Investment Contracts for Agriculture: Maximizing gains and minimizing risks

By Carin Smaller and William Speller, with Hafiz Mirza, Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder and Grahame Dixie, Published by the World Bank, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and IISD, June 2015

Private investment in agriculture in developing countries, both domestic and foreign, has been on the rise for nearly two decades. The paper focuses on large-scale agricultural projects in developing countries, involving the lease of farmland. It marries two substantial bodies of research to show how investment contracts can be set up to promote sustainable development. The paper presents the top five positive outcomes and the five downsides from private sector investments in large- scale agricultural projects. The paper then proposes legal options to maximizing the main positive outcomes and minimizing the main downsides through better drafting of contracts between investors and governments for the lease of farmland. This paper contributes to the growing body of international norms and guidance on the conduct of responsible agricultural investment, such as the recently adopted Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Available at