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Strengthening the resilience of rural communities through conflict-sensitive programming | Somalia

Translating context analysis and conflict-sensitive recommendations into adjustment in project implementation in Lower Shabelle region

This learning brief documents the learnings drawn from the project titled “Building resilience and promoting durable solutions in Lower Shabelle region” implemented from 2018 to 2022 by FAO and its partners in the framework of the Global Network Against Food Crises Partnership Programme, funded by the European Union. It provides an overview of the complete conflict-sensitive programming process including: (1) a context analysis; (2) a Programme Clinic exercise; (3) the implementation of conflict-sensitive recommendations in terms of adaptive management and elaboration of a specific conflict-sensitive MEAL framework; and (4) a conflict assessment follow-up study done by a third-party monitoring company.

The project provided direct assistance to the beneficiaries in three main ways. It restored irrigation access and efficiency through canal rehabilitation and established or strengthened water management committees; it strengthened around 15 farmers’ groups (of up to 500 members) to jointly plan, aggregate and market their production; and it developed the capacities of public institutions (federal and state ministries of agriculture and irrigation) that support water management and agricultural production to connect farmers and water management committees to government services. In addition, the project generated knowledge through a dedicated MEL plan and a complementary learning agenda to help build a body of evidence to support decision-making and resource allocation processes toward sustainable solutions to food crises.


  • On the HDP nexus: The intervention highlighted the importance of stepping up joint efforts to address food crises among humanitarian, development and peace actors while strengthening linkages between the conflict-sensitive programming approach, project implementation, adaptive management measures and the learning agenda process. Partnering with ministry representatives at state and federal levels enhances ownership of the project benefits. It is important to develop the local conflict management capacities through capacity development and trainings, involving the security forces in the area to participate in peacebuilding meetings and workshops. While ensuring the sustainability of the intervention through the collaboration with government actors, this also reinforces the operationalization of the HDP nexus (see also Key takeaways on conflict-sensitive programming for more info).
  • On conflict-sensitive programming: Integrating various representative stakeholders into the context analysis and conflict-sensitive process is crucial when working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Two elements are key in institutionalizing a conflict-sensitive approach. First, implementing teams must understand conflict sensitivity can be promoted within their existing frameworks and integrated into already-budgeted activities. Second, to facilitate the process at various stages, it is important that country programmes identify a focal point who receives training on the Programme Clinic approach and one whose Terms of Reference include a conflict sensitivity monitoring and reporting role (see also Key takeaways on Water and on Youth employment for more info).
  • On community engagement: The experience has shown that community-level governance structures play a critical role in resolving conflict and increasing social cohesion through the traditional system of Xeer, which is respected by the local communities. Training communities on conflict-sensitive water governance can drastically reduce conflict over water resources. (See key takeaway on Water for more info)
  • On water stress: The intervention highlighted the role of water governance in reducing local-level natural resource-based conflict in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia.
    1. Rehabilitating agricultural infrastructure, such as irrigation canals can have a positive role and effect in reducing the potential for conflicts over water.
    2. Community-level governance structures play a critical role in resolving conflict and increasing social cohesion. Training communities on conflict-sensitive water governance can drastically reduce conflict over water resources: over the lifetime of this project, an estimated 90 percent reduction in conflict over water was recorded. Irrigation canal committees can perform regular monitoring of water sharing directly within the community to ensure that any tension or conflict is reported at an early stage and can therefore be de-escalated before it becomes serious.
    3. Strengthening higher-level governance structures has an important role to play by enhancing knowledge and skills in the management of water-related conflicts: through developing capacities of ministry officials on water management, public asset management and water resource conflict management or strengthening water management committees’ cooperation.
    4. Creating job opportunities for the youth in canal rehabilitation and water infrastructure contributes to the reduction of their engagement in negative coping mechanisms, increases household incomes, and enhances longer-term contributions to localized and sustaining peace efforts.
  • On youth employment: Programme Clinic recommendations triggered adjustments in the procurement process as they sensitized contractors involved in canal rehabilitation on the peace impact of providing short-term employment to willing unemployed youth. This was done to promote employment amongst youth who were at risk of recruitment into clan militia and Al-Shabaab forces. Young people were employed to clear vegetation along the canals. Creating job opportunities and related benefits for the youth contributes to their economic empowerment. It is important that youth living around the main canals are employed after the rehabilitation of the canals ends.
  • On learning: A robust learning methodology to collect and analyse evidence to answer the learning questions should be articulated and designed at the project design stage. The MEAL framework can generate relevant evidence if the indicators are aligned with the learning questions from the onset of the project. This can also ease the linking of information and evidence collected through regular project monitoring, which is essential to respond to the learning questions.
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