration of lands that are already recognised as private property, and identifies new elements of land appropriation and concentration.

We are all affected by this phenomenon, which is now a major global issue. Employment, the creation and distribution of added value, and the production of food goods and environmental services all serve the general interest. Their regulation cannot be left to the play of the markets. Beyond the debate about different models of production, there are fundamental societal choices to be made. Moreover, this report provided the basis for the positions of the French diplomacy on agricultural investments and massive land appropriation.