Preparing for Peace in Fragile Contexts: Social Relationships, Environmental Change and Livelihoods in the Lake Chad Axis of North-Eastern Nigeria

Project Details


This is an interdisciplinary project which seeks to understand the multidimensional livelihood fragilities confronting displaced former residents of the Lake Chad region, as they seek to rebuild their lives in the shadow of the Boko Haram insurgency. Social relationships and networks are central to the livelihoods of poor people, and rebuilding them when they are disrupted by violent conflict is often very difficult. But this process is even more complicated when that rebuilding has to happen while the spectre of violence is still very real, and in which ordinary livelihoods face other long-term challenges like climate change. Our project focusses on the complex social navigations that vulnerable categories like poor women and youth living around the Lake Chad in North Eastern Nigeria have to make to respond to four important multilayered and interconnected challenges. First is the challenge of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency which threatens life and property, but which has also displaced so many from their homes. Second is livelihood precarity created by the pre-Boko Haram climate induced (or at least aggravated) crisis of the shrinkage of the waters of Lake Chad and the consequent drastic fall in fish stocks and ecological diversity. Third is the long term poverty and social deprivation in that area of Nigeria. Finally is the disproportionate impact that these three challenges have on vulnerable categories like poor women and youth.

Boko Haram's insistence on controlling the Lake Chad's waterways, taxing access to it, and even the markets has had wide-reaching ramifications on the population, economy, and livelihoods of the thousands of people who consider the lake their home. The heavy migration away from the lake, its consequent de-population, the loss of jobs, the destruction of social networks tied to the historical fish markets, and loss of lives to Boko Haram's violence has meant the deterioration of what was already a fragile situation in the region. Environmental changes in the Sahel region of Sub-Saharan Africa have also dictated heavily the living conditions of the residents of the Lake Chad axis in a number of different ways over decades, shaping the structure of the socio-economy and demographic of the region. Far from being seen as just a disadvantage, the project explores the detailed history of residents of the Lake Chad axis dealing with the effects of changes to the lake, depletion of its content, and environs to the availability of resources and opportunities. Tapping into this, with support from the biographical experiences of the displaced residents of the region, is expected to help explore how past tactics employed are being used to address the current challenges faced by displaced groups of the Lake Chad axis.

Our project asks that how do these vulnerable people rebuild social relationships when violence subsides? what assets do they need to do this? what type of regulatory environment- both formal and informal- might facilitate or hinder this? how does the natural environment (in this case fish ecologies of the Lake Chad) interact with subsisting patterns of discrimination; for instance gender? what will resilience really look like from the perspective of the vulnerable? The project deploys mixed methods to attempt to answer these questions. This includes a life histories approach, a quantitative survey of fish ecology and key informant interviews and participant observation. The study sits at the critical intersection of multiple fields of study including fragility, economic and social history, conflict, displacement, gender, environmental change, fish ecologies and livelihoods. The project team reflects this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary focus and is made up of researchers from the University of Maiduguri and the University of Edinburgh.
Effective start/end date15/01/2114/12/23


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