By Jérôme Pellet, Manager, Switzerland Programme

Our late founder, Luc Hoffmann, settled in a small Swiss village, at the foot of the Jura Mountains, in the Canton of Vaud.  Close to unspoiled nature, it is set in a spectacular landscape with views of the foothills of the Alpine Arc. Indeed, the MAVA Foundation was originally based in Luc Hoffmann’s house, until the offices were moved to their present location in Gland, where they share a building with IUCN.   Therefore, the foundation’s staff and Luc’s children view the Canton of Vaud as our home and our garden.

People often have this postcard-perfect image of Switzerland, with flower-filled meadows and snow-capped mountain peaks. The real picture is however a little bleaker.  Its natural environments and communities of species are among the most highly threatened of those found in all the OECD member countries. Today, it is clear that the Convention on Biological Diversity’s targets will not be achieved without a major paradigm shift and a change in the speed of investment in natural capital.

The creation of the roadmap…

In view of this situation, the foundation chose to focus part of its activities in the Canton of Vaud, a small area covering 3,000 km2, and to apply a specific action plan. Our aim is to restore a green infrastructure that has been undermined by demographic pressure and modern human activities.

First of all, we tried to bring together all the potential partners for this action plan: public administrations, regional natural parks, and both national and regional NGOs. At the first meeting, about a dozen institutions replied to the foundation’s call. An initial surprise awaited us. Despite working in a common field, most of these institutions did not collaborate with one another, or, if they did, then only bilaterally and on an ad hoc basis. Some of the stakeholders were even meeting for the first time! So, more meetings, both formal and informal, had to be arranged, in order to create a roadmap to draw up an action plan.

…and a regional platform

It is over a year now since this first meeting was held. Last week, the Plateforme Nature Vaudoise [Vaud Nature Platform] met for the seventh time. Its members are managing a dozen or so projects, some on their own, but most in teams. Links are being established, there is an ever-increasing number of exchanges, and a network is gradually being formed. Looking back, we can see which factors helped create this platform:

  • It is made up of key individuals who are enthusiastic and ready to implement bold ideas;
  • The MAVA Foundation played a key role as a neutral convenor, without which it would have been hard to initiate the cooperation;
  • It is a flexible structure, which allows for coordinated action between partners to be implemented rapidly;
  • The partners are developing in a climate of trust, transparency and horizontal reciprocity.

As the African proverb teaches us, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. What is true for Africa is just as true –or even more so– for the small Canton of Vaud. And it is by following this old adage that we shall persist in our efforts until 2022, in order to leave a sustainable institutional heritage in our founder’s adopted region.