The African Peacebuilding Network, in collaboration with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, held a Policy Dialogue on “Mediating Natural Resource Conflict in Africa: Connecting Practice to Research” in Abuja, Nigeria from the 25th to the 26th of September. We had the opportunity to sit down with current APN Grantee (IRG 2019) Abubakari Ahmed to ask a few questions. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
APN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your APN-supported research project?
Dr. Abubakari Ahmed: My name is Dr. Abubakari Ahmed and I am from Northwestern Ghana. I am a lecturer in the Department of Planning at the University for Development Studies, Wa campus. My APN-supported project focuses on the political ecology of farmer-herder conflicts in northern Ghana. Such conflicts have been with us not only in Ghana, but in other countries in the Sahel. In Ghana, the policy response has been characterized by top-down strategies such as the establishment of cattle ranches as a way of reducing conflicts between herders and farmers. The government has established a number of these projects in the southern part of the country since 2001. The policy roadmap is to establish more ranches throughout the country in coming years. My project interrogates this policy direction in the face of recent conflicts as the government seeks to build more ranches in the northern part of the country close to the Sahel where farmer-herder conflicts have intensified recently. My project raises a number of questions: has cattle ranching actually been successful in addressing farmer-herder conflicts in the southern part of the country? What are some of the baseline conditions that have made these projects either successes or failures in the southern Ghana? How feasible is cattle ranching in addressing farmer-herder conflicts under complex land tenure systems in northern Ghana? I approach these questions by comparing experiences from the south to inform the assessment of its feasibility in the north. I therefore draw on my fieldwork and practical insights into the ongoing policy discourse in the country to respond to the foregoing questions.
In your view what are the major takeaways from the meeting in relation to building synergies between practitioners and researchers? Explain.
It has confirmed my belief that the research that I am doing is not only about creating academic knowledge, but how its findings can inform practice or policy discourse in Ghana. I now have a good idea of how to rethink and package my research findings in a way that will be meaningful and useful to practitioners and policymakers. So far, I have learned more about some of the challenges in terms of the interface of research and mediation practices. The most important takeaway from this workshop is the need to put in more thinking into how I can more effectively translate my research findings into forms that can impact or shape practice.
What has your experience been like so far as an APN grantee and is this a program that you would recommend to others?
I think the APN grant is one of the best opportunities for young researchers in Africa. The APN grant is good not only in providing researchers with resources, but also in terms of encouraging them to talk about problems from the African perspective. The APN grant in itself is a way of promoting Afrocentric perspectives to peacebuilding in terms of research. It enables us to think collectively, contributing towards the decolonizing our thoughts and values that tend to be dominated by Western-based paradigms. The APN is definitely something I would recommend to other colleagues who are interested not just applying for the grant, but also translate their research into something practical. It will also help engage the ongoing discourse on decolonizing African scholarship. The APN helps young researchers develop context-specific solutions to Africa’s problems. I strongly recommend that young researchers apply for the APN grant.
When you’re not doing research or wearing serious suits, what do you like to do in your free time?
Wow that’s really nice, I never expected that question. In my free time I do two or three things. One of the things that I like to do in my free time – which has really informed my research – is to learn about local issues from local people. I like to sit with my colleagues, have a cup of tea, and talk about everyday problems. That is one of the issues that formed my proposal for the APN grant. In my everyday life, beyond research, I want to understand/frame my academic research drawing on perspectives of the people. I love to talk to people. In my culture, we say “tea is togetherness.” I also listen to music a lot. I used to watch soccer matches, but now I don’t watch them as much, since the teams I support are no longer doing well.
Abubakari Ahmed is a lecturer at the Univeristy of Wa, in the department of Development Studies. He has an interdisciplinary background in Development Planning and Sustainability Science. He received a BSc in development planning from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and his MSc and PhD in sustainability science at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan. His previous works have focused on the sustainability assessment (i.e. economic, social and environmental impact assessments) of bio fuels and industrial crops in Ghana. Currently, his research critically explores the water-energy-food nexus from a political ecology perspective in terms of embedded socio-ecological inequalities. More specifically, he currently studies land-water conflicts in the semi-arid region of Ghana.