OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Embedded peace

Coaching pastoralist peacemakers as they journey with their herds through the grazing corridors between CAR and the DRC

Photo of Nathalie Al-Zyoud
2 2

Written by

What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

"A Peulh has never found satisfaction with his complaint to the gendarmerie or the police. Even if you bring a culprit to the gendarmerie, tomorrow, he walks freely in the city.” Testimony of a shepherd, CAR. Victims of years of injustice at the hands of local authorities and without real integration in society, herders have always been marginalized in the Central African Republic (CAR). When conflict erupted in 2013, some herders allied with armed groups for protection while others sought the safety of the city. Without the rule of law, anarchic use of land space worsened. Pastoralists encroaching on farmers’ land exacerbated bloody cycles of violence and displaced local communities. Faced with increased insecurity and in search for more grazing land, many pastoralists began crossing the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), quickly finding themselves in even more hostile environment. The DRC's government’s response to their presence has primarily been a military one. DRC civil society’s response has been even more virulent. In the CAR, civil society organizations are able to mediate farmer-herder conflicts as they arise; in the DRC, CSO’s have refused all forms of dialogue with pastoralists. To this day, most NGO conflict mitigation work has focused on building the capacity of CSO at static points within conflict zones. Our idea is to work from within pastoralist tribes and build-out their capacity to anticipate threats, communicate with local CSO, and resolve conflicts non-violently. To do this, our national mediators will select pilot 2 tribes and train insider mediators. Equipping them with satellite phones, CIT will provide weekly remote coaching to those peacemakers as they journey through CAR and the DRC helping them improve communication with local sedentary communities and authorities and resolve conflicts that arise. CIT will also leverage our large network of relationships to support and enable their success.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We will begin our engagement with pastoralists in CAR and follow their journey as they travel with their herds through the Mbomou-Uele border region and into the DRC. This area was selected because of CIT's existing networks of relationships stemming from past and current programming in the area. Pastoralist communities were selected because of the chronic discrimination they face from local villagers and their unique needs for conflict mitigation support.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

A much-neglected population because of their nomadic lifestyle, this innovative idea seeks to build the pastoralists’ own capacity to communicate with village leaders, local authorities, and armed groups more effectively. Insider pastoralist mediators will seek out their sedentary counterparts in the villages they cross, creating more equitable dialogue opportunities to discuss conflict dynamics and resolve issues of mutual concern.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Victims of systemic oppression and social exclusion, and prey to violence by armed groups, farmers, and even other pastoralists, nomads have long been a misunderstood community. Universal to all human beings, pastoralists also yearn for control (autonomy), recognition (appreciation), belonging (affiliation), purpose (role), power (status) and justice (fairness). This project will serve to humanize herding communities, helping them regain a sense of control over the multitudes of threats they face. Equipping insider mediators with the skills to prevent and mitigate tensions non-violently will build the tribes’ confidence in their ability to find justice and lessen their reliance on armed responses or armed groups for protection. The assumption is that this new found confidence will give them pride and restore their dignity, and giving them hope for a better future.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

This idea will break the cycle of revenge that herding communities are either a victim of or perpetrating on others. Using Invisible Children’s monthly crisis tracker which tracks incidents of violence and crime in the Mbomou-Uele region, CIT will monitor over the course of three years of implementation whether our interventions are impacting those indicators and decreasing the number of violent incidents across the villages in the area. In addition, feedback from African Park rangers who police protected land and local authorities in receiving communities will also provide data on whether their interactions with herders are improving. With greater awareness on how to communicate with others and the ability to find solutions that meet everyone’s needs, herders will also be able to self-report whether their sense of safety has improved.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

This idea was inspired by 5 years of work with herders and farmers in CAR and our staff experiences with pastoralists who graze across the border in Sudan and South Sudan. During that time, we were exposed to narratives of extreme violence. We felt the impact that war has on the cattle when borders are closed and grazing areas become overpopulated. We listened to stories of assaults and taxations by armed groups and the devastating economic loss the death of a cow represented to some tribes who don’t even own their herds. They shared their need for security and acceptance with us and search for assistance. At the same time, we were inspired by the elegant beauty and laughter of colorfully dressed Peulh women coming into a city with their children to purchase fruits and vegetables from the same people who hold them in contempt. This project is also inspired by our national mediators in CAR who show such passion for rebuilding those bridges and see their communities made whole again.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Herders are intertwined in a complex set of conflict dynamics where they can be both victims and active perpetrators of violence. While conflated by farmers as one group, pastoralists come from a variety of different countries and have very diverse cultures. In Bantango, CAR, CIT identified as many as 9 different tribes traveling through the area each year. Most tribes are hired as shepherds by wealthy herd owners. Securing the animals is critical because they are responsible for compensating the owner when a cow dies. Security is paramount yet problematic without community relationships and skills to resolve conflicts. Now heavily armed, there is little incentive to go back to being at the mercy of local authorities. Pastoralists have a high rate of illiteracy, and face additional communication challenges posed by the multiple languages and dialects they encounter.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Pastoralists already have well developed mechanisms to manage in-group tensions, but regional conflict, poor governance and violence pushing them into new grazing areas across international border, undermined systems for inter-group conflict resolution. By building-out the existing internal capacity for conflict resolution to extent toward out-groups, tribes will bring these skills with them along their entire human journey. We already use a method of remote coaching that enables our local mediators to have weekly support sessions with technical experts. It is this same methodology that we think would have the greatest likelihood of success with people constantly on the move as they interact with recipient host communities.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

CIT will draw upon our existing team of local peacemakers in CAR to train herders in mediation. CIT will work in collaboration with Invisible Children who developed and run an early warning system in the area targeted by this idea, including in communities in the DRC that have received unwelcomed pastoralists from CAR. In addition, CIT will collaborate with African Parks and other conservation groups to support productive interactions between park security officials and pastoralists. Finally, CIT will work with local CSO and local authorities in the receiving communities to implement inclusive and effective dialogues to resolve challenges associated with pastoralist movement and presence.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Communities in Transition (CIT)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

CIT’s mission is to assist communities in their search for sustainable peace. We do so by advancing the understanding of complex crisis through comprehensive conflict analysis and assessments; facilitating inclusive and sustainable conflict resolution dialogue processes; and ensuring knowledge transfer and ownership to empower local peacemakers. We are the right group because CIT’s approach and organizational structure is designed for maximum impact, maximum local empowerment and maximum sustainability. Our interventions birth self-determined actions and growth led by motivated local peacemakers who we are humbled to accompany in their journey to bring peace in their communities. CIT has worked in CAR for the past 5 years and began working in the DRC this year. Before starting CIT, Nathalie Al-Zyoud ran an NGO in Chad from 2004 to 2011. Ironically, many of the pastoralists targeted for this project have origins in Chad, showing the extent to which people are truly on the move.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a For-Profit Startup or Startup Social Enterprise

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Pikesville, Maryland

Attachments (1)

FY15-19 CIT - CAR experience.pdf

2015-2019 Communities in Transition experience in CAR


Join the conversation:

Photo of NDEF Cameroon

Dear Nathalie, welcome and thank you for working to coach pastoralist peacemakers as they journey with their herds through the grazing corridors between the CAR and the DRC. This will greatly reduce conflicts! Courage and success!

Photo of Nathalie Al-Zyoud

Thanks. I enjoyed reading about your work as well.