Educational opportunities here are limited but as a European, I sometimes feel ridiculous leading a team of local people who obviously know their country better than me. We need to invest in them so they can lead a more sustainable development of Cape Verde. – Rocio

MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy 2018 (c) Thibaut Branquart -

Two reinforcing approaches

MAVA is supporting this investment in two mutually reinforcing ways – by welcoming Rocio and Leno into the Leaders for Nature Academy, and by providing FMB with organisational development through our Impact & Sustainability Unit.

Combining and investing in personal, professional and organisational development in this way is critical not just for one of our most promising partners in West Africa but for the future of civil society across the region.

The power of mentoring

Joining the Leaders for Nature Academy’s first cohort of pioneers as a senior-junior duo from FMB, Rocio and Leno both saw an unmissable opportunity to learn from a rich inter-generational peer-to-peer exchange and develop new leadership skills.

“The Academy isn’t about technical training but about taking risks with a group of people all trying to make a better world”, says Rocio. “Leadership is about relationships, having respect and listening deeply. And being open with each other has made us much stronger.”

With the Academy encouraging participants to recognise that leadership is about emotional intelligence as much as it is about taking responsibility and making decisions, Rocio and Leno have discovered that professional development is rooted in personal growth.

Having to talk about my fears and weaknesses was uncomfortable at first. It made me think deeply about my past but the fact that no one judged me or asked me why, made me realise I don’t need to be scared of challenges I face, and that I can ask for help. – Leno


Since its foundation in 2010, FMB has seen award-winning success in its mission to protect Maio’s unique fauna and flora while creating opportunities for local people – but it’s also experienced growing pains and has had to learn good governance the hard way.

“From having a President and a field-worker, we suddenly had more people, projects and money than we could handle and no proper structure”, says Rocio. “Organisational development has been critical in dealing with the complexity – it was a case of evolve or disappear!”

Developing accounting, legal, communications and marketing expertise through formal organisational development is helping professionalise FMB, promising the financial sustainability that will ensure its community-first approach continues.

We’ve made time for the organisation itself. We’ve set up systems for planning, budgeting and regular communication between project managers as well as proper contracts for all staff. It’s made a real difference to how we organise, work and collaborate. – Leno

More than the sum of the parts

Rocio and Leno both feel the powerful synergy between personal and organisational development, and also recognise future success lies in the hands of Cape Verdeans. Enabling local people to gather data and monitor nesting beaches, for example, has significantly reduced turtle mortality.

(c) FMB

Personal development is good for me and the organisation. I’ve never learnt as much in so short a time. I believe in what I do, I love my country and I know I can make a difference but empowering local people is vital – if we don’t, we’ve got no chance. – Leno

It’s great that the Academy is open-minded in its selection criteria. Going on a learning journey together with Leno is helping us both develop professionally and change the organisation for the better. It’s given Leno self-belief – if he wishes so, I believe he could become a great Director for FMB. – Rocio

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