International Agriculture and Rural Development

We address production-related, environmental, socioeconomic and social issues in agriculture and associated sectors in developing and newly industrialising countries.

Our mandates and projects cover both research and services. We aim to develop holistic and sustainable solutions to current problems and challenges in agriculture and associated sectors in developing and newly industrialising countries.


We manage and support research and development projects and service mandates for private businesses, state institutions, development agencies and civil society. We focus primarily on the application, implementation and dissemination of solutions to current problems and challenges – solutions that are client-oriented and needs-driven. We tap into the expertise of our interdisciplinary team of experts, which includes people with technical expertise in crop production, livestock production, farming, natural resources, forest science and food science as well as social scientists and education scientists with national and international experience in some 100 countries.

Wherever possible we work with local partner institutions in the South and East, calling on additional know-how from Swiss and international organisations as necessary. Both in research and in the provision of services we take part (usually with partners) in calls for tender.

Our principal services comprise:

  • Strategy development, project and programme planning
  • Project and programme support, evaluation and redesign
  • Technical and methodological support and backstopping
  • Coaching and facilitation
  • Participatory methods
  • Cost-benefit analysis of projects and programmes
  • Active involvement in national and international networks

Research and development projects may involve several of the areas of expertise listed below; the aim is always to find holistic and sustainable solutions to current challenges.


Agricultural production systems

These projects and mandates focus on sustainable agricultural production in developing and newly industrialising countries in the face of climate change, resource scarcity and demographic and social change. We work closely with the farmers involved.

  • Analysis and optimisation of production systems (crop and livestock production) – for example in the areas of seed systems, crop protection, agroforestry, organic agriculture, pastoral farming, milk and meat production, reduction of post-harvest losses
  • Sustainable and efficient use of natural resources – water and irrigation, soil fertility, biodiversity, ecosystems at landscape level
  • Increasing the resilience of smallholders

Market access and value chains

We explore ways of improving market access for disadvantaged groups and developing value chains in the context of international agricultural trade and agricultural policy.

  • Market analysis
  • Value chain analysis
  • Quality management, certification and labels
  • Analysis of institutions and relevant policy areas
  • M4P/MSD analysis and implementation

Society and politics

In this area we focus on change in rural societies. For example, we work on livelihood strategies, poverty reduction and stakeholder analyses.

  • Qualitative and qualitative research, interviews, surveys, statistical analysis
  • Participatory methods
  • Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches

Skills development and knowledge management

Our know-how in education, consultancy and knowledge management feeds into a wide range of projects, from curriculum development to website maintenance.

  • Evaluation, development and implementation of curricula, training programmes and teaching materials
  • Training of trainers in teaching and consulting methods
  • Backstopping of education projects
  • Evaluation of selected issues in education and consultancy
  • Planning and realisation of study trips with a focus on vocational training issues
  • Facilitation
  • Management of thematic networks
  • Information transfer and web publishing

Project management

We develop, plan and evaluate partners’ projects, measure their impact and analyse their effectiveness and efficiency.

  • Project identification and feasibility studies
  • Facilitation of planning workshops
  • Coaching of project staff
  • Scientific support during project implementation
  • Development of smart monitoring concepts
  • Project follow-up and analysis of lessons learned

International forest sciences

In some of our mandates and projects we work closely with the specialism of international forest sciences.


We have a broad international network. In our mandates and projects we work with stakeholders in the following areas:

  • Non-profit organisations (NPOs): HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Swisscontact, Agridea, Syngenta Foundation, HEKS, etc.
  • Private sector: Coop, Nestlé, Chocolats Halba, etc.
  • Global organisations: FAO, IFAD, IPCC, UNEP, etc.
  • National and international research institutions: CGIAR research centres, Agroscope, CABI, FiBL, Eawag, etc.
  • National and international networks: SFIAR, YPARD, Agrinatura, Swiss Water Partnership, GASL, etc.
  • Swiss federal agencies: SDC, SECO, BLW, BAFU, SBFI, etc.
  • Universities: Bern University, Zurich University, ETHZ, EPFL, ZHAW, etc.
  • Bilateral organisations such as GIZ etc.


Our portfolio encompasses research and service provision projects and short-term consultancy mandates in various countries. In keeping with our preference for a holistic approach, many projects encompass a number of thematic areas. Some examples:

Integrated Water Resources Management in the Central Atlas Mountains (GIBV-MA)

The aim is to devise a model that will facilitate the introduction of participatory and integrated water management plans, promote economic development and thus reduce the vulnerability of local communities. The project is being implemented by the FAO and the Moroccan government with the assistance of a technical support team at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at Bern University and BFH-HAFL.

Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock

The mission of the Global Agenda is to enhance livestock stakeholders’ commitment and investment in support of the UN 2030 Agenda by facilitating dialogue, generating evidence and supporting the adoption of good practices and policies.

Operationalising the Seed Sector in Chad

The overall aim of the project is to enhance food security by boosting agricultural production and raising incomes on family farms in Chad. The seed chains of the most important food plants will be developed to ensure that the seed that is produced is not only of high quality but also readily accessible. The project, which is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), was launched in 2014. BFH-HAFL is providing technical support in connection with analysis and identification of the most important seed systems and seed production models; it is also performing economic analyses and training researchers in the participatory selection of varieties.

Improving Dryland Livelihoods in Djibouti and Somalia

The overall goal of the project is to improve the livelihoods of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in Somalia and Djibouti. Productivity will be increased by improving farming techniques and introducing sustainable management practices for water, watersheds, rangelands and small ruminants. The project is implemented by TRANSTEC, together with Vétérinaires sans frontières Suisse and BFH-HAFL.

Analysis of the Banana Value Chain in the Dominican Republic

The Agrinatura Value Chain Analysis for Development (VCA4D) is a four-year project, funded by the EU Delegation DEVCO, which aims to analyse different value chains in developing countries in order to collect evidence-based information and enhance policy dialogue. It examines value chains from the economic, environmental and social perspectives. BFH-HAFL (Dr Ingrid Fromm) leads the team and was commissioned to conduct the analysis of the banana value chain in the Dominican Republic.

Regional BioTrade Project, Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar)

This project supports the conservation of biodiversity through sustainable trade in natural ingredients in order to increase the competitiveness of local exporters/producers, improve the livelihoods of the rural population, strengthen the management of selected biodiversity product supply chains in line with BioTrade principles and criteria, and promote access and benefit sharing. BFH-HAFL is helping to examine the access and benefit sharing system in Myanmar and investigate the opportunities for exporting thanakha, a potential BioTrade product produced in Myanmar.

Natural Resource Management in Mountain Communities, Afghanistan

The study provides a basis for future context-sensitive natural resource management and rural development strategies. These strategies can improve food security and livelihood sustainability for farmers in the Rustaq district and in other mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Rural Youth Living in Agricultural Dryland Areas

The declining interest of rural and urban youth in both farm work and a career in agricultural development has resulted in ageing agricultural systems. Though the importance of engaging young people within the agricultural community is widely recognised, a cohesive approach has yet to be defined and efforts remain fragmented, particularly in dryland areas. This study aims to capture the viewpoints, realities and aspirations of young people and the challenges faced by agriculture in the dryland areas of Morocco. This knowledge can then be used to develop appropriate strategies, policies and programmes.

Education for Development (EFORD)

This project aims to address Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through cooperation among academic and research institutions in Switzerland (Swisspeace, the University of Basel and BFH-HAFL), Palestine, South Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire around three main themes: conflict and peace building, health, and natural resources.

Support for the Reform of Agriculture and Forestry Colleges in Laos (SURAFCO)

The project is assisting the five colleges of agriculture and forestry in Laos with curriculum revision. The aim is to design a new curriculum that places students at the centre of the training process, promotes all-round skill development and is practically oriented. The project involves collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture (MAF), HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and BFH-HAFL.

Vocational Education and Training Development in Syunik, Armenia

The aim is to develop labour-market oriented vocational education and training (VET) in the Syunik region in order to improve the livelihoods of farmers involved in the milk and meat value chains. BFH-HAFL is helping Goris State Agricultural College and ANAU Sisian Branch College develop and implement the new curriculum for animal health and milk processing specialists and improve their advisory services.

Learning from the Research Collaboration within ISCB Phase IV

The study documents, analyses and evaluates the research collaboration in phase IV (2013-2017) of the Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB). It draws lessons on how to shape future collaborative research in an impact-oriented way and sheds new light on the interface between research and development cooperation.

Support for Financial and Economic Analysis of SDC projects

BFH-HAFL was mandated by SDC to provide support to all country offices and implementing partners in drawing up cost-benefit analyses (CBA) or cost effectiveness analyses (CEA) of development projects. The mandate also included producing a ‘How-to Note on CBA and CEA’ and an e-learning tool on CBA and CEA. This tool was developed as an additional module of SDC’s Project Cycle Management interactive tool (PCMi).

Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology – Final Phase

For the final phase of the Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB) the Programme Management Unit (PMU) has been moved from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) to BFH-HAFL. In this final two-year phasing-out period of ISCB (November 2017 to October 2019), the PMU takes on a supportive role and has transferred most of its previous management tasks to the Technology Advancement Unit (TAU) in New Delhi, India.

SDC’s Strategy for Development Cooperation in Burkina Faso 2017-2020

As part of SDC’s mandate in Burkina Faso, BFH-HAFL first helped Coopération Suisse prepare its new strategy. It then contributed to the elaboration of a more detailed strategy for local development (with links between urban and rural areas): the focus was on business development, jobs for young people and women, and value creation in agriculture, forestry and pastoralism.


Are you interested in working with us or would you like to know more about our research, development and service provision activities in the field of international agriculture and rural development? Please contact us.


Are you interested in working with us or would you like to know more about our research, development and service provision activities in the field of international agriculture and rural development? Please contact us.