Strengthening CSO’s Capacities for Effective Stakeholder Engagement in Biodiversity Conservation in West Africa

Strengthening CSO’s Capacities for Effective Stakeholder Engagement in Biodiversity Conservation in West Africa

The Upper Guinean Forest of West Africa considered as one of the “global biodiversity hotspots” due to its exceptional concentrations of endemic flora and fauna species. This natural treasure has lost more than eighty-four per cent (84%) of its original forest extent within a half-century.

Côte d’Ivoire, a key global diversity hotspot of Upper Guinean Forest has lost 13.5 million hectares or 85 per cent forest coverage since its independence in 1960. In 2017, environmental organisation Mighty Earth reported that “despite Ivorian laws prohibiting land clearing in national parks and other protected areas, as much as 90 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s protected landmasses have been converted into cocoa plantations.”

The degradation of West Africa’s biodiversity hotspot is due to subsistence and commercial agricultural expansions, urban, industry and infrastructure expansions, unsustainable logging and fishing, hunting and trade of bushmeat, industrial and artisanal mining, climate change, and pollution.

These threats have increased the destruction and extinction of the terrestrial, freshwater, and other ecological interactions across West Africa. This is linked either directly or indirectly to a high incidence of poverty, political instability and/or civil conflict. It further exacerbates conflicts and undermines peace and stability in West Africa, a region that has only recently emerged from decades of violent conflict.

Though civil society organisations (CSOs) have significantly contributed in 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. Experiences have shown that major CSO’s capacity constraints include challenges with their governance systems and management practices, financial accountability, donor grants reporting and communication.

Other operational challenges that plague civil society include poor documentation, policy advocacy and government engagement as well as the private sector. Therefore, there is a critical need to provide governance and technical support to key local CSOs to aptly promote biodiversity conservation in the hotspot and catalyse climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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

The project seeks to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of 17 CSOs from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Through this programme, the organisations will be

equipped 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.

“JVE Côte d’Ivoire welcomes with great pleasure and enthusiasm this training that will support the strategic restructuring of our organisation. After more than 10 years of existence, our organisation faces a challenge, but, with WACSI we wish to cross this bridge of the reinvention of our actions for the well-being of the environment in Côte d’Ivoire”, explains Ms Larissa YAPO, Executive Director, JVE Côte d’Ivoire, one of the six organisations selected from Côte d’Ivoire.

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

It is envisaged that the project would lead to improved organisational productivity and strengthen the results-based management skills of the participating organisations.

Participating organisations would also enhance their capacity to develop and institutionalise appropriate financial management tools and policies.

“We hope to strengthen our fundraising, financial and human resource management skills, and build an effective organisation to respond to both national and regional needs for better environmental, human and natural resources management,” notes Darius Barrolle, Executive Director, GREENLIFE West Africa, one of the five organisations from Sierra Leone.

The project would also equip the participating organisations with relevant knowledge and skills to influence decision-making and policies at the local and national level and improve their capacities to effectively communicate impact and success stories.

About Partners:

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) was created in 2005 to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of civil society across West Africa. The Institute seeks to promote and facilitate dialogue and collaboration between and among civil society, government and the private sector in the pursuit of good governance, democracy and development in the region. Since it became operational over twelve years ago, the Institute continues to operate a three-pronged strategy to bridge institutional and operational capacity gaps, including; 1) Capacity Development; 2) Knowledge Management; and 3) Policy Influencing and Advocacy. 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

Whitnay Segnonna is a bilingual (French and English) development professional, passionate about sustainable development in Africa. She holds Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin.
Whitnay has gathered more than 3 years of experience in managing complex projects and contributing to organisational growth. She is currently serving as a Project Assistant at the West Africa Civil Society Institute within the Capacity Development Unit.


Leave your comments


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.