Empowering Grassroots Conservation Organisations in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone

Empowering Grassroots Conservation Organisations in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone

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Though civil society organisations (CSOs) have significantly contributed to addressing a wide array of rights-based topics in West Africa, they still have an essential role to play in complementing governments’ work and raising awareness on the protection of West Africa’s biodiversity hotspots. However, given the broad scope and rapid development of emerging conservation issues like climate change, CSOs, particularly those operating at grassroots and subnational levels, are often under-resourced and face critical capacity constraints to exert influence.  


In response to this, the West Africa Civil Society Institute1 (WACSI) was selected by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund2 (CEPF) to implement the programme; “Strengthening CSO’s capacities for effective stakeholder engagement in biodiversity conservation”. 

The project seeks to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of 17 CSOs from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. This project seeks to equip the organisations to effectively engage and advocate for the development and implementation of national frameworks, policies and regulations for climate change mitigation and adaptation, that would meet national needs for development and environmental sustainability. 

The project offers a series of capacity strengthening activities to participating organisations3, in four phases including (1) training; (2) mentoring and coaching; (3) support to apply for small grant proposals; and (4) documentation of change stories and lessons learnt. 

The capacity development support project has been designed to improve on the participating organisations’ operational processes and related policies and procedures while taking into consideration the specific context of each organisation. The training content is being developed based on information collated from organisations through learning needs assessment conducted prior to each training phase. This has been done through the design of an online questionnaire adapted to each module and administered to representatives of each organisation. It has helped to customise and deliver training that respond to the knowledge and skills gaps of the respective organisations, whilst attempting to provide a solution to critical organisational needs expressed via the CEPF’s Civil Society Capacity Tracking Tool4. 

Furthermore, participating organisations were supported to develop a Post-training Action Plan (PAP) after each training phase that articulates specific actions and systematic steps to pursue and achieve positive results. Generally, some of the actions documented in the PAP include development of a board charter to guide the functioning of their respective boards; development of a strategic plan, institutionalise staff appraisal; development of a communication strategic plan, build an organisational monitoring and evaluation system and sound financial management system, among others.  

The PAP has been serving as a basis for the mentoring and onsite and virtual coaching support towards an effective implementation of the training benefits. It is envisaged that the PAP will translate the current situation, ambitions, and commitment of the organisations to bring change by the end of the mentoring support.  



Under the dark cloud of the pandemic, WACSI adopted a dual delivery approach. Some of the training modules and technical support were provided through virtual means while, where feasible, in-person support was provided. However, due to the operating environment of some of the mentees, (at the local level with limited access to internet) having good and stable internet connection has been a challenge as well as not being too familiar with some modern technology tools. Hence, the sessions were recorded and made available to all to ensure that mentees who faced connection challenges during some live sessions did not miss out on anything. The mentors opted for phone calls in some cases – instead of the traditional online calls for technical support.  

Several lessons have been documented from these processes. The dire need for modern technology adoption by CSOs to drive their interventions is topmost. Also, cognisant of the importance of leadership in changing the fortune of many organisations, we continue to devise specific and deliberate ways of engaging with the leadership of the mentees not only at the beginning but throughout the project phases to drive positive change and sustain relevant gains.  

We have learnt that passion is the centre of local organisations’ engagement. Sometimes with little resources, these organisations are pushing for change at the local level. However, organisations aiming at self-reliance should espouse the passion with merit (right skills and competencies) as well as gender mainstreaming. The holistic nature of this capacity development support – instead of a one-off initiative (connected to a project) has been helpful in addressing these challenges. 


West Africa Civil Society Institute5 was created in 2005 to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of civil society across West Africa. The Institute strengthens civil society in West Africa to be responsive, collaborative, representative, resilient, and influential through knowledge sharing, learning, connecting, and influencing. Thus far, WACSI’s programmes have benefitted 4,535 development practitioners from 3,798 civil society organisations across and beyond West Africa.  

About the author

Leandre Banon


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.