Protecting Our Communities: Local Peacebuilding Systems in Nigeria
“We reached an amicable resolution between the farmers and herders: that the farmers will cultivate from a particular place to another, while the herders were told where not to go with their animals. This is one of hundreds of achievements that we have had involving resolution of conflict in the community.”
– A Youth leader in Kajuru, Nigeria
The Protecting Our Communities Initiative supports 18 local communities in rural Nigeria to develop practical, locally-led solutions to conflict—with a focus on including women and youth. The region is caught up in cycles of conflict between crop farmers and cattle herders, as changes in rainfall patterns reduce the arable land. They also face rising bandit attacks and ransom kidnappings, as well as pandemic-related economic hardship and the nearby growth of violent extremist organizations.
Over the past two years, we have partnered with the Nigeria-based Neem Foundation and three local community-based organizations—Elohim Development Foundation, Hope for the Village Child, and Voluntary Aid Initiative—to co-create community-based peacebuilding systems within 18 communities.
The project team has successfully adapted all programming to prioritize participant safety during the spread of COVID-19 as well as the rise in bandit attacks upon people traveling from place to place.
As a result of the team’s peacebuilding efforts so far:
- Community-based facilitators are leading problem-solving dialogues between herders and farmers, as well as other community members in conflict. After months of in-depth training, diverse facilitation teams operate in all 18 communities that are part of Protecting Our Communities.
- Early Warning-Early Response (EWER) Committees, operating alongside the dialogues in each community, have resolved more than 100 local incidents that they identified as having the potential to spark broader conflict.
- Community members have held advocacy visits with elected, traditional, security, and religious leaders to advance community-informed strategies to improve security. The project’s monthly call-in radio shows, in three different Nigerian states, have been successful in educating and engaging the broader community around peacebuilding topics—supported by the project’s social media campaigns.
In the next year, the project will expand to incorporate peer-to-peer psychosocial supports that address the trauma of violent conflict, and add community-based drama performances as a form of peacebuilding outreach.
The town of Kasuwan Magani, Nigeria, had been a hotspot of communal ethnic and religious violence—especially as global climate change began to affect the rainfall patterns, increasing the land use conflicts between farmers and cattle herders. But through the Protecting Our Communities initiative, people have had the opportunity to develop their peacebuilding skills and leadership. As one program participant explained:
“Between the farmers and the Fulani [herders] now, there is understanding because of the dialogue we have been having between us. When there is a conflict, the first thing we do is we call on the people affected. We sit down around the table. We dialogue.”
LOCAL DIALOGUES—REGIONAL IMPACT
During a recent Protecting Our Communities Initiative dialogue in Nigeria’s Benue state, major associations of farmers and of herders agreed upon action steps to address issues that fuel the farmer-herder conflict. They pledged to advocate jointly to the government for parity in subsidies to farmers and herders, as well as for the construction of dams so that herders don’t have to travel onto farmers’ land in search of water.
The chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria reported that “trust and confidence have been built amongst the two parties,” while the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria commented, “the dialogue has made it easier for both parties to believe in finding a lasting solution for the long conflict.”