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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Eleven grants of up to $25,000 of USAID/HESN funds were awarded through international competition to scholars who hypothesized and tested innovations to overcome the negative impacts of conflict that preclude broad-based development.

Transformative Solutions Grants

Eleven grants of up to $25,000 of USAID/HESN funds were awarded through international competition to scholars who hypothesized and tested innovations to overcome the negative impacts of conflict that preclude broad-based development. The Transformative Solutions request for application was a model that was adapted and used in the administration of similar programs for Latin America Transformative Solutions, Congo Peace Center grants, Uganda EMCO grants, and the Tony Laos Middle East research fellowships. 

Previous Awards

Community Collaborative Potential Enhanced Through ICT in North Kivu, Democratic Republic Of Congo

Innovation: Efficient design of an ICT chain system within a farmer co-operative. 

Key Learning: Connectivity of farmers can be increased through an efficient networking chain. 

The Strategic Analytics Laboratory (SAL) partnered with the DRC-based non-profit organizations, Domaine Monts de la Lune sarl and Le Jardin, to test how legitimate local institutions can influence cooperation dynamics as seen through farmers in DRC. North Kivu farmers, in eastern DRC, have great difficulties accessing and taking advantage of opportunities in export markets. The proponents of this project hypothesize that local cooperation can be fostered through adequate support and that ICT has a key role to play. Through opening new communication channels that overcome cultural and conflict-conditioned obstacles, ICT can contribute to building institutions and leadership that serve the interests of rural communities.

Explaining Cropping Systems under Extreme Uncertainty: Evidence from Conflict Prone North Kivu, DR Congo

Innovation: A study to explore whether crop choices in conflict prone societies can be explained through coping mechanisms from conflict, social empowerment, and access to markets. 

Key Learning: Results show that if uncertainties originate from conflict, they can be mediated through specific socioeconomic arrangements.

The premise for this study is that current cocoa and coffee cultivation techniques are likely not sustainable without large inputs of inorganic fertilizer due to the current erosion of the local natural resource base. CDF conducted a survey of cocoa and coffee producing farmers in North Kivu in the Fall season of 2014. SAL helped design the survey, randomizing the villages and sample population. We facilitated a grid based randomization technique which selected approximately 1,700–2,500 farmers to take part in the survey. CDF constructed a primary database to include farmers’ demographic information, agricultural inputs available, services available from the government and NGOs, and information on interactions between farmers, buyers, and landowners as well as crop information.

Much of the literature on developing countries has investigated ways in which farming households choose different cropping systems to hedge against uncertainty. With data gathered through the BPCC project, this paper tests whether cropping decisions of small stakeholder farmers living in conflict prone agrarian province of North Kivu can be explained by the level of exposure to conflict, social empowerment, and market access. We further investigate if social empowerment and contracts, or guaranty from buyers, through market access can partially act as a buffer against the uncertainty caused by conflict. This paper contributes to the literature of choices made by farming households in two important ways. First, we explore whether crop choices in conflict prone societies can be explained through coping mechanisms from conflict, social empowerment, and access to markets. Secondly, our results show that uncertainties originating from conflict can be mediated through specific socioeconomic arrangements.

The Effects of Cell Phones and Radios on Smallholder Farmers Decision Making: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Innovation: Investigate the decision-making process of smallholder farmers in conflict affected areas by their access to communications technology.

Key Learning: There is no impact of cell phone access or usage on conflict perceptions and market decision-making, but the use of cellphones did increase the sense of community among participants, augmenting feeling security when faced with conflict.

This study investigates the decision making process of smallholder farmers in conflict affected areas by their access to technology.  Smallholder farmers choose between cash crops and food staples. Cash crops incur more risk compared to subsistence farming because of violence and its effect on market access and volatility. Specifically, we investigate the role of technology (cell phones and radios) on an individual’s crop choice as a function of the perceptions of violence.  We use original data collected from 2,260 farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu region. For perception and propensity to engage in conflict, we use the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project household data. We control for demographic, social and economic factors of individual households. Furthermore, we estimate area/groupmate specific effects. Contrary to neo-social media theories, we do not find any impact of cell phone access or usage on conflict perceptions and/or engagement. The study’s implications are significant for fragile states that experience high levels of violence. The free transmission of information through radio access provides opportunities for governments and other actors to identify when violence arises.

Payment and Predation: The Politics of Wages and Violence in the Congolese Army

Innovation: Analysis of soldiers to reveal reasons that soldiers abuse civilians in order to devise polices to reduce abuse.

Key Learning: Leaders use non-payment to distinguish loyal soldiers from those less committed, leading unpaid soldiers to abuse civilians, a process managed by commanding officers to cultivate internal cohesion.

In fragile states, regimes must cultivate military forces strong enough to ward off external threats, but loyal enough to resist launching a coup. This requires that leaders distinguish the loyal from the untrustworthy, a particularly challenging exercise in post-conflict settings with weak institutions. The study explores how Congolese soldiers operating in North Kivu, the largest operational theater in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the epicenter of one of the most violent conflicts in Africa, solve this crucial problem. Leaders use non-payment as a screening strategy that reveals commitment by driving disloyal soldiers to defect and loyal soldiers to endure hard times. This fuels unpaid soldiers to engage in civilian abuse, a process managed by commanding officers that is used to cultivate internal cohesion. To develop and test this argument, thick description based on 100 open-ended qualitative interviews is coupled with a fine-grained quantitative analysis of 350 surveys of soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This analysis provides a novel explanation for how leaders use financial constraints to overcome classic organizational dilemmas in ways that ultimately cause violence against civilians. 

Monitoring Militaries: The Role of Citizen Accountability in Reducing Army Abuse

Innovation: A system of monitoring and publicizing soldier behavior instituted by NGO’s and the United Nations to reduce abuse of civilians. 

Key Learning: Soldiers who were informed of UN and NGO monitoring regimes were significantly less likely to engage in sexual violence against women or kill civilians; however, the monitoring regimes had no impact on extortionary behavior. 

Monitoring military abuse is a key strategy used by advocacy groups, governments and international organizations to deter violence against civilians. Monitoring — the process of documenting and disseminating evidence about abuse — informs security sector policy and cooperation globally. The study examined whether monitoring militaries ultimately deters violence against civilians before it takes place? And if so, why?  A survey was conducted of 350 Congolese soldiers operating in North Kivu, the largest operational theater in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the epicenter of one of the most violent conflicts in Africa. Regression analysis was conducted on data on soldier exposure to monitoring regimes implemented in the Eastern DRC as well as soldier histories of extortion and violence. Results suggest that monitoring is most effective when coupled with financial incentives and decoupled from social sanctioning mechanisms. In the short-term, monitoring regimes should focus on disseminating information about abuses to key-policy makers and institutions rather than publicizing abuses local to recruit-sending communities or civil service organizations. In the long-term, policies should focus on empowering local organizations to effectively monitor and hold soldiers accountable with resources rather than just through social sanctioning.

North Kivu Market News Service

Innovation: A system for collecting market news and disseminating it through a network of radio stations was established to improve information for farmer decision-making in a conflict-prone environment. 

Key Learning: Reliable radio market news attracted a number of radio stations reaching 500,000 people which in turn: (a) facilitated other information to be broadcast quelling socio/political rumors (reducing conflict); (b) reduced the spread of Ebola, while; (c) supporting farmers market decisions. Total beneficiaries likely exceeded one million persons. 

With a Transformative Solutions Grant awarded in 2016, Catholic University of Graben (UCG) established weekly local market price report that was disseminated between October 2016 and October 2017 using radio stations across the Grand-Nord, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Though UCG could not conclusively determine the impact NKMNS on smoothing local-level commodity price shocks, CDF professors reported increased market knowledge of rural farmers. Once established, NKMNS was adapted to broadcast other important information to isolated and vulnerable communities located in isolated and insecure regions. This information included how to prevent the spread of Ebola and sexually transmitted diseases and the proper application of fertilizer.

Major achievements included the following: (a) 128 broadcasts from two radio stations were made to an estimated combined audience of 20,000 individuals per broadcast, significant because ongoing insecurity makes disseminating information to these vulnerable populations extremely difficult;  (b) each week NKMNS published a new 10-minute agricultural report, broadcasted every Wednesday and Sunday; (c) NKMNS’ 128 broadcasts in Butembo and Beni reached roughly 500,000 listeners, likely benefitting over one million persons; (d) broadcasts were made possible by UCG’s development of reliable agricultural data collection networks comprising women in eight rural locations and  UCG students processing the data; (e) led by NKMNS and Radio Butembo Director Robert Kahamula, the radio networks are a major tool used by INGOs to prevent the spread of Ebola; (f) NKMNS continues to broadcast agriculturally related information at The Voice of UCG, a radio station in Butembo; and, (g) women’s organizations showed a unique familiarity with local markets that helped them minimize the variance bargaining has on NKMNS’ commodity data, and once a stream of quality data was established, local radio stations were eager to become broadcast partners. 

Radio for Integrated Health and Agriculture in Ghana 

Innovation: Use of radio as a tool to provide integrated food safety, nutrition and public health services in remote or disadvantaged communities in northern Ghana.

Key Learning: A). Women who listened “at least once a week” were more knowledgeable and had more positive health and nutrition-related attitudes than those who listened less; B). Mothers in communities with the integrated health program broadcasts reported higher levels of health/nutrition related attitudes (HNRAs) than the non-intervention respondents; and, C). Using radio for integrated agriculture and public health promotion can help positively influence health and nutritional attitudes in resource-limited settings. 

The goals of this project were to: (1) Enhance the capacity of agricultural extension agents and community health workers to disseminate integrated agriculture, public health and nutrition messages via the development of culturally relevant and topic-specific radio programs; (2) Positively change knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of residents in communities with respect to agricultural and public health practices; and (3) Identify best practices and lessons learned in using radio for integrated agriculture and public health promotion.

The project used a participatory process to develop a three-month radio intervention comprising 10-minute drama, 10-minute discussion of the radio drama led by trained community health workers, and 30-minute phone-in from listeners of the program. Overall, there were over 150 calls from listeners of the radio program over the three months to assess the impact of the radio intervention, we surveyed mothers with children up to 6 months old in a district of northern Ghana where the radio broadcast occurred (Savelugu district) and a control district (Nadowli district). Baseline and end-line data collection occurred in March 2018 and September 2018 respectively. The health and nutrition-related attitudes (HNRAs) were derived from assessing 26 key behaviors/ statements, related to appropriate child feeding, personal hygiene and uptake of health services. They were measured on a three-point Likert scale (response options ranged from ‘agree’, ‘neutral’, ‘disagree’”).

Sharing the Land (Note: two successive grants)

Innovation: Devolution from central ministries to local communities the function of mapping and registering land use and land claims as a way of reducing land conflict.

Key Learning: Publication of land use and land claims at the community level is an effective substitute or complement to the often slow, ponderous and expensive process of land registry by central governments, and help to reduce land conflicts.

The Sharing the Land (STL) program is an initiative under the Integrated Research Institute (IRI) at the Christian Bilingual University of Congo (UCBC) based in Beni, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The vision of STL is to promote peace by facilitating transparent, fair, and equitable land ownership practices in eastern DRC. STL’s mission is to use research, technology, community engagement, and public sector activism to produce a sustainable, dynamic, effective, transparent land registry system to be implemented in North -Kivu to prevent land conflict. STL started in January with the goal of addressing land conflict and improving urban planning in Beni town. STL collaborated with the government, customary chiefs as well as everyday landowners, tenants, and other community members to develop a digital base map of Beni town, which included a map of 531 land claims and conflict data for Masiani neighborhood, one of Beni’s 30 neighborhoods. In so doing, STL developed a model and framework for improving the technical aspects of DRC’s land administration. STL has since expanded to the city of Goma in North Kivu, DRC. STL became the first of ConDev’s Transformative Solutions projects to surpass 1,000,000 beneficiaries reached.

The Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon:

To Stay or to Migrate Onward? 

Innovation: Identification and analysis of factors which cause refugees to stay in the first country to which they migrate, rather than to relocate again, facilitates policy-making with respect to mitigating, sustaining, integrating, or assimilating refugee populations.

Key Learning: Information is key to refugee decision-making, and while ongoing conflict often obscures information, one's being informed of rights and opportunities can lead to more satisfactory migration decisions.

This study explores the experiences of Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. It looks at factors that attract the migrant to move to a new destination country, versus factors that influence refugees to stay in the first country to which they migrate. Data comes from 94 in-depth interviews with migrants, 46 in each country. Researchers found: 1.) refugees’ disappointments with their reception in Lebanon causes regret with their initial choice of destination country, and a desire to move on to other countries, especially Europe, viewed as “freer”; and, (2) relatively more satisfactory support in Jordan increases the desire of refugees to remain in that country. The authors discuss the refugee decision-making in relation to the different personal, familial, communal, and governmental factors that affect decisions.

Crowdsourcing Peace: Closing the Feedback Loop in

War-to-Peace Transitions

Innovation: A system to monitor compliance with peace agreements through crowd sourcing is posited as a way to prevent a return to violence.

Key Learning: Crowdsourcing appears to be a feasible way to monitor compliance with peace agreements and peace-building programs. 

After armed conflicts subside, the implementation of peace agreements is constrained by a lack of information about compliance to the terms agreements and the peace-building programs that follow. Parties to the peace agreements simply do not know what the others are doing and, fearing for their own safety, preemptively return to violence. Third-party international organizations such as the United Nations are limited in their ability to effectively carry out peacebuilding activities. Indeed, a hallmark problem in the implementation of peace agreements is the weakness of monitoring arrangements to manage a lack of information, information silos, or incentives not to share. Lacking effective external monitors or communication across multiple monitors, and few incentives for monitoring, peace may continue to be extraordinarily fragile.

This project sought to identify ways in which the implementation of peace agreements could be facilitated by broader and deeper involvement of a greater number of actors.  A pilot project was undertaken to assess monitoring possibilities including geocoding aid, crowdsourcing, and mapping/visualization— to begin to close the feedback loop between international aid and local communities in war-to-peace transitions. A fact-finding mission to DR Congo, Sudan and South Sudan learned many factors to be considered in carrying out a full implementation of a crowdsourcing project. A comprehensive  crowdsourcing initiative, conducted with the cooperation and collaboration of the UN Peace-building Fund, awaits receipt of funding. 

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