Putting borderland life into figures and context

The Africa Borderlands Centre was founded in 2021 to better understand and respond to the development needs of borderland communities.

June 19, 2022
Putting borderland life into figures and context

Putting borderland life into figures and context

UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre

By Kehinde Bolaji, Ph.D., UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre Programme Adviser and Manager

The challenges facing the African continent – from climate change and inequality to unequal access to public goods and services, from instability of livelihoods to social unrest – take on additional dimensions in borderland areas.

The UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre conducted its first major study on multiple vulnerabilities and sources of resilience by talking to the people that know the most about their own challenges and opportunities. We contacted farmers and pastoralists from select border communities across Africa to hear directly from them what is working, what is needed and how UNDP can be of optimal service as a development partner.

Our research partners, the West African Network for Peacebulding (WANEP) and Infotrak in the Horn of Africa, completed quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews and in-depth discussions with local authorities and policymakers. They recorded over 1,000 accounts from people living in borderland communities in eight countries, namely Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda.

These populations are especially vulnerable to climatic events and heightened levels of risk exacerbated by a lack of access to basic services, such as clean water, adequate health facilities and electricity. These conditions often result in conflict over water and grazing land. These hazards and shocks have led to continual disruptions of livelihoods and increased vulnerability in borderland regions, leaving residents at greater risk of poverty and stunted development and have deprived communities of their full human potential.

We benefit greatly from the skill and care of national researchers, like Ismail Ukasha, who worked in Maigatari, Jigawa State, Nigeria. Researchers like Ukasha are close to the communities they investigate, speak the language and have a deep knowledge of the culture. They are our eyes, ears and hearts among populations we seek to know better and serve. “Of course,” explained Ukasha, “in any fieldwork there will be challenges.” Ukasha used patience to encourage initially hesitant residents to share their views. He embraced the challenge as a learning experience. “When next we embark on such research,” he told us, “we will have everything that we need.”

Underpinning the scientific rigor of our research is a profound respect for those who allow us a glimpse into their lived experience and a commitment to capturing the dynamics and nuances of border communities, who are often comparatively less served, protected and attended to by state resources.

Partnerships are also at the core of how we work at the Africa Borderlands Centre. With the fieldwork completed in April  2022, the data gathered from this joint study will form the basis of future knowledge, data and communication products, including a compendium of geographic, historical and socio-economic data that is currently under development. Such instruments will in turn enhance our effectiveness as partners to borderland communities across the continent as they chart their course toward sustainable development.

For more information, contact hello.africaborderlands@undp.org.


About the UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre

The Africa Borderlands Centre was founded in 2021 to better understand and respond to the development needs of borderland communities. The Africa Borderlands Centre offers specialized, expert knowledge and technical advice to enable the better design, implementation and adaptation of development programmes for border regions across  Africa. It is a resource of intelligence and expertise in support of national governments,  inter-governmental agencies, UNDP country offices, United Nations agencies, development partners and other key stakeholders. Learn more at www.undp.org/africa/africa-borderlands-centre.