Three years’ of peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Kenya

Sep 24, 2018

We’ve recently completed a three-year peacebuilding project in three areas of Kenya, with our local partner Peacebuilding, Healing and Reconciliation Programme (PHARP).

Blog written by Sam Cook, Programme and Funding Officer at Feed the Minds. 

Over the course of the project, we have supported over 3,000 people to gain peacebuilding and conflict resolution skills, establish sustainable peace groups and develop networks of peace ambassadors. Within a challenging context characterised by extreme weather and political tensions, Feed the Minds and PHARP have supported communities to increase community cohesion and resilience.

In the first year, we focussed the project on Nairobi and Kajiado County, and were pleased to train more peace leaders and ambassadors than expected, as well as the number of conflicts mediated after training.

The second year focussed on Pokot County, a region that has been affected by the drought across East Africa, which has led to forced migration of 50% of the Pokot population to temporary camps. Despite the challenges, the trained chiefs, religious leaders and peace ambassadors used their new skills to adapt to the situation – providing trauma healing, working with youths to overcome inter-generational conflicts and empowering women to address gender-based violence.

Recently, for the third and final year, we focussed back on Nairobi and Kajiado County to engage new communities there. The project met further challenges when the Kenyan elections polarised much of the population among party and tribal lines. Around the time of the elections in August 2017, community members were divided along ethnic and political lines, and were less likely to engage with projects involving people of different political allegiances or tribes.

Nonetheless, these challenges highlighted the need for greater community cohesion, especially in the diverse, often transient, populations of Nairobi and Kaijado County. Our local partner was persistent and managed to identify 12 religious and community leaders who endorsed the project’s peacebuilding agenda and supported in the recruitment of a diverse group of beneficiaries from seven different locations (Kaloleni, Vuthunguni, Ghazi, Sagalla, Olkei, Oloika and Lindi).

Seven field officers and 70 community members have since been trained and mobilised to form seven peace groups in their communities, which have recruited a further 189 group members. Each group has started their own peace initiatives – mostly income generating groups – that bring together community members of different backgrounds to share knowledge, responsibilities and work towards shared goals. As a result, 100% of project participants have changed their attitudes and have embraced working with people from other tribes.

One of the groups planting Cassavas to increase their incomes working as a group

We’ve supported the peace group members to also developed their income-generating skills in tandem with literacy and peacebuilding, which they are applying to improve their vegetable, legume and poultry farming initiatives. For example, “Ushindi” Women’s Group has engaged in literacy classes and cassava farming. They meet three times a week to improve their literacy skills and, after each session, see to their cassava farm together. The literacy classes have been supported by a voluntary local teacher who’s supporting these women, most of whom have low levels of literacy. Their cassava farming achievements are also strengthening relationships between members.

Mrs Kasiwa Katana, a member of Ushindi Women’s Group is a mother of five children, including two boys in secondary school. She is a widow who dropped out of school at primary level. After 11 months of being a member of the group, she was democratically elected to head the office of the treasurer due to her abilities in calculation and book keeping. She manages the petty cash for the group, which is collected after every meeting. She said:

“I would not imagine that one day; somebody like me would be entrusted with such responsibilities of keeping money. It has greatly helped me to do proper budgeting for my own house.”

The project’s approach to group formation and capacity building has laid strong foundations to ensure the sustainability of the project. Beyond the project, PHARP has engaged community volunteers to perform group support visits, which will lead to long-term impact. As the groups will continue to earn an income through their activities, members recognise the importance and value of group work and will continue to use their skills to promote peaceful co-existence.

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Champions of peace on a peaceful awareness walk