Building common ground

The Nanumba and Konkomba tribes of northern Ghana have been locked in conflict for over 30 years.

At its root lies issues of land ownership, power, and identity. Outbreaks of widespread violence have been rare but devastating, and left communities fractured and divided.

With more than 400 destroyed villages, up to 12,000 killed, over 150,000 displaced people – as well as a huge loss of goods and animals – the impacts of the conflict have been severe. Limited government or outside investment has worsened issues of basic hygiene and poverty, compounding divisions.

It wasn’t always like this though. The two tribes used to live in mixed villages and often intermarried – people even spoke each other’s language. Could a similar state of harmony exist again? It was with that hope that CHIPS were invited into the area.

Our work seeks to address the underlying factors while creating opportunities for people from both sides to work together and build relationships.

Living as an example

The CHIPS Ghana team serve as an example of peacemaking in action, and show a vision for what is possible in this area. Drawn from both sides of the conflict, this ethnically mixed team live and work together on land where some of the first people were killed in the major outbreak of violence in 1994.

In an area dominated by mono-ethnic settlements, this base where six families – three from one tribe and three from the other – live and work together shows that inter-ethnic collaboration can produce flourishing coexistence far beyond what is possible when divided.

Practical peacemaking projects

The team go out from this shared home in pairs – one Konkomba and one Nanumba working on each project. As they travel to communities together they are able to speak both languages and relate to both sides through their own culture. Every community they visit or group they meet sees this collaborative working – another example to show that peace is possible.

The practical projects the team run are themselves designed to build peace: whenever possible the activities seek to both address the underlying drivers of conflict as well as give opportunities for people to work together on these practical activities with people from the other side.

We have four main practical project areas in Ghana:

  • Community Animal Health Workers
  • Income Generation through Women’s Self-Help Groups and Beekeeping
  • Hygiene and Sanitation
  • Natural Medicine

Each of these activities have these key aims built in to its design and delivery:

1) creating opportunities for people from both sides of the conflict to meet, work together and build friendship through collaboration

2) showing an example of positive collaborative working across the divides in the shape of the mixed-ethnicity CHIPS team

3) seeking to address key underlying conflict drivers such as poverty and sickness

4) sustainably designed so that activities can continue long after our team has finished.

Through a long-term, deeply embedded presence, and our many practical projects the CHIPS Ghana team are seeing a growing network of relationships that cross the conflict divide. As this work grows, the team are ever-closer to our aim of building a sustainable future, free from violence and division in this area of Northern Ghana.