In a village in Habila in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan, an agreement held for years governed the relationship between pastoralists and agriculturalists.
Pastoralist herders kept away from crops during harvest, tracing instead corridors of unfarmed land known as Morhaal so their cattle could graze.
In return, agricultural farmers promised to leave these corridors fallow, growing their sorghum grain, a staple of the community, in land around the village. A balance was found between the two communities.
Yet bit by bit, conflict in the region has eaten away the grazing space of the pastoralists, narrowing the corridors of unfarmed land. To keep their herds alive, pastoralists have moved towards the village and the farmland.
Now the cattle have begun grazing not only on the sorghum crops but on local houses and fences built from grass and hay. The agricultural farmers are responding, sometimes with violence, attacking cattle and burning the huts of the pastoralists.
So conflict is affecting resources and increasing economic pressure on the Habila community. Accepted practices are being broken which increases the likelihood of tension escalating to violence. This pattern is repeating itself in different communities and in response to different pressures across the state of South Kordofan, Sudan.
But a violent response to increasing economic pressures and social tensions is not inevitable, as the Badya Centre for Integrated Development, a local peacebuilding organisation from South Kordofan, is well aware.
Badya is working in remote areas across the state, where outside support is lacking, in pursuit of a vision.
Its aim: resilient, empowered local communities able to identify tensions as they build and to respond quickly through peaceful means.
The organisation runs trainings for its participants, teaching them to identify different stages and types of conflict and to come up with peaceful solutions. In all this the crucial role women play in peace processes is emphasised, with workshops on the theme of gender and peacebuilding challenging traditional gender roles.
In the pre-tests only 25% of participants were able to understand the difference between “conflict” and “violence”, 12% were able to understand basic gender concepts (e.g. the difference between sex and gender), and only 12% gave correct answers to basic questions about leadership.
In the post-tests 93% of participants were able to understand the difference between conflict and violence, 96% were able to understand basic gender concepts, and 86% gave correct answers to the questions about leadership.
Already the project is having impact and the role of women in peacebuilding has been strengthened: “As a woman leader, this workshop has helped me discover myself, learn about conflict analysis and how to apply it in real life. As a displaced woman, after listening to the experiences of other women leaders, I understood that I am not alone and that gave me courage to continue with my work as a member of the popular committee,” said one female participant.
Male participants are particularly interested to know how men can support women in leadership, with one expressing his aspiration that “a woman will become president of a political party” in his locality.
And the peacebuilding trainings have given communities the capacity to engage and resolve tensions before they escalate into violence: “Since we were trained by this project we have been able to resolve our own conflicts among ourselves and conflicts over children.”
It is working because Badya is not just offering training, it’s tapping into local talent. It is supporting individuals with deep knowledge of the sources of tensions and effects of conflict.
These are individuals who do not need to deploy once a conflict has begun and who conduct their own early warning when tensions are rising. Tensions such as those between the pastoralists and agriculturalists in the Habila village, identified and resolved by participants in one of Badya’s trainings.
Those trained by Badya form a group able to respond with immediacy and effectiveness to tensions in their communities. Through in-depth training and belief in the power of local action, Badya is helping individuals in South Kordofan become agents for peace in Sudan.
Read more about what local organisations are doing across South Kordofan to prevent and respond to conflict.