Marka, Lower Shabelle, 8 May 2023 – One year ago, hope was scarce for Deka, a resident of Buufow, a small village near Somalia's historic port city of Marka. The thought of traveling to the nearest health clinic in a nearby village was unthinkable. Violence and conflict made the journey perilous, and women often feared for their life.

Expectant mothers like Deka were left with few options.

“Women in Buufow avoided travelling to Shalambod where the closest and most well-equipped maternity facilities are available, even when their pregnancies were at risk,” says Deka.

Youth from Buufow and Shalambod communities held a football match in March following consultations with the community who put forward the idea to foster social cohesion in the area. Photo: IOM

A history of clan conflict between the villages that are only seven kilometers apart hampered trade, movement of people and access to services for nearly seven years. The main road connecting the two locations was cut off years ago due to communal tensions and farmers from the two communities were unable to sell their products safely.

The villages lay in the rich farmland along the canal zone of Lower Shabelle, a region in south central Somalia which has great agricultural potential, but which has been affected by years of intercommunal conflict and clan tensions. Al-Shabaab militants controlled Marka and nearby areas from 2008 to 2012 and again between 2016 and 2018. The group’s presence in the region continues to challenge the fragile peace and stability.

“A lack of social cohesion resulted in numerous cases of revenge killings and a general lack of development, jeopardizing commerce in the area,” explains Yusuf Sid Ali, from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia.

For years, residents from Marka and surrounding areas couldn’t move freely in between cities due to recurrent tensions and hostilities amongst clans and terrorist groups. Today, the area enjoys greater stability thanks to the joint work of communities supported by IOM. Photo: IOM/Claudia Rosel

Now, a remarkable turn of events has paved the way for peace and progress in the long-troubled region thanks to the Promoting Inclusive Action in Peacebuilding (PIAP) Initiative project.

Led by local authorities, the project is bringing together people from all genders, ages and clans from the once-divided communities to lead the development of inclusive and participatory resource management mechanisms and governance systems.

All these are part of IOM’s efforts to support peacebuilding through community-driven initiatives.

A woman sells fruits and vegetables in Marka’s food market. Photo: IOM/Claudia Rosel

“With residents from both Buufow and Shalambod, and led by the local authorities, we organized a joint event at the end of last year where people from all genders, ages and clans came together to discuss how to foster collaboration and peace in the area,” says IOM’s Yusuf.

The event, and continued engagement through community mobilization, was an effective strategy for reconciliation.

Less than a year since the project started, movement between Buufow and Shalambod has become more frequent, and farmers from the two communities can now sell their products safely.

Marka, in the southern Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, has suffered from decades of conflict. The city was under the control of the al-Shabaab from 2008-2012 and 2016-2018. Recovered by the Somali National Army in August 2018, the city has enjoyed a fragile peace since then that is constantly challenged by the presence of the terrorist group and tensions amongst different clans. Photo: IOM/Claudia Rosel

Deka says with the newfound peace, the inhabitants of the two villages can support each other and share resources.

“In earlier days, confidence in sharing resources, and support during the outbreak of disasters was nonexistent between these two villages. Now, people are crossing, offering support to one another and the trust has grown,” she says.

Moreover, expectant mothers in Buufow are now able to access health-care services in Shalambod.

Fruits and vegetables for sale in Marka’s food market. Photo: IOM/Claudia Rosel

The activities implemented so far have also provided an opportunity for people from the two communities to come together and rehabilitate canal infrastructure in their area.

"After the events and dialogues took place, things changed. Children play together, youth hold football competitions, and the relationship between the youth and children of the two communities has improved," says Yusuf.

But the transformation goes beyond basic services. Community reconciliation activities have also had a significant effect on the youth. Weeks after attending the first joint discussion, they organized a football competition which later on led to discussions on businesses ideas.

“I always dreamt of playing football with other young people from Buufow, but the deep-rooted conflicts in our communities never allowed this to happen,” said Mohamud, a 23-year-old football enthusiast from Shalambod.

The transformation of the two villages has brought about a reduction in hate, fear of revenge killings, and old grievances, opening possibilities for a brighter future for the youth and the wider community.

The PIAP project is implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with funding from The UN Peacebuilding Fund.

For more information, please contact the IOM Somalia Media and Communications team:

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions