Large development investment and local peacebuilding in rural Africa: building and sustaining peace at the margins’

Large development projects in marginal rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are being pursued by a host of investors, both traditional Western donors and companies, and increasingly by China and other rising global powers. These projects have the potential to transform local governance arrangements and institutions, including those that support peace-building.

Over three years, this project examines how conflict, local governance and peace-building arrangements in the rural margins in Kenya and Sierra Leone are affected by new, large-scale investments. The underlying premise of the project is that in order to make large development projects in marginal rural areas support peace and stability for the poor, the focus needs to be on the strengthening of hybrid forms of governance in which the state partners with a diverse range of local intermediaries and alternative sources of authority to enforce commitments and facilitate compromise between competing groups at the local level.

The research will support efforts to broaden debate by generating critical insights and evidence on if, how and why local peacebuilding succeeds in areas where new development projects are taking place and, thus, help to reduce the risk of violence and support better outcomes for the poor.

Research questions
We hypothesise that an intensification of outside investments and greater state presence at the margins will transform relations and institutions, and thus enhance the ability to successfully manage the risks, causes and impacts of both historic and emerging conflict. In light of this, the project examines the following questions:

  1. What are the consequences of new large scale investments on local institutions, relations, conflict dynamics and violence?
  2. What new hybrid orders emerge, and how successfully do these address local understandings of peace-building and both historic and emerging conflict?
  3. What measures can be taken, at policy and practical levels, to promote conflict sensitive approaches to large investments in marginal rural areas?

The project will use case studies to examine the factors influencing local peace-building under different structures of local governance in northern Kenya and in Sierra Leone.

Future plans
The project began in April 2014. A methods workshop was held at IDS with an international team of experts in September 2014. Stakeholder seminars in Nairobi and Freetown held in the autumn of 2014 will precede in-depth fieldwork in Kenya and Sierra Leone in 2015. Updates of the research will be available periodically on the IDS website on this project page as well as blogs and news stories. The research findings will be published in academic journals from 2017. A series of policy briefings is also planned in association with Conciliation Resources and Saferworld.

The project is led by IDS Fellows Jeremy Lind  and Jeremy Allouche  in partnership with researchers from the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies in Kenya and Njala University in Sierra Leone.

Key contact

Photo of Jeremy Allouche, IDS research fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915834


More details
Jeremey Lind is a Research Fellow with Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team

T: +44 (0)1273 915747


More details
Project Dates:
April 2014 - March 2017
Project Status:
Research Themes / Programmes:
Conflict, Violence and Security