Fragile futures: Rural lives in times of conflict
The West African region receives increased international attention due to its fragile security situation. Conflicts in neighbouring countries now also threaten the peace and stability in Burkina Faso. Recently, security issues have emerged in the northern part of the country where the Al Quida organisation AQMI operates, the political unrest in the Ivory Coast has forced migrant workers to return jobless to Burkina Faso and conflicts between farmers and cattle herders over water resources are becoming more frequent. The overall aim of this project is to identify key potentials for the strengthening of the relationship between the civil society and the state in order to prevent future conflicts. The hypothesis of the project is that a perception of the state as a set of institutions providing services for the population and a sense of belonging to the state, are particularly important in poor countries with vulnerable populations in order to avoid conflicts to emerge. This project looks at the relationship between the civil society and the state from the village perspective. Anthropological and sociological fieldwork in two contrasting villages will investigate local imaginaries of the state and how the villagers use and relate to the local representations of the state (health system, water provision and conflict management). Core elements for a future conflict prevention strategy will be identified through this project.
Project completion report:
’Fragile Futures: Rural Lives in Times of Conflict’, is a five-year collaborative project between the University of Ouagadougou, Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS) and the University of Copenhagen. The main objectives of the project was to describe and analyze imaginaries of the state and its local representatives from local village based perspectives and to identify key barriers for optimal use of existing basic services delivered by the government at village level. These issues have been addressed directly in four successfully defended PhD theses (three Phd fellows from Burkina Faso and one from Denmark) as well as in senior researcher projects. The overall results show that weak government institutions at district level (health care institutions, water management- and conflict resolution authorities) limit the use and trust in these institutions by the local population. Furthermore, it leaves the local population in precarious and fragile situations and increase the risk of diffusion of conflicts. The in-depth analysis of citizens-government relationships and the risk of emerging conflicts at district level have caught the atttention of a number of central stakeholders in Burkina Faso.
Our findings show that many rural citizens do not use the health facilities due to economic constraints, bad experiences and lack of trust. We also find that limited diagnostic repertoires at the rural health facilities contribute to relatively low use of public health services. Furthermore, results show that ethnic conflicts challenge the local state representatives and that unresolved conflicts risk to grow/spread. We point at the importance of improving the quality of the basic government services and strengthening of training and supervision of government officials working at district level. We also recommend that policy makers rethink the approach to community participation. Confidence and trust are key terms for a strengthened relationship between rural citizens and government institutions at district level. Four sucessfully defended PhD theses and a total of seven peer-reviewed international articles have already been published and five policy briefs were produced and presented at the final stakeholder workshop. In addition, all the involved researchers have presented their findings at international conferences and seminars. We have throughout the project had a strong emphasis on capacity building, which, in addition to the PhD theses and publications, has resulted in a new DKK 10 mio. FFU grant (EMERGING EPIDEMICS: Improving preparedness in Burkina Faso no. 17-06-KU . Ideas for this new project was developed jointly among colleagues during the ’fragile Futures’ project.