About the Project


A number of forces – including transnational land acquisitions, domestic investors, migrants, conservation efforts, and government policies – have come together in recent years to put commercial pressure on land in the South and encourage its commodification. This has accelerated processes of agrarian transition, affecting rural livelihoods and impacting food security.

It is likely that the outcomes of these processes differ for women and men. Existing data show that food insecurity is distributed highly unevenly, with women and girls disproportionately hungry. There also is evidence that women do not gain as much as men from agricultural modernization. And yet, studies show that food security improves when women control income and land.

The right to food, codified in various international legal instruments, establishes a legal obligation for states to respect, protect, and fulfil the right without discrimination. It is a powerful tool to help achieve food security by holding governments accountable and by helping fight discrimination and exclusion.


Launched in March 2015, DEMETER (Droits et Egalité pour une Meilleure Economie de la Terre) is a six-year research project taking a right to food and gender equality perspective to examining changes in food security in the wake of land commercialization in two focus countries, Cambodia and Ghana.

The overarching goal is to strengthen knowledge, awareness, and debates about the relationship between food security, the right to food, and gender equality with an eye towards empowering women and men to claim their rights and encouraging governments to create the conditions to facilitate their realization.


Our transnational, transdisciplinary and longitudinal study of livelihoods, legal systems, policies and politics will generate new evidence and debate on food, gender and land, furnishing stakeholder dialogue with a stream of new insights on gendered agrarian transitions. Our scope is global, regional and national with research sites in Ghana, Cambodia and Switzerland.

Analytical Framework


Research Questions

  • What gendered changes in livelihoods arise from land commercialisation, and how do these affect food security?
  • How local, national, and international gendered power constellations and policies do influence changes in food security?
  • How does the promotion of gender equality and right to food affect changes in food security?


Our Change Scenario Approach to gender equality and the right to food will empower women and other vulnerable groups to mitigate inequalities and strengthen resilience to the challenges of food security and land commercialisation.

The project will contribute to better understanding the effects of land commercialization and to filling three knowledge gaps:
First, much of the contemporary literature on the issue focuses on large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors, and fails to place the phenomenon in a larger context of agrarian transition, including the policies and politics that guide such transition.
Second, the new livelihoods resulting from land commercialization have a gender dimension, which has not been comprehensively studied.
Third, there is a dearth of evidence regarding the effectiveness of the right to food and gender equality approaches to alleviating food insecurity, and of studies that examine processes of land commercialization from a right to food and gender equality perspective.

By approaching contemporary pressures on land as part of a new phase of agrarian transition, examining its gendered outcomes, and injecting a rights perspective into the debate, the project will broaden existing evidence on the effects of land commercialization on food security and the power of human rights to affect these outcomes.