Reinforcing MAVA’s impact in West Africa!

In order to increase our impact and improve our effectiveness in a dynamic West African context, MAVA and FIBA joined forces and merged. This alliance between two foundations which shared the same values and vision for the region offers our West African partners a coherent range of support including funding, accompanying, mobilizing and convening, and organisational strengthening.

This merger has given rise to a combined MAVA/FIBA West Africa programme which integrates the strengths of both organisations: FIBA’s presence in the field and MAVA’s financial scope, while also building on the established credibility of both organisations.
This merger enables us to reinforce our role as an active grant-maker, responsive to the needs of those working in the field in West Africa. The merger is finalised on the administrative and legal side and we are presently implementing the programmatic integration.

The merger was celebrated with our partners in Dakar and Nouakchott on 23 and 26 March 2015. Short videos (VoxPops) presented during these events are available here:

VoxPop FIBA:
VoxPop PRCM :
VoxPop Luc Hoffmann:

Additional information on the integration of these two sister foundations is available in two letters from our President dated June 2014 and December 2014.

Also, please see here below our Frequently Asked Questions, which are updated regularly.

1. What is the name of the integrated MAVA/FIBA programme?

In legal terms the two organisations have merged into one (with FIBA merging into MAVA), with a single line management and single Board. In addition to its West Africa programme, MAVA also has other programmes (Mediterranean Basin, Alpine Arc & Switzerland, and Sustainable Economy) which will continue to operate under the MAVA name. Various options were weighed for the name of the integrated MAVA/FIBA programme. We finally decided to call it ‘MAVA, West Africa Programme’, which enables us to mark the change and ensures a coherent denomination within the foundation.

2. Why have MAVA and FIBA decided to join their skills and to implement an integrated programme? How does this integration create more impact?

FIBA and MAVA had very similar approaches. They shared the same values (which are also those of the Hoffmann family) and the same vision for coastal West Africa, and relied on each other to accomplish their mission. André Hoffmann was the president of both foundations.

This merger is the culmination of a natural process between two organisations which are committed to adapting to the evolution of the West African context in order to increase their impact. The combination of the financial power of MAVA, along with its credibility and convening power, put together with the deep expertise, knowledge of hands-on conservation in the field and well-deserved reputation of FIBA enables the integrated team to build on previous successes and strive for on-the-ground results.

Even assuming the same level of overall budget for the region, the efficiency gains resulting from the merger enables a greater amount of funds to be devoted to conservation action. The ability to accompany smaller organisations, where smaller grants and focused actions can often lead to magnified outcomes, are increased well beyond what either MAVA or FIBA was previously able to manage individually.

Our success will be measured by the extent to which we have effectively addressed key threats to biodiversity, empowered and equipped local communities, strengthened NGOs and institutions in the region, built a thriving network of actors, reinforced the legal and policy frameworks in the region, contributed to the establishment and effective management of marine protected areas, and ensured the long-term sustainability of our priority sites.

3. When will this merger take place and when will the implementation of the integrated MAVA/FIBA team be effective?

The FIBA and MAVA Boards approved the merger during their meetings of respectively 28 May and 3 June 2014. On 2 October 2014, both Boards approved the merger contract between MAVA and FIBA as well as the implementation plan for the merger.

From a legal point of view, the merger was approved by the Swiss Federal Supervisory Board for Foundations on 23 October 2014. We are now waiting for the Swiss Commercial Register to register the merger for it to be effective. This should happen beginning 2015. The programmatic integration will require a longer transition period.

4. What is the vision and strategy for the MAVA, West Africa Programme for the region? Are the focus areas / range of activities different from the present FIBA and MAVA priorities?

The vision for the MAVA, West Africa Programme remain the same: a healthy West African coastal and marine environment sustainably conserved and managed by and for the communities and States that depend on it.

There was already total alignment of the FIBA strategy with the MAVA strategy before the merger: all of the work of FIBA fitted within the MAVA strategy which is slightly broader than that of FIBA. Therefore, we continue to operate under the strategic lines laid out in the current MAVA strategy, which includes the current FIBA strategy.

In the course of 2015, we will undertake a participative process to define the strategy for the period commencing 2016. While this could entail some changes to the objectives we have defined, we anticipate a continuation of our main priorities.

The MAVA, West Africa Programme, continues to work on coastal and marine conservation, with a focus on conserving biodiversity and ecosystem functions, promoting sustainable management and use of natural resources, and fostering a strong and effective conservation community.

We believe we have a unique role to play in building a strong community and supporting the development of a strong field of actors for biodiversity in the region. This entails funding, accompanying, capacity building, organizational strengthening, convening and mobilising.

5. How does the MAVA, West Africa Programme, work with its partners? Are you continuing to accompany and support smaller organisations?

This merger equips the MAVA, West Africa Programme, to work with a wide range of partners, from large to the small. One of the biggest benefits is the marriage of FIBA’s proximity to the field and ability to accompany partners in their work, with the resources and reach of MAVA. FIBA’s expertise and capacity in supporting partners was a key attribute and one we continue to deploy. Thus our intention is to continue, even strengthen, our ability to accompany and support all types of partners with a view to building a strong community of conservation actors.

We are defining in more detail what shape this will take, and it is possible there will be some changes to the number of partners currently supported or the exact shape of the support provided. Such support will form a coherent part of the overall strategy and priorities.

6. Is MAVA intending to extend its thematic activity and financing areas in West Africa?

No. We continue to work with a focus on coastal and marine conservation and do not foresee expanding these priorities to other themes.

Likewise, we continue to focus on the countries of the PRCM area: Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

7. Does this merger between MAVA and FIBA mean that FIBA has no more purpose?

This merger is a response to the evolution of the context in which FIBA was working. Over 30 years, FIBA contributed to creating and reinforcing a community of actors who are now mobilised and engaged, whether at national or regional level. Threats and the need to mobilise actors for conservation in West Africa are bigger than ever, however the needs of the local conservation actors have changed.

It is therefore a natural process that organisations such as FIBA and MAVA, which were trying to maximise their impact, adapt their operational mode in a region that is in constant evolution. Even though FIBA has ceased to exist as an independent organisation, the MAVA, West Africa Programme, continues to work on the important conservation challenges in the region, building on FIBA’s successes. Although the operating mode has been adapted, the MAVA, West Africa Programme, continues to operate in line with FIBA’s values such as presence in the field, active accompanying of its partners, and technical excellence.

This merger between two foundations which shared the same values and vision for the coastal zone of West Africa, has enabled MAVA and FIBA to increase their impact and efficiency in a particularly dynamic context.

8. Does this merger have an impact on the strategy of the other MAVA programmes?

This merger has entailed quite some changes for both MAVA and FIBA. It allows us to use some of the knowledge and expertise of current FIBA staff for the benefit of all MAVA programmes. We have for example been able to integrate and reinforce some transversal competences (learning and capacity building) in all programmes. However, the basic mode of functioning in the other MAVA programmes has not changed. The model we are pursuing in West Africa is different from those in the other programmes due to the unique opportunity presented through this integration with FIBA.

9. How is the MAVA, West Africa Programme structured?

The transition towards a new operating mode has started. The MAVA, West Africa Programme, is focusing on three main roles: financing, accompanying partners and mobilization/convening. We will define these roles in more detail when we establish the new MAVA strategy in 2015.

Therefore, the structure of the MAVA, West Africa Programme, is slightly different, adapted to the new needs of the integrated programme. The team is structured around the following lines:

  • Keeping a credible technical team
  • Preventing any administrative or governance redundancies
  • Phasing out of project implementation
  • Transversally capitalising on the FIBA team expertise within the whole MAVA, West Africa Programme team.

The new team is comprised of the following staff members :

Based in Dakar (Senegal):

  • Charlotte Karibuhoye, Deputy Director, West Africa Programme
  • Julien Semelin, Manager
  • Simon Mériaux, Manager, Organisational Capacity Building (transversal role)
  • Eve Cabo, Project Officer
  • Aïssata Dia, Project Officer
  • Nathalie Cadot, Evaluation and Capitalisation Officer (transversal role)
  • Ahmet Fall, Head of administration and Finance
  • Sokhna Ndiaye, Assistant
  • Maoudo Diaw, Driver

Based in Nouakchott (Mauritania):

  • Antonio Araujo, Manager
  • Salla Ba, Programme Officer

Based in Gland (Switzerland) :

  • Thierry Renaud, Director, West Africa Programme
  • Christophe Gay-Balmaz, Finance Manager (transversal role)

10. What is happening with the still ongoing FIBA and MAVA contracts?

There is no change for the projects which are already supported by MAVA. Projects which were directly managed by FIBA and which contracts ended after December 2014, are handled on a case-by-case basis. As from June 2014, we started to have discussions with the concerned partners in order to find the best solution for each project.

The merger process was subject to a certain number of administrative procedures. In particular, we were required to inform all the partners with which FIBA or MAVA had an ongoing contract about the consequences of the merger. FIBA and MAVA informed their partners on 3 October 2014, confirming that all ongoing contracts would be honoured, and that the auditors of MAVA had confirmed that the foundation had the necessary resources to honour its engagements.

11. Are individuals still able to apply with MAVA, West Africa Programme for support for internships, trainings, participation in seminars, etc.?

Yes, within certain guidelines criteria (to be defined over the next few months).

12. Does the MAVA, West Africa Programme continue to work with its partners in the field?

Yes. One of the biggest advantages for MAVA with this merger is the ability to work closer with partners on the ground. The proximity of the MAVA, West Africa Programme team to the field continues. In addition to the base in Switzerland, staff are based in the region.

13. Does the MAVA, West Africa Programme continue to provide support in the field of individual and organisational (NGO and local associations) capacity strengthening?

Yes, the MAVA, West Africa Programme continues to focus on organisational strengthening with smaller NGOs in the region.

14. Does the MAVA, West Africa Programme implement projects?

The MAVA, West Africa Programme, focuses on financing, accompanying, and mobilizing/convening. When accompanying, the focus is on supporting work through partners, rather than direct implementation. There may be occasional specific cases that might entail a continuation of what could be considered ‘implementation’, but this is an exception rather than a usual means of operating.

15. Where are the MAVA, West Africa Programme offices?

The base of MAVA, West Africa Programme, is still in Gland (Switzerland). Most of the staff is based in West Africa. In 2015 we will maintain the offices in Dakar and Nouakchott.

16. What is the link of the MAVA, West Africa Programme with Mauritania?

The Banc d’Arguin remains one of the top priorities in the region for the MAVA, West Africa Programme. With the changing landscape of actors and the growing maturity of organisations such as the PNBA and BACoMaB, we focus on our unique role, endeavoring to avoid assuming roles that can be filled by others.

17. Are the amounts allocated for West Africa similar in size?

Yes, for the moment it is planned to allocate similar amount of funding for Costal West Africa.

18. What is the process for grant requests in West Africa? What are the requirements for the support of small projects submitted by small local organisations?

All support, large or small, is done in line with our strategic priorities and objectives for the region. For the moment, partners may submit requests for financing in the same way they did before. We will most likely define a separate procedure for smaller projects, with a different submission process and/or different reporting requirements. We will inform you of any changes once they have been defined over the coming months.

19. Will there be limits (maximum and/or minimum) concerning the amounts to be allocated?

We continue to be open to all levels of financing. We look for budgets that are proportionate to the expected results delivered and as always, look closely at the appropriateness of the amounts and detail of budget requested. We also look closely at the ability of a partner to absorb the level of funding requested (i.e. in relation to previous budgets managed as well as administrative capacity). And we continue to prefer supporting new partners with smaller grants, with a tendency to avoid large grants for first-time partners.

20. Does the MAVA, West Africa Programe remain as flexible as FIBA was?

FIBA and MAVA shared many of the same values and approaches in our ways of operating. The MAVA, West Africa Programme is committed to appropriate levels of flexibility and adaptability, and recognises the inherent complex nature of work in conservation.

21. How flexible isthe MAVA, West Africa Programme in relation with support outside of its niche and of its strategy?

Our funding support is directed to our strategy, priorities and objectives defined for the region. Therefore, it is unlikely that we will be willing to allocate funding to work not aligned to the strategy. As with all organisations, we must focus our resources to ensure impact, rather than dispersing our resources across too many fields.

22. What are Luc Hoffmann’s reflections in relation with this integration?

Luc’s interest in the Banc d’Arguin began in 1954 and continues to this day. He remains deeply committed to supporting essential conservation work in the region. Luc, as founder of both FIBA and MAVA, is proud of their respective achievements. He is pleased to note that although the challenges to biodiversity in the region are as significant as ever, the achievements of both FIBA and MAVA will be continued and built upon with the MAVA, West Africa Programme.

23. Is this MAVA/FIBA integration a disengagement of the Hoffmann family in West Africa?

No. On the contrary, this is a deepening and strengthening of the Hoffmann family’s engagement in West Africa. They remain deeply committed to the region.

24. Who is my contact person?

For the time being, and until further notice, your contact person remains the same. We will inform those partners concerned should there be any changes.

25. Are other mergers planned with other partners close to MAVA?

No, this merger is linked to FIBA’s unique positioning in the region and to the way MAVA and FIBA have been working together for many years. MAVA’s relations with other close partners are of a very different nature and no merger is planned with any of them.