Building and Sustaining Peace at the Margins: Large Development Investments and Peacebuilding in Rural Africa

The Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in the University of Sussex and CHRIPS are partners in a project aimed examining how conflict, local governance and peacebuilding arrangements in the rural margins in Kenya and Sierra Leone are affected by the new large-scale investments. CHRIPS is involved in the Kenya phase of the project, undertaking the study in Turkana with IDS, running from 2015 – 2016.

These rural margins have typically been on the periphery of government services and engagement. The large scale investments are expected to trigger increased state presence, and thus stimulate a transformation of local governance arrangements and institutions, including those that support peacebuilding. What factors determine if, how and why the new arrangements are successful in managing the tensions and the threat of violence engendered by large-scale investment? The project responds examines both the direct effects of large projects on the nature and levels of conflict and the indirect political effects associated with a transformation of governance arrangements.

The hypothesis of the study is that an intensification of outside investments and greater state presence at the margins will transform relations and institutions, and thus enhance the ability to successfully manage the risks, causes and impacts of both historic and emerging conflict. In light of this, the project examines the following questions:

  1. What are the consequences of new large scale investments on local institutions, relations, conflict dynamics and violence?
  2. What new hybrid orders emerge, and how successfully do these address local understandings of peacebuilding and both historic and emerging conflict?
  3. What measures can be taken, at policy and practical levels, to promote conflict sensitive approaches to large investments in marginal rural areas


Many of those who are most affected by large rural projects have little opportunity to make their voices heard. This is particularly true for disadvantaged groups, including in many cases women and girls. Broader debate is required in countries hosting such investments, to include rural stakeholders and their representative organizations. The project will support efforts to broaden debate by generating critical insights and evidence on if, how and why local peacebuilding succeeds in areas where new investments are being made and, thus, help to reduce the risk of violence and support better outcomes for the poor


Research activities

Activities to address research questions 1 and 2:

  • A household survey to map institutions and relations for negotiating the economic and social impacts of large investments, disaggregating for key elements of social difference including gender, age, ethnicity and socio-economic status.
  • Stakeholder workshop in each country to identify key actors, their roles and relationships and effective ways of engaging
  • Semi-structured interviews with formal and informal authorities at the national and local levels
  • Historical political economy analysis through a review of scholarly and grey literatures, key informant interviews with national and local actors, and limited archival searches

Activities to address research question 3:

  • Review of scholarly and grey literatures on the dynamics of sub-national violence and local peacebuilding
  • Review of best practices and codes of conduct for foreign land and resource investments as well as guidelines on conflict-sensitive approaches
  • Workshops in case study sites to discuss local peacebuilding efforts, their limitations, constraints and interaction with outside actors and processes
  • Informal discussions and interactions by local researcher in each case study setting.


Expected outputs

The project will have significant academic and policy impacts which will stem from its original research findings. This will be particularly useful in engaging with policy-makers, corporate actors and civil society practitioners working in the regions. It will make an important contribution to rethinking the nature of local governance in marginal rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa at a time of transition and reconfiguration stemming from large new investments. They will inform changes in policy and practice in order to reduce violence in such areas by promoting more conflict sensitive approaches

Key outputs will include conference papers, refereed articles in journals, working papers and policy briefs and field research notes. All the outputs will be made widely available through the IDS ‘Open Docs’ repository and on the CHRIPS website.