It was a great honor and privilege to be part of the cohort that was awarded the 2017 African Peacebuilding Network (APN) Individual Research Grant. My scholarly career has been transformed since becoming a member of the APN family. The APN has been helpful in situating my research on land grabbing in relation to scholarly and policy debates on conflict and peacebuilding in Africa. This has now become the primary focus of my research. The APN grant gave me the opportunity to grapple with other dynamics that were hitherto missing in my research on land grabbing and related conflicts in Nigeria. One of these relates to the complex issue of navigating peacebuilding in communities and regions affected by violent conflicts over land. It also relates to the role of the various conflict and peace actors including indigenous people, local chiefs, national and state governments, foreign governments, and multinationals and Civil Society Organizations.
Prior to receiving the APN grant, my research had been limited to the history and dynamics of conflicts over farmlands. However, I have since expanded my research focus to include other dimensions of land-related conflicts, particularly the peacebuilding component, which had been missing in my research. Most importantly, I learned that peace and justice cannot be achieved and sustained without adequate engagement with the parties to land-based conflict, equitable compensation, and restitution. This understanding was influenced by the research skills developed as a result of my participation in APN Grantee Training Workshops in Ghana and Morocco in 2017. The exposure to highly experienced mentors and my peers from other African countries helped me in redefining my approach to African conflict and peacebuilding.
The APN has opened access to key research connections with other alumni, as well as organizations in other African countries. For example, I was privileged through my APN research to develop a collaborative research relationship with the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC) on a project regarding “large-scale land acquisition and conflict in the Cross River State of Nigeria.” As an alumnus of APN, it was a thing of honor that an APN and Next Gen Programs’ outreach was organized in collaboration with my university on November 4th, 2021. The program created great awareness about APN and Next Gen at the Federal University of Kashere, which I am proud of. Drawing on my research skills and mentorship received during APN workshops, I also facilitated capacity-building sessions on conflict and peacebuilding research at my university. This was complemented by engagement with policymakers through a conference I organized on The Dynamism of Pastoralism in Contemporary Nigeria: Problems, Policies, and Prospects at the Federal University of Kashere, Nigeria in April 2018. Thankfully, my experience with the APN also assisted me in no small way to establish the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies at my university this year.
I am currently collaborating with some APN alumni, namely Professor Azeez Olusola Olaniyan of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Nigeria and Dr. Mary Boatemaa Setrana of the University of Ghana, Legon. My work with Azeez is on “Farmland Conflicts and Peacebuilding Challenges in Nigeria,” while the one with Mary is on “Farmers-Herders Conflicts and Dispossession in Ghana and Nigeria.” Similarly, another collaborative project with some colleagues resulted in a co-authored published article.1Noah Echa Attah et al, “Covid-19 and Increased Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria: Interrogating Armed Banditry in Northwestern Nigeria,” SIASAT Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2021, https://www.siasatjournal.com/index.php/siasat/article/view/87
My status as a peacebuilding scholar has become quite visible locally and internationally. I have been invited to some Nigerian universities to examine PhD dissertations on African peace and conflict studies. I have also assessed the academic papers of candidates for promotion to Professorship in some Nigerian universities. The contribution of the APN to my intellectual visibility was partly responsible for my appointment as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of my university in 2020. It also contributed to my involvement in the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund-Nigeria) Train-the-Trainer Capacity Building Workshop with a special focus on Proposal Writing and Grants Management held in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, 4th – 8th January 2021. Furthermore, the experience garnered from the APN award has given me the opportunity to lead most of the various capacity-building programs/initiatives at my university.
On the international front, I have presented some of the findings from my APN-supported research at various international conferences. These include the following: “The Expanding Herders and Farmers Conflicts over Farmlands in Nigeria: The Many Faces of Identity” at the 19th Annual African Conference, University of Texas, Austin, USA, 2019 and “Expanding Herders Farmers Conflict in West Africa: The Imperative for Regional Peacebuilding” at the 2018 African Studies Association United Kingdom (ASAUK), Biennial Conference, at the University of Birmingham. Other papers include “Wilmar International and Large-Scale Land Acquisition in Nigeria: Critical issues and Conflict Dimensions” presented at the Tomorrow People Organization’s Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 2017, and “Climate-Induced Migration and Pastoral Nomadism in the Nigerian Sahel: Contesting for Land Resources” presented at the First Concordia-McGill Universities African Studies Conference, University of Concordia, Montreal, Canada, 2017.
Some of my publications since the APN grant include the following: Fortress of Tents: Dynamics of Population Displacement in Nigeria (edited volume with Afaha, P. and Akpan, O.), Abuja: Brandmore Communications, 2021; “Xenophobic Attacks on Nigerians in South Africa: Counting the Human and Economic Costs,” a chapter in Xenophobia, Nativism and Pan-Africanism in 21st Century Africa: History, Concepts, Practice and Case Study edited by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde and Emmanuel Kasonde Matambo, , Switzerland, Springer, 2021; “Behind Accumulation and Dispossession: State and Large-Scale Agricultural Land Investments in Nigeria,” a chapter in The Land Rush in Africa: A Decade After the Spike edited by Logan Cochrane and Nathan Andrews, , London, Palgrave, 2021; Others include, “COVID 19 and Increased Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria: Interrogating Armed Banditry in Northwestern Nigeria” in the SIASAT Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Studies in 2021; and “Possession by Dispossession: Response of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to Global Land Grabbing in Nigeria” in the Journal of Intra-African Studies in 2018.
The APN also gave me the opportunity to participate in a two-day Experts Consultative Meeting to develop a Model Curriculum on Conflict-Sensitive Journalism in Africa, which was organized by the School of Information and Communication Studies, University of Ghana, in collaboration with the APN program in 2019.
I have benefited from useful information and networking opportunities provided by the APN through different platforms. I was also privileged to contribute two articles to the Kujenga Amani Special Issue on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. They are “The Postponement of the 2019 Nigerian Elections: Implications for Democracy, Peace, and Security”2Noah Echa Attah, “The Postponement of the 2019 Nigerian Elections: Implications for Democracy, Peace, and Security,” Kujenga Amani, February 22, 2019, Special Issue: Perspectives on the Postponement of Nigeria’s 2019 Elections, Available at: https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2019/02/22/the-postponement-of-the-2019-nigerian-elections-implications-for-democracy-peace-and-security/ and “Bullets and Ballots: Exploring Insecurities and 2019 Elections in Nigeria.”3Noah Echa Attah, “Bullets and Ballots: Exploring Insecurities and 2019 Elections in Nigeria,” Kujenga Amani, 2019, Special Issue on Nigeria’s 2019 Elections in Perspectives, February 15, 2019, available at: https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2019/02/15/bullets-and-ballots-exploring-insecurities-and-the-2019-elections-in-nigeria/ Against the background of the rising levels of conflicts and democratic backsliding in Africa, which are clear indications of weak states, the APN will have its hands full in the next decade in responding to these challenges. This calls for more resources and innovative solutions to emerging challenges as the APN continues to refine its research and programmatic agendas to help researchers and practitioners work together in the quest for sustainable peace in Africa. Looking back at what the APN has achieved in the last decade, I am sure it is poised to achieve more in the coming years even against mounting challenges. On a personal note, I hope to continue to participate in the APN’s activities in a way that will ensure innovative solutions to Africa’s crisis.
- 1Noah Echa Attah et al, “Covid-19 and Increased Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria: Interrogating Armed Banditry in Northwestern Nigeria,” SIASAT Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2021, https://www.siasatjournal.com/index.php/siasat/article/view/87
- 2Noah Echa Attah, “The Postponement of the 2019 Nigerian Elections: Implications for Democracy, Peace, and Security,” Kujenga Amani, February 22, 2019, Special Issue: Perspectives on the Postponement of Nigeria’s 2019 Elections, Available at: https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2019/02/22/the-postponement-of-the-2019-nigerian-elections-implications-for-democracy-peace-and-security/
- 3Noah Echa Attah, “Bullets and Ballots: Exploring Insecurities and 2019 Elections in Nigeria,” Kujenga Amani, 2019, Special Issue on Nigeria’s 2019 Elections in Perspectives, February 15, 2019, available at: https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2019/02/15/bullets-and-ballots-exploring-insecurities-and-the-2019-elections-in-nigeria/