A Stitch In Time-Local Heroes Prevent A Crisis.
Published September 21, 2016 by Muna Ali
"Peace is a journey of a thousand miles, and it must be taken one step at a time."
Lyndon B. Johnsons
When you first meet Abdikani Farah and Haji Abdi, their wit and friendly banter would not let you in on the responsibility they have voluntarily chosen to shoulder. What brought together a young Clan Chief (Nabaddoon) and a local Imam, is a cause they are both passionate about- to bring peace to their communities.
After the collapse of the Somali Central Government in 1991, some pastoralists began to enclose pasture land to themselves due to absence of land use regulations. Continued enclosure of pasture land by individual pastoralists has had serious consequences over the years and this escalated during the recent drought, affecting the lives of the same pastoralists and their families.
Even though many agree that this practice is harmful to the pastoralist lifestyle and pastoral livelihoods, not many have stood up to put an end to it however, only a few like Abdikani and Haji have taken action against it to avoid the inevitable devastating results.
“Pastoralists depend on the pastureland to thrive. They move around in search of green pasture and water for their animals. When a person or a family encloses grazing land, this action incites forced entry of other pastoralists into the land and this is likely to trigger violent confrontation”, explains Haji.
“The worsening conditions of the grazing land and acute drought has reduced the already inadequate pasture. This leads to competition over the limited resources available and increases the risk of conflict between communities,” states Abdikani, the Community Chief.
Abdikani and Haji have coordinated mediation processes for ten cases this year alone. They have also conducted awareness campaigns in over 20 rural and pastoral communities in Sanaag. During these campaigns, they have reached out to community elders in different parts of the region to seek their cooperation to resolve pressing environmental issues, among them pastureland enclosures.
Recognizing the power of the media in mobilizing people and disseminating information, Abdikani and Haji used local newspapers such as Kaaha Bari and local TV stations to publicize the outcome of their community outreach, the agreements that resulted from mediation process and also to share their message of peace with wide audiences in rural and urban settings. This also served to push for action from local authorizes and the government.
“From what I have seen so far, there is no winning side in this madness. It just creates one vicious cycle of conflict where everyone ends up losing.” States Abdikani “What we are doing is trying to make people see that there is an alternative to conflict. If resources are well managed and commonly used, there could be enough to sustain everyone and that abundance starts with peace” he continues.
Earlier this year, Abdikani learned that Adeso has a program that has been working in the rehabilitation of grazing lands and protection of natural resources.The two reached out to Adeso’s natural resource management team for support in coordinating the mediation meetings.
“Thanks to Allah, the team was welcoming of the idea. They even traveled with us and were part of the community outreach and the awareness raising” states Abdikani.
Abdikani and Haji’s journey to establishing peace in their region is their own way of making a difference, a step at a time.
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