In Bama town, Borno State, Nigeria, Mohammed is preparing his viewing centre for the football match that will start later in the evening. Mohammed runs a viewing centre, where people pay to watch sports including live football matches. To him, the joy he feels when he sees people from different backgrounds gather in his centre to watch sports can’t be explained. Nothing makes Mohammed happier than knowing that the viewing centre will help promote community unity and cohesion.
Prior to the viewing centre, Mohammed owned a transportation business. With 2 lorries and a car, he employed drivers that transported people and goods from one town to another. In the year 2015, everything changed for Mohammed and his family, as non-state armed groups attacked their town and destroyed properties.
Mohammed recollects what happened:
“One morning, I heard gunshots and I went outside to see what was happening. As I came out, I saw people trying to flee, that was when I realized that the insurgents have finally invaded our community. I quickly alerted my family members, and we all ran to Kwauri, a neighbouring town for safety”.
In its twelfth year, the crisis that struck the north-eastern part of Nigeria has had devasting impact on the people of the region and its communities. The crisis has halted development and has led to massive loss of lives, properties, and livelihoods.
Now, with the return of community members following stabilization of a number of communities, there remains theneed for these societies to rebuild their economies and ways of life. In contributing to the creation of livelihood opportunities and strengthening local economies of conflict affected communities, UNDP through its Support to Reconciliation and Reintegration Project (S2R) have provided trade tools for victims of conflict across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States respectively as part of an integrated package for recovery. With thanks to the programme and generous funding from the European Union, small business owners like Mohammed have been supported with the expansion of their business places to catalyse local economy expansion. The goal of this assistance is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work for all, ensuring that no one is left behind.
Conflict affected victims like Mohammed, need support to help them recover and achieve self-sustenance. To date, more communities members have been supported with integrated packages that enable them address any attendant mental health and psychosocial challenges, regenerate skills and receive assistance that enables them embark on small business of choice, while at the same time save for future use as well.
“When I returned home, I had nothing to do. But one day it struck me that people travel to neighbouring communities just to watch football matches, so I decided to open a viewing centre that will serve the town. I started in my house but had less customers because it was a small space and people complained that it wasn’t conducive enough. I then constructed a small makeshift space for the business” Mohammed shared.
“I was selected for the business support project, my space was expanded, making it more conducive for customers. After the expansion, more customers came and now during any match day I make about eight thousand naira a day. This has helped me to take care of my family and made the business better from the profit generated,” continued Mohammed.
Apart from the profit garnered from the business, Mohammed stressed that the viewing centre has brought about unity and strengthened social engagement in the community. “With help from UNDP, I also run jingles that communicate messages of unity in local languages, which allows my clients to continue to reflect on application of social cohesion when they leave my viewing center, the youth and the elderly as well”. The center can sit up to 80 persons at a time.
“People that don’t normally talk to each other now do so because they have something in common which is this viewing centre. I am so proud that this centre has been a major tool in promoting trust and communal living and I’m so grateful to UNDP for supporting me,” Mohammed concluded. The EU supported project aims to enhance stability through provision of alternatives to violence and enhanced social cohesion and is implemented as a partnership between the UNDP, IOM and UNICEF in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.