‘This Programme has helped us to Improve our Way of Working’, Says Prof Egnankou Mathieu, Board Chair of  SOS-Forêts

‘This Programme has helped us to Improve our Way of Working’, Says Prof Egnankou Mathieu, Board Chair of  SOS-Forêts

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A visit of four personnel from WACSI to SOS-Forêts on Tuesday 16 November 2021 was characterised by high sense of gratitude shown to WACSI by the over 10 members of staff and board of the organisation. 

As our team meandered across the clean streets of the beautiful botanical garden seated in the heart of the legendary Houphouet Boigny University in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, we were greeted by the whistling sound of the birds that perched on the densely packed but well organised trees in the garden.  

In the heart of the garden is found the office of SOS-Forêts, a 25-year-old organisation that works to protect the environment. 

As we approached the office, we were welcomed by a jovial and eloquent gentleman whom we later got to know was the board chair of the organisation and award-winning botanist, Professor Wadja Mathieu Egnankou . He charmed us with a brief history of the garden, one that reignites a higher sense of pride in the West African nation. 

As we took our seats to commence what would be a very fruitful and instructive coaching session, the board chair of SOS-Forêts, who was visibly happy to welcome our team to their calm, fresh and beautiful working space could not hide his satisfaction for the support his organisation has received from WACSI. 

“This programme has helped us to improve our way of working,” he said as he took his seat. 

This triggered our curiosity to know what inspired such positive comments. As we later learned from an eight-hour conversation with some board members and staff of SOS-Forêts, WACSI’s support to the organisation has led to an amazing organisational rejuvenation.  

They’ve improved their governance structures, improved their financial management practices, put in place a smooth resource generation through improved proposal writing process, and increased their staff capacity from 3 in 2019 to 12 in 2021. Currently, an Executive Director independently leads the team under the supervision of the board; a practice that was far-fetched prior to WACSI’s support to SOS-Forêts. 

From these, the board chair could not hide his optimism for the future. 

“We hope from 2022, we will have greater success with the proposals we will submit,” he gladly and confidently stated. The board chair believes that the reorganisation process will lead to an eventual growth in resources for the organisation to continue to pursue its mission.  

The organisational rejuvenation has seen them improve their approach to proposal writing, one that has led to an increased number of proposals submitted in 2021. 

“We’ve started developing proposals frequently this year [2021]. So far, we have submitted 11 projects [proposals] in 2021. We hold regular meetings to discuss project opportunities at our disposal,” Narcisse Tehe, the young and vibrant Executive Director explained.  

This is a significant improvement from previous years wherein the organisation sometimes submitted less than five proposals in a year. 

SOS-Forêts is one of six organisations in Cote d’Ivoire working in the biodiversity conservation sector that was supported by WACSI to enhance its institutional and operational effectiveness. It is among 17 organisations from three West African countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire) that are mentees of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, participating in a two-year programme dubbed ‘Strengthening the Capacities of CSOs for an Effective Engagement of Stakeholders in the Biodiversity and Conservation in West Africa’. 

Improved governance system  

Prior to its participation in this programme, it experienced challenges in putting in place an effective governance system; one that would aid in the overall strategic positioning of the organisation and ensuring its operational effectiveness. 

“Through this programme, we have improved our way of working,” attests Prof Wadja Mathieu Egnankou Board Chair of the organisation. 

The highly respected botanist alludes to the fact that, as an organisation, they grappled to put in place the relevant institutional organs needed to catalyse the smooth functioning and growth of the organisation. 

However, because of this capacity building programme steered by WACSI with support from CEPF, the organisation has been able to deliberately facilitate a smooth transition from an institution that is highly centralised on the executive committee. It has fostered a smooth decentralisation process, one that ensures the establishment of the board and an operational executive and programmes team.  

“Through this programme, we saw the need to have a board. Prior to the programme, we had an executive committee,” the board chair said. 

This realisation came after staff of the organisation took part in online and face to face trainings that addressed subjects related to board governance, proposal writing, project management, resource mobilisation, financial management, advocacy and communication and monitoring and evaluation. 

Key lessons learned from these trainings triggered the decision makers of SOS-Forêts to prioritise key issues that needed to be addressed to strengthen their organisation. This led to some strategic reorganisation of the organs of the institution. 

“So, we put in place a committee to develop the board charter. From this, we have identified key persons who can join the board. We want to identify persons who will add value to the board,” Prof Mathieu stated with optimism. 

Instituting appropriate roles for team members 

“Thanks to WACSI, we are working on improving our institutional components,” he said. 

“This support helped us to review our language. For example, we now have the ‘terminology’ Executive Director [previously referred to as president] who leads the programmatic operations of the organisation under the guidance of the board,” he explained.  

SOS-Forêts is a leader in the biodiversity conservation sector and in the country. Prior to their participation in this programme, they operated under what they described as ‘an archaic governance system’ with a president overseeing both strategic oversight, governance and operational engagements of the organisation.  To the team, this wasn’t helping them to clearly differentiate responsibilities that would aid in the smooth operations of the organisation.  

According to Prof Mathieu, this capacity building support made them to realise this. It enabled them to quickly take actions to improve their governance. 

“With this support, we are consolidating our presence in the sector through the utilisation of the appropriate terminologies for our team members that aligns with and reflects the work and or role they have within the organisation,” he said.  

This has led to several changes within the organisation. 

We are putting in place a board. It has improved our way of working and this has given us a lot of visibility,” the highly respected professor of botany proudly explained.  

Enhanced financial management practice 

In addition to the robust revamping of its governance structures, SOS-Forêts has made strides towards improving its financial management practices. 

“Thanks to this support we realised the need to have an accountant who is more rigorous in supporting us to have more appropriate financial accounting processes, which we are utilising to develop, file and share our financial reports,” he said.  

Generally, the staff and board of SOS-Forêts are satisfied with the strides they’ve made since WACSI commenced working with them.  

According to them, their organisation is becoming more professional, and they are optimistic about the outcome of this process. 

“We are growing thanks to support from partners such as Birdlife International and WACSI,” the board chair said. And this expression of optimism is nurtured by the support SOS-Forêts has received from WACSI with funding from CEPF.  


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.