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Building Early Warning & Early Response Systems (BEWERS)

BEWERS was a one-year pilot project structured to tackle violence and building peace by working with faith and traditional leaders, who are strategic in influencing behaviours and attitudes of people in resolving tensions thus, reducing the likelihood of violence.
Setting the pace in hard to reach communities

‘Christian Aid and its partner Youth in Support of Community Development (YOTASCID) are the first set of people to bring any type of intervention to this our community.’ This was the testimony from different members of the community during the inception of the project.

The Building Early Warning and Early Response Systems (BEWERS) against conflict project ran from September 2017 to October 2018 and was implemented in 15 communities across Zangang, Mifi and Bondong districts in the Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

These communities are predominantly agricultural, very remote and hard to reach. They are on an average 100km from the local government offices, with bad and unmotorable roads. Some of the communities are about 400m above sea level and a walking distance of about 2 hours from the foot of the mountain.

The remoteness of the communities
Some of the communities are about 400m above sea level
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These communities lack basic amenities such as healthcare facilities, portable drinking water, educational institutions, electricity and mobile network coverage among others. The mortality rate is high as pregnant women and sick people have to walk very long distances to access medical facilities, their major sources of water are streams which they share with animals and this leads to frequent outbreak of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever etc. Children of primary and secondary school age have to walk about 4 hours to access formal education.

Some of the project communities share a border with neighbouring Plateau State, and their geographical location has made them more vulnerable to attacks from intruders.

Strengthening systems and networks

BEWERS has supported efforts to address the persistent cases of violent conflict in Kaduna State by establishing Early Warning & Early Response Systems (EWERS) to prevent conflict from escalating into widespread violence between differing groups. Having identified and accessed the effectiveness of community Early Warnings Systems (EWS), groups and structures, it was necessary to strengthen them where already in existence and create new ones where none existed.

Communities now understand the importance of having community EWERS and were supported to develop community-specific plans to pre-empt future occurrence of violent crises. Community Peace Committees (CPC) were set-up by the project with the purpose of initiating community-oriented efforts on building peace and tackling violence. One of the major responsibilities of the CPC is to serve as watch dogs in protecting the community members by sending out early warning signs to the community and report them to the appropriate authorities.

These community peace and response structures are recognised by state structures such as the Kaduna State Peace Commission, State Emergency Management Agency, security agencies and media houses. The Community Peace Committees have achieved the desirable results in achieving peace in the communities, by resolving disputes arising from herders and farmers in their various communities.

Rufena Iliya explains that, ‘this intervention has made me to start greeting the Fulani (tribe) which I don’t greet before, due to crisis. It has taught me how to live and understand the Fulani man so that there would be no clashes. It has taught me forgiveness, not to take laws into my own hands. This intervention {BEWERS} has brought peace in Zillan Community, we no longer live in fear, because of the peace we are enjoying between farmers and herders.’

Over time, the CPCs have built trust between farmers and herders in resolving disputes over grazing rights. There are established peaceful and effective alternatives to violence now, and social dialogue amongst women, youth, girls, boys and men have been facilitated to highlight challenges to peaceful coexistence in the community and put forward solutions in a participatory and non-adversarial manner

Christian Aid and YOTASCID are the first set of people to bring any type of intervention to this our community.

Increasing knowledge and building capacity

One of the project objectives was to strengthen the capacity of community members to build resilience to violence and its consequences. One strategy to achieving this was by equipping community members with the right information. It not only prepares them for future instances but also motivates them to act in the right direction.

A series of meetings, training, workshops and mentoring took place all through the project, at different levels with a primary focus on community. Over 400 individuals (including marginalised and vulnerable groups) from different communities and agencies participated in different training, all aimed at supporting efforts to address the persistent cases of violent conflict in Kaduna State. Stakeholders such as village heads, community and sub-group leaders, religious bodies, CPCs, local vigilantes, people with disability, media, and state and local government officials were primarily targeted to participate. 

The selected community members were trained on different concepts such as monitoring community performance in maintaining peace, conflict analysis and conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, communication among others. Members of the CPC were specially trained on early warnings systems and signs, response to early warning signs, effectiveness in resolving conflict in the communities and roles/ responsibilities of the peace committees.

The training on negotiation and conflict transformation on EWS has started to yield results, as community members have begun to put their knowledge into practice at the community and even family level. Daniel Moses from Ashim community said; ‘before the BEWERS project I didn’t know how to resolve conflicts among two individuals but now after the training, I have the perfected skills on negotiation and that has contributed in me resolving different disputes that occurred in my community.’

The training of CPC, women and youth has led to increased knowledge about conflict and conflict resolution which has resulted in changing the attitudes of community members. The relationship between traditional and faith leaders was strengthened, and their knowledge on EWER was reinforced, to ensure they use their respective offices to resolve crises in their communities.

 

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