The Protecting Our Communities initiative addresses the lingering conflicts centred on crop farmers and cattle herders in communities in Kaduna, Zamfara and Benue states. Realising the critical but often overlooked role community members- especially women and youth- can play in dissuading conflicts through non-violent means, the initiative aims to bridge the gap in community engagement, thus contributing to the overall goal of improved civilian security.
Protecting our communities initiative
The project builds the capacity of communities to reduce violence by training and mentoring local facilitators to lead cattle and crop farmer association members, women, and youth in problem-solving dialogues; training a broad cross-section of community members to collaborate in a proven model for community-based early warning-early response; and equipping communities to respond effectively to the spread of hateful rumors and stereotypes over social media. Overall, the project has three (3) objectives:
The POCN project is currently being implemented in eighteen (18) communities across six (6) Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Kaduna, Zamfara and Benue states.
Messaging programming (Radio Talk Shows and Social Media)
Radio programmes and social media engagement have proven to be an effective means of disseminating content to local communities in conflict and post-conflict areas. The major objective of this messaging component of this programme is to provide a platform for supporting positive messages generated from activities and individuals that have been affected by the conflict, as well as countering negative sentiments and fake news flag by DLO’s and other early warning stakeholders on the PCON project. The radio programmes will also provide a platform for getting community feedback and recommend solutions on various conflict related challenges in the three target states.
Early Warning Early Response System (EWERS)
Neem Foundation designed an easy-to-use whole of community approach to EWER that is in use in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, and which it will replicate in this project. Activity centers around a 10-person Early Warning and Response Team. The community selects the members, typically from a wide cross-section of youth and women’s leaders, CBOs, traditional and religious leaders, civil society, state ministries, the Ministry of Education, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security and National Security, and Civil Defense Corps. The teams train for 5 days to identify and prevent issues leading to conflict, discern the incidents to be reported, and learn system operation. Reporters employ a short form on a mobile app that transmits to Neem staff, who use set criteria to validate the report and refer to the most appropriate response level (traditional leader, police, etc.) That first responder confers with the rest of the Response Team and responds to the incident within 48 hours of the initial report, and Neem staff and the Response Team monitor until the incident is resolved.
Each Response Team meets monthly to discuss signs and trends, and all teams will gather to share lessons learned. Neem staff continuously guide and support the teams and the communities throughout the project to increase effective response. Neem and the Response Teams analyze for trends, maintain situation awareness on marginalized or extreme actors or groups, and report high-
level threats to federal security institutions. Results of the interventions are shared with the community. In this way, communities share in the responsibility of protecting their safety, and trust and collaboration is built between communities and their government institutions. At the end of the project, community members will assume the roles that Neem has been performing and can manage the platform and continue the early warning-early response system in perpetuity.