Preventing Violent Extremism Through Livelihood Innovations in Kenya and Somalia

The lack of livelihood and employment opportunities has broadly been recognised as one of the root causes driving individuals, particularly youth, to join extremist organisations. Studies carried out by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers on violent extremism in, for example, Somalia and Nigeria similarly highlight the need to secure income and employment for the growing youth population. During the past couple of years, initial planning with FCA’s Kenya and Somalia country offices and a baseline study commissioned by the Network on the gums and resins sub-sector in Kenya have explored possibilities for the implementation of the project, which is now taking a leap forward.

Currently, the Peacemakers Network is looking for a consultant to lead a comprehensive feasibility study on the gums and resins sub-sector in identified areas in the two countries. The aim is to make the supply chain more efficient and organised and to create a value-addition business plan for making use of the areas’ rich gum and resins resources.

Gums and resins, such as myrrh, frankincense and hagar, are natural substances produced by trees as a response to injuries and cuts in the bark. Since early times, gums and resins have been used for medical, food and cosmetic products. Today, frankincense and myrrh are the two most exported commodities from the Somali region with an evergrowing international demand.

In order to determine the most effective ways to process the harvested gums and resins, to produce essential oils and gum products and to facilitate their access to international markets, the feasibility study will explore the possibilities for setting up a distillery in Kenya. Another integral part of the feasibility study is to assess the environmental impact of harvesting and processing high-quality gums and resins.

The goal of the project is to create employment and livelihood opportunities in a way that fosters socioeconomic development and strengthens the resilience of local communities in the face of violent extremist movements. In addition to the socioeconomic benefits and the impact on the prevention of violent extremism (PVE), the project will advance sustainable peace efforts in the region more broadly. The informal business networks and the effective organisation of the different actors in the gums and resins supply chain will support intertribal and interethnic co-operation and local conflict prevention and resolution efforts. Particular attention will be paid to supporting the vital role women play in income generating activities and local PVE efforts. Trust-building efforts, the establishment of conflict prevention mechanisms and the creation of inclusive livelihoods through training and employment opportunities all go hand in hand to advance conflict transformation, socioeconomic stability and sustainable peace in the region.

The importance of private sector collaboration in PVE, reconciliation and other peace efforts is broadly acknowledged, but there remains a great deal of untapped potential and many underutilised opportunities for concrete undertakings. From PVE to the re-integration of former fighters, securing income and employment to groups and individuals vulnerable to violent extremist movements is an aspect that cannot be ignored when striving for long-term, sustainable impact. The findings and lessons learnt from the project in Kenya and Somalia will make an important contribution to the Network’s thematic knowledge on PVE and can guide future efforts to support private sector-civil society collaboration in PVE efforts globally.

Maiju Lepomäki
Project Officer
The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers


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