Reinvigorating trust in the midst of displacement

As the dry season set in, Modibo Ado* migrated from his home in Bauchi State, Nigeria, leading his herds of cows and sheep to neighboring Plateau State. There the grass is still green, and water is available for his livestock. In Plateau State, farmers like Emmanuel Davou* tend their crops and wait to harvest them for food and income.

For migratory herdsmen like Ado, growing his herds necessitate a search for vegetation and water. Encroachment into grazing routes for farmers like Davou often become a cause for conflict and violence. Such encounters break down relationships and trust among farming and herding communities who previously shared social interactions.

In Nigeria, especially in Plateau State, competition over natural resources and political control, population growth, climate change, and a cycle of revenge have led to a breakdown of communal trust and relationships. The conflict has created an unprecedented increase in displacement.

Between 38,000 and 144,100 persons were displaced during a conflict between farmers and herders in June, part of the estimated 1.9 million who are internally displaced within Nigeria. The violence has led to injuries and loss of lives. Many have lost their livelihoods and are experiencing food insecurity, inadequate healthcare and psychosocial trauma. The most affected are infants, children and women.

To tackle root causes and prevent such conflicts from escalating, it is imperative that the Nigerian government and international community invest in long-term, holistic local peace-building initiatives. Simultaneously they must also invest in emergency humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian needs among displaced communities are enormous.

Much of the U.S. government humanitarian assistance to Nigeria is designated for the northeast part of the country, where Boko Haram is active. While the needs there are great, assistance is also needed in other parts of the country. Locally, the Nigerian government faces the challenges of corruption, mismanagement, and embezzlement over national emergency and disaster funds, including controversy over the approval of 5.8 billion naira ($15.8 million) for emergency food security in the northeast.

In Barkin Ladi local government area, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) continues to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people in Kassa, Rawuru and Kworos camps. Through MCC’s support, Emergency Preparedness Response Teams (EPRT) distribute life-saving humanitarian assistance to both farmers and herders who are adversely affected by the violence. EPRT also works to build neighborly trust among the communities by incorporating informal peace education in its relief distribution, as they interact and share together, irrespective of their differences.

To alleviate the sufferings of internally displaced people and prevent violence, we must as Christians influence the decision of policymakers, who will be debating the funding level for foreign assistance in the next few weeks. As we do so, we are strengthened by the apostle Paul’s exhortation to “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

*Actual names withheld for confidentiality reasons.

MCC photo/Kitshiwe William: EPRT volunteers prepare relief items for distribution at Rawuru camp.

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