Climate-proof reintegration of ex-combatants in Liberia

In Liberia, the process of recovery from war includes encouraging both ex-combatants and former IDPs to return to their place of origin and resume their lives there. There are many difficulties, not least the reluctance of some excombatants to go and to stay, and the reluctance of some communities to accept them back.

Leaving community reintegration to one side, there is also the issue of economic reintegration. When returnees go back to rural villages, the basic livelihood will be agriculture. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported projections of climate change reducing crop yield by 50% by 2020 in parts of West Africa.

The prospect arises of returned fighters becoming resentful, unemployed farmers, and thus potential recruits, with their combat experience, in a new conflict.

One way to address these issues could be by learning from the success of the participatory approach of forest-user groups in Nepal.

These groups now involve over 40% of the population, which means about 60% of the rural population, and they have successfully decelerated the rate of deforestation.

It is the combination of practicality and participation that makes this kind of approach attractive. In the Liberian example and similar rural settings, the technical aspect of adaptation should include options for new farming techniques, alternative crop selection, and shifting from crops to animal husbandry.

These options will be taken up more smoothly and will function more efficiently if they are based on well-informed and fully analysed decisions taken and implemented by the people whose wellbeing is most directly at stake - the farmers and their communities and the returnees themselves.

This article is an excerpt from International Alert's new report on 'Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility'.