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From Separation to Connection in Darfur, Sudan

Date: March 2, 2023

Two communities with longstanding tensions — nomads and farmers — are reaching out to one another to de-escalate conflict before it turns violent

NP staff meets with members of the nomad community. West Darfur, Sudan, 2022. ©NP

Farid and his community are nomadic herders in West Darfur — they raise livestock and move around with the animals as they search for different lands to graze. With support from NP, Farid’s mindset had shifted from separation to connection. In our meetings we talked about how something as simple as connecting with a neighbor can set you up to respond together when presented with an issue or a crisis. When NP led a community safety training, Farid learned to trust his instincts that gave him clues about what tensions might escalate into violence. He also learned and practiced skills like active listening and deescalation. After completing NP’s training, Farid was keen to directly apply these skills in his life. So, he decided to reach out to farmers when he had the chance— despite the longstanding tensions between his community and theirs.

One day, not long after the NP training, he noticed a group of farmers loading watermelons from their patch onto a truck. In the past Farid might have kept walking past the group, but not this time. He knows that relationships are the key to peacebuilding, so he stopped and offered to help.

After they finished loading up the truck for the market, they had all become friendly enough that Farid exchanged phone numbers with one of the men. He knew that the grazing animals from the nomads sometimes wandered onto the farmers’ lands — a common source of conflict across Darfur, especially throughout the agricultural season. Thinking ahead to how they might work together to de-escalate conflict, Farid invited the farmer to alert him in case he found any animals from the nomads trespassing on the farms.

Sure enough, only a few days later, the farmer called Farid for help. Sixty cattle had invaded the farmers’ land. Typically, this could easily cascade into a violent clash. But on that day, the farmer encouraged his peers to pause — not rush to commit any violence against the nomadic community — instead, he called Farid.

Farid jumped into action, he no longer feared stopping conflict. And he knew that he didn’t have to resolve the issue alone: with a group of others from the nomad community, Farid quickly and safely moved the animals off the farmland and avoided violence that day. Farid and the farmer were both relieved. Especially since they live in Kereneik, a town that witnessed brutal attacks on civilians and health workers last April, when 200 people were killed. After this outbreak in violence, farmers could not safely access the lands outside the town, while nomads like Farid could not access the town and markets out of fear of retaliation from the farming community

"My Arab nomad community has never been approached by any international organisation before NP invited me to participate in a training on unarmed civilian protection."

The whole community has since been on edge, and even international groups had left the area for a time. NP was the first international organization to return to Kereinik after the April 2022 massacre, and we did so through building trust with the community, not through armed escorts.

Over the course of 2022, NP staff met with more than 1,000 people like Farid, different women, youth, and men in the area — from government and tribal leaders, to people in displacement camps and nomadic groups to discuss what the community wanted for safety and peace.

Just as the watermelons could grow next to the grazing lands for the animals in harmony, Farid saw how the farmers and the nomads could live beside one another in peace. With your support, NP is growing and deepening our work in Darfur, so that more people like Farid have the skills and confidence to move themselves and their communities towards peace.

You can protect civilians who are living in or fleeing violent conflict. Your contribution will transform the world's response to conflict.