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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Large development investment and local peacebuilding in rural Africa: building and sustaining peace at the margins

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Principal Investigator: Jeremy Marc Allouche. Lead Organisation: Institute of Development Studies

Co-investigators: Jeremy Lind; Paul Richards

Across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), many of the largest development projects currently underway are in remote rural areas. These include the £15 billion Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopian Transport Corridor Project, which will connect a new port facility at Lamu on the Kenyan coast with northern Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan through rail and road links as well as an oil pipeline and related refinery capacity. In the interior of Sierra Leone, a UK-Chinese consortium has launched a multi-billion pound operation in the Tonkolili mining complex, one of the world's largest defined reserves of iron ore. These projects are part of a modern scramble for Africa's land and resources and entail unprecedented levels of new investment.

They are often in marginal rural areas that were long neglected by states and have a legacy of conflict and violence. The vast majority living at the rural margins have been only minimally captured by market and state institutions and instead rely on informal relations and institutions to promote peace and regulate land and resource access. While it is widely assumed that big development will transform the lives and livelihoods of rural populations, there are many examples that large development investment can be deeply destabilising and actually lead to new violence while doing little to create new jobs, spur local entrepreneurship or promote peace. This project relates to the third theme of the call that is concerned with how to minimise the risk of violence and its impacts on the poor.

It examines how and why local peacebuilding efforts succeed in minimising violence in contexts where there are large new investments, focusing on the remote rural areas of Kenya and Sierra Leone. Through rigorous fieldwork in different settings of local politics and governance in northern Kenya and northern Sierra Leone, it tests the assumption that efforts to reduce the threat of violence and its impacts on the poor are more likely to succeed where they support local institutions and relations to build and sustain peace.

A combination of methods will be used including a survey of households in the study sites, semi-structured interviews as well as informal discussions and interactions to develop a nuanced understanding of the institutions and relations that communities use to solve their problems and negotiate for better outcomes. In both Kenya and Sierra Leone a senior scholar will work closely with an early career researcher through the life of the project to transfer skills in generating and analysing data as well as making knowledge accessible to non-academic stakeholders.

In Kenya we will work closely with Dr. Roba Duba Sharamo, a senior academic affiliated with the Future Agricultures Consortium who previously headed the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa. In Sierra Leone, the team will be led by Professor Paul Richards from Njala University. The teams will partner with Saferworld in Kenya and Conciliation Resources in Sierra Leone to develop plans to translate the research findings into usable resources for a variety of development stakeholders, including states, national and local civil society, foreign investors, and donor and aid agencies.

These will be discussed at knowledge sharing events in Nairobi and Freetown with senior officials. Events in the UK will be organised with targeted stakeholders including British-based overseas private investors in Kenya and Sierra Leone, the British Overseas NGOs for Development association, EU and OECD representatives, the DFID Fragile States and Conflict Team, and the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Conflict Issues and on Africa.

Further resources:

The primary beneficiaries are government, investor, aid & civil society actors who have a stake in peacebuilding in marginal rural areas of Kenya and Sierra Leone. More broadly, the research will benefit aid agencies supporting peacebuilding in remote rural areas as well as researchers in the fields of development studies, political science, IR/conflict/peace studies. Governments, investors & aid actors will benefit from practical insights and workable ideas on the types of hybrid governance arrangements that effectively build peace and promote better outcomes for the poor. Civil society will benefit from empirical knowledge & policy evidence to strengthen their own advocacy efforts to promote accountability and mechanisms for redress for local communities affected by large development projects in marginal rural areas. Thus, it is hoped that the poor would ultimately benefit through greater opportunities to voice their interests and needs, make appeals and complaints and settle disputes. Broader lessons will be derived from the research that will benefit other sub- Saharan African countries facing similar challenges of poverty reduction and peacebuilding in marginal rural areas. Academics will benefit from new conceptual insights & empirical knowledge on rural violence as well as the relationship between large development investments and local conflicts. The team will complete a stakeholder mapping exercise during the inception phase through informal discussions and structured interviews with key informants and stakeholders in the UK, Kenya & Sierra Leone. The stakeholder maps will be presented and discussed at workshops in both countries. Given the complexity of the research themes as well as the multiple actors who are involved, the seminars will help the research team to prioritise beneficiaries as well as to generate their buy-in for the research objectives. Further, annual reflection meetings will be organised to assess the research objectives and capture key findings as they emerge. These will involve the teams for each country as well as someone external who can help the teams to critically reflect. The project will provide opportunities at local and national levels for sharing knowledge and network building. In research sites, relationships with community decision-makers, civil society interlocutors, the private sector and local authorities will be fostered during the research to reflect on the research questions in an iterative process and build momentum around the implementation of eventual policy recommendations. At the national level, the research team will draw on existing relationships with peacebuilding institutions. In Kenya, the team will draw on Saferworld's ties to the National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding, the National Cohesion & Integration Commission, the Kenya Partnership for Peace and Security, and grassroots peacebuilding organisations. In Sierra Leone, CR has relationships with the Office of National Security, the Mano River Union Secretariat, various Government Ministries, civil society groups and conflict affected communities. We will build links with government ministries, particularly for agriculture, land, finance and trade, drawing on relationships through the Future Agricultures Consortium in Kenya and Njala University in Sierra Leone; the focus will be to identify interlocutors and 'change agents' able to champion research findings within their respective institutions. For wider international audiences, a policy event will be organised in London with Saferworld & CR . Representatives from DFID, the EC, OECD, and industry representatives will be invited. Saferworld will assist in planning a seminar to the BOND Conflict Policy Group, which it co-chairs. Four policy briefings will be produced with Saferworld & CR, one each on Kenya and Sierra Leone and two on broader policy aspects of the research. Three academic journal articles are planned, and presentations at ECAS, BISA & DSA.

Primary theme: 
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Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Research Department
Fund Start Date: 
April 15th, 2014
Fund End Date: 
October 30th, 2017
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: