History of the conflict in Nigeria
Over the past decade, the Boko Haram insurgency has dominated discussions on Nigeria’s security. The conflict has created what the UN deem ‘among the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world’. However, since 2017, the conflict between farmers and herders across the country has claimed even more lives than Boko Haram and is now one of the country’s most pressing security concerns.
Young people, gang violence and Boko Haram
Since 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency and subsequent responses have ravaged northeast Nigeria, killing over 100,000 civilians and leaving 7.7 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. At the heart of the conflict has been youth – whether as perpetrators, defenders or victims of extreme violence – yet they are all too often excluded from formal and traditional peacebuilding efforts.
Their historical exclusion from political, social and economic decision-making has led young people to become increasingly disengaged from society and therefore ideal targets for mobilisation by Boko Haram and armed gangs.
For generations, farmers and pastoralist herders throughout West Africa have lived in relative harmony - a mutual partnership which kept cropland fertile and cattle well-nourished. However, increased competition between these two groups caused by population growth, environmental degradation, the expansion of cultivated land and regional instability has led to the breakdown of farmer-herder relationships and widespread violence.
Our work in Nigeria
Together with our local partner organisations, we began developing innovative Youth Peace Platforms (YPPs) in Nigeria in 2014 – first in Plateau State, and subsequently in the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe. The youth-led groups focus on engaging at-risk and vulnerable young people, who are traditionally perceived as being the hardest to reach in society – often substance abusers, sex workers, orphans and victims or perpetrators of extreme violence. Through this network of 27 YPPs, young people are supported to rebuild their confidence, process the traumas of their past, analyse conflicts and voice their needs and concerns.
By showing their commitment for peace, these young people are beginning to challenge society’s negative stereotypes, and lay the foundations for greater trust and understanding between youth, their communities and officials.
In Plateau State, we are also working with groups of herders and farmers - training them in conflict analysis, peacebuilding and mediation techniques to identify and resolve conflicts in their community. The work aims to build trust and understanding between the divided groups, through initiatives such as ‘peace markets’, and between herders, farmers and local authorities.