A Mercy Corps program aiming to reduce violence between pastoralists and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt shows that building conflict-management skills among community leaders and providing collaboration opportunities to solve common challenges improve trust and security.
“Conflict in the Middle Belt has devastated local communities and hampered economic growth for decades,” says Iveta Ouvry, Nigeria Country Director for Mercy Corps. “With the right tools and skills, communities are effectively mediating disputes, working collaboratively and moving freely to access resources without fear of violence.”
By the end of the program, funded by the UK Department of International Development:
- More than 900 trained community leaders resolved more than 500 disputes – from grazing rights to water access – during the four-year program.
- Eighty-six percent of households in participating communities reported decreased tensions, compared to 56 percent in non-participating communities.
- Twenty-three percent of households in participating communities reported increased trust of the other group; comparison site households reported a 48 percent decrease in trust in the other group.
- Participating households were 47 percent more likely to report that conflict did not affect their livelihoods. The program positively affected perceptions of economic stability.
In one Kaduna community, leaders negotiated an agreement for a cattle route to avoid commonly occurring conflicts when cattle destroy farmers’ crops. In Plateau state, Mercy Corps brought together farmers, young pastoralists and community leaders to develop a conflict-prevention plan to tackle violence that had resulted in hundreds of deaths over several years, primarily stemming from destroyed farmlands and cattle killings. Since the plan was created and leaders began mediating conflicts, there have been zero reported cases of violence.
“These successes demonstrate that we must continue investing in local dispute resolution to address the root causes of these conflicts,” says Ouvry. “Creating joint community projects is also critical for a collaborative environment where communities can build trust and share resources. This is how we will ultimately create lasting peace and a stronger tomorrow for these communities.”