Africa: Reintegration of ex-combatants through agriculture (Various Sources)

| February 11, 2008

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As more and more peace agreements are being signed, a growing number of former fighters” are participating in programs known as DDR – disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. Many of these ex-combatants are turning towards agriculture on their path back to civil life.

Dieubéni, now 34 years old, fought in Central Africa. Now he is the chairman of the l’Association de Développement Agro Pastoral at Boyrabe in the Central African Republic. He chose to re-establish his life as a pig farmer. To increase his chances of success, he formed a livestock cooperative with 20 other ex-combatants. By working together, they save money on veterinary expenses and get a better price for their meat.

According to the Journal on African Conflict Resolution, former combatants who seek employment in agriculture perform better than those who train in other fields because agriculture ensures survival even when opportunities in the labour market are lacking.

Abel Da Silva is the director of production and modernization for the Ministry of Defense in Guinea-Bissau. Mr. Da Silva recently announced a government program that will see 3,000 ex-combatants trained in land cultivation and animal husbandry. The majority of the former soldiers will produce rice and sugarcane on three farms in eastern Guinea-Bissau.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo also offers agricultural programs to reintegrate former soldiers. Ex-combatants in remote villages of the Bunia region of northeastern DRC learned farming techniques during a four-month course held in 2007. As part of the program, each received farming implements, a wheelbarrow, and a watering can. With these tools, they will be able to work the land and feed their families.

However, reintegration through farming is not always the most popular choice. A case study conducted in Sierra Leone found that only 15 per cent of former combatants chose the agricultural reintegration program. Young ex-soldiers showed the least interest in agriculture and rural life. Those ex-combatants with agricultural experience were the most likely to take up farming.