MAVA Memories stories

Below is a glimpse of the stories we have received from our partners via the MAVA Memories project.

We hope they inspire you as much as they do us!

Jara FEBRER (MED), GOB Menorca, Round II

MAVA’s collaboration meant for me the possibility to act creatively towards achieving the goals of our organisation. Everything started when I had the opportunity to reflect about the impact of the actions we were doing in the Land Stewardship Program and how they were contributing towards achieving our mission. It was an interesting process that led us to discuss new ways of getting closer to it.

MAVA’s approach to grant making allows organisations to be flexible and adapt to new realities. It also allows us to follow a learning process and improve the way we work. In my personal case that meant that I was able to propose new activities, which we were able to test and, in fact, confirm that were truly impactful. Thanks to them we started organising two new lines of action. The first were trainings for farmers that included individual advising to accompany them in their process of adopting new sustainable practices. We realised that this individual advising was key to bridge the gap between theory and practice. It was the element that made the difference.

The second was a new way of product and farm promotion. We started organising public excursions to farms, which ended up with a tasting of their products. At the end of each excursion a list was opened for everyone interested in receiving direct information from the farmers about their products. This little detail made a big difference for them because allowed them to significantly increase their pool of clients. Getting to know the farmer and the farm personally truly impacted the visitors and they became loyal clients.

For me, personally, being able to be creative and trying new activities was really fulfilling and made me feel that I could contribute towards a real change in my surroundings.

Jamal HAMZEH (MED), Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, Round II

My relationship with MAVA has started 10 years ago in 2012 when I was involved in a water management project in Anjar, Bekaa of Lebanon. Throughout the years, I got more engaged in MAVA programmes. And currently, I’m managing the “Cultural Landscape” project that hast started in 2017, aiming at strengthening and maintaining cultural practices for biodiversity conservation and human well-being. The project falls under the M6 outcome action plan, being implemented across the Mediterranean basin by 13 reputable organizations, under AMNC- The Alliance for Mediterranean Nature and Culture.

The journey has been full of learnings through exchange of knowledge and expertise between partners, and extensive capacity building workshops focusing on conservational, economic, fund raising, and other important topics.

I also like to share my gratitude and appreciation to MAVA for giving me the opportunity to participate in the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy, specifically in cohort 3. The academy was a great learning journey. It was an eye opener for me on both personal and career levels. Through this one year leadership programme, I has learned lots of skills such as networking, relationship building, effective communication, empowering others, leading beyond authority and in challenging times, self-awareness, in addition to setting goals and pausing and reflecting on these goals for evaluation and development.

I can’t thank MAVA enough for believing in me and building not only my technical skills, but also my soft and self-development skills.

“We will miss such a flexible and supportive donor .”

Joan Marc SIMON (Sustainable Economy), Zero Waste Europe, Round I

At Zero Waste Europe we have been playing with the idea of a network of European zero waste municipalities since almost 15 years. In the beginning nobody believed about the change we could create if we managed to develop the right tools and train the local groups to follow up with the local authorities to commit to change their resource management.

But after lots of work from many people in our network we managed to put together a proposal that interested MAVA and the work since then has taken off big time. MAVA didn’t only finance part of this project but also brought other funders to help cover what was needed and in total local groups in 13 European countries started working to turn municipalities zero waste. Three years later we have managed to develop the most robust zero waste certification system for cities in the planet and the project is being so successful that we struggle to keep up with the interest from new cities from across the continent. From Riga to Barcelona and from Ljubljana to Brussels almost 500 municipalities of all sizes and geographies have embarked in the journey to reduce waste and preserve resources for future generations.

This would not have been possible if MAVA would have not believed that despite our crazy ambition we had a plan to make it happen, and we did.

This is only one piece of support that MAVA provided our organisation with, another key one has been the MAVA Academy in which eight people from our team have participated. For all this the MAVA legacy is enshrined in the history and hopefully the DNA of Zero Waste Europe. Thanks MAVA for believing in us!

Walter WAGNER (Switzerland/Alps), WWF Switzerland, Round I

Today we know that freshwater biodiversity has globally declined by 84% since 1970. And we also know that this dramatic development is also taking place in Switzerland. But 20 years ago, neither Swiss politicians nor the public were aware of the problem. For us at WWF Switzerland it was extremely difficult to make our voices heard, calling for a more sustainable water management to improve the ecological quality of the freshwater habitats and to sustainably reduce water risks. Hardly any donor saw the need and those who did were not willing to fund political activities. But action on the policy level was urgently needed. Fortunately, the MAVA Foundation understood the need for freshwater action already at that early stage and was not afraid to also support the policy approaches needed to achieve change. The support from MAVA for the freshwater programme of WWF Switzerland started with the project “Rhone vivant” in 2004. The strategic guidance and funding from MAVA enabled us to get strongly involved as a stakeholder in the development of the plans to “revive” the river Rhone by the national and cantonal authorities. Over time, our collaboration with MAVA extended to other more general freshwater projects, always with a strong policy aspect. In 2014, MAVA agreed to take the support of the freshwater work of WWF Switzerland to a new level. Instead of supporting separate freshwater projects, MAVA agreed to fund a holistic freshwater programme, agreeing on specific goals but giving WWF a lot of freedom to develop, implement and adapt activities, based on current needs and political developments. This huge programme support, which is ongoing till end of 2022, enabled WWF Switzerland to become a credible and well-respected player in the field of freshwater protection in Switzerland, be it in field projects, on a policy level or in negotiations with hydropower operators. WWF was also able to take the leading role within the Swiss environmental NGO community in the field of freshwater. A “Water Alliance” has been established to streamline the NGO activities and thus to amplify our impact. The intensive collaboration between the MAVA Foundation and WWF Switzerland over the last almost 20 years has certainly had a strong influence on freshwater policy and its implementation in Switzerland. It has enabled WWF Switzerland and other NGO partners to successfully advocate for freshwater biodiversity at all levels and with the necessary weight. Thanks to MAVA, we have been able to largely stop the degradation of freshwater habitats. And the NGO community in Switzerland is now well positioned to continue the fight for sustainable freshwater systems, which benefit people and nature.

Paul SIEGEL (West Africa), BioGuinea Foundation, Round II

The MAVA Foundation is unique- characterized by the impressive technical and interpersonal skills of the MAVA team. MAVA has been a powerful catalyst- using its resources to both support actions on the ground and to instill confidence in other actors to rally around and focus on specific issues.

The establishment of the BioGuinea Foundation conservation trust fund provides an example. When the BioGuinea Foundation was just getting off the ground, it was a contribution from the MAVA Foundation that gave other supporters the confidence to invest and help the Foundation become what it is today.

MAVA has been a dream partner. Some adjectives? Flexible, brave, innovative, inspirational and collegial. Bravo! and thanks for everything. Please take some time to kvell…

Maimouna SALECK (West Africa), Biodivercities, Round II

En décembre 2018, à Nouakchott (en Mauritanie), je devais présenter, mon plan d’actions financé pour la première fois par la Fondation MAVA devant la plateforme des acteurs de la mer, composée de représentants de l’administration, des parcs protégés, de l’université, des instituts de recherche, de la société civile et des médias… une cinquantaine de personnes.

Avant de dérouler mon power point, je présente l’ONG BiodiverCités et ses partenaires. J’explique pour présenter la fondation MAVA qu’elle a été fondée par Luc Hoffmann, l’un des fondateurs du Parc National du Banc d’Arguin, qui est décédé en 2016 et je dis automatiquement « Allah Yarhamou ».A peine prononcée cette formule, qui est un terme consacré aux morts musulmans et qui veut dire « qu’Allah lui accorde sa miséricorde », je reçois le tollé de la salle et des protestations très fortes : « tu es folle ! tu blasphèmes ! cela ne se dit pas pour les non-croyants….

J’ai me suis sentie choquée et perdue devant tant de violence … je devais rapidement trouver une solution pour me sortir de cette situation et reprendre le contrôle de la salle qui se refermait devant moi. J’ai fermé les yeux et me suis rappelée de ma grand-mère qui me disait toujours : lorsque tu te sens perdue, comme par exemple en plein désert, lèves tes yeux et cherches des oiseaux à l’horizon. Ils te guideront vers la solution, l’eau et la vie. J’ai levé les yeux vers le plafond, comme pour implorer une force divine et d’un coup, je trouve l’inspiration : raconter l’histoire de Luc Hoffman comme si j’étais devant des enfants…. c’est ce que je savais faire de mieux : parler aux enfants.

Je reprends la parole et je leur dis, écoutez d’abord mon histoire avant de me juger :

« Il était une fois, un Prince très riche et très puissant, qui avait une grande passion : étudier les oiseaux. Il passait tout son temps libre à les regarder à travers ses jumelles. Pour mieux les protéger dans son pays, il acheta un grand domaine de plus de deux mille hectares qu’il transforma en un grand laboratoire d’études des oiseaux, qui leur sert de refuge jusqu’à nos jours. En étudiant les oiseaux, il avait remarqué que la plupart d’entre eux, disparaissaient pendant la période des grands froids et revenaient lorsque le temps redevenait beau. Il décida de les suivre pour voir où est ce qu’ils allaient …Et c’est ainsi qu’il découvre le magnifique Banc d’Arguin en Mauritanie, qui sert de refuge aux milliers d’oiseaux venus du monde entier, pendant toute la période de l’hiver. Ce Prince s’appelait Luc Hoffmann, et c’est bien grâce à lui que le Parc National du Banc d’Arguin a été créé, valorisé et protégé ! Pour cela, il mobilisera ses relations, notamment son amitié avec un autre homme extraordinaire, Théodore Monod, sa fortune et son charisme. Cet humaniste qui a consacré sa vie et sa fortune – et même après sa mort – continue à protéger des créatures si fragiles – est certainement beaucoup plus proche du divin que la plupart d’entre nous ici » La salle se leva en applaudissant et je ressentis ce jour là la plus belle émotion de plénitude et de profonde gratitude envers l’extraordinaire empreinte que Luc Hoffmann avait laissé sur cette terre.

Parmi cette assemblée, il y avait deux journalistes qui venaient couvrir l’événement pour la télévision qui se sont engagées, depuis ce jour là, pour la conservation. Elles ont produit une courte vidéo sur Luc Hoffmann « Une passion éternelle » (traduction approximative de l’arabe), qui a remporté le premier prix du Concours des Journalistes Reporters de la Mer.

Elles ont aussi crée le réseau des Journalistes Reporters de la Mer et de l’Environnement, qui vient de lancer le premier programme télévisé dédié au développement durable en Mauritanie. Ce réseau qui prend de l’ampleur, de plus en plus, est mon plus grand soutien dans cette extraordinaire aventure que je vis grâce à la magnifique famille MAVA qui a fait de moi ce que je suis devenue aujourd’hui.

Blandine MELIS (West Africa), Biosfera, Round II

Je participe depuis plus de 20 ans à la conservation de la biodiversité côtière et marine en Afrique de l’ouest. Nombreuses structures avec lesquelles je me suis engagées ont été appuyées généreusement par la MAVA, qui a toujours montré sa capacité à s’interroger sur les contextes, à s’adapter avec intérêt et flexibilité aux difficultés tout en conservant ses propres orientations.

Aujourd’hui je quitte l’Afrique de l’Ouest, quelques mois avant la MAVA. Viens la période du constat, de l’analyse. Je n’imaginais pas à quel point la Fondation m’avait si fortement influencé en m’insufflant son optimisme et ses principes sains et constructifs. J’ai reconnu à travers ma relation avec ce mécène, l’importance de la confiance et du respect mutuel et la force du partage des réussites et des échecs entre partenaires qui se comprennent. Le mot « partenariat », bien souvent galvaudé, prend ici tout son sens et nous a guidé dans la même direction pendant toutes ces années. Je ne sais si nos efforts seront suffisants mais je sais que nous avons essayé.

Tommy MELO, (West Africa), Biosfera, Round II

With the support of MAVA (FIBA), the NGO Biosfera, started the fight against seabird hunting in the Marine Reserve of Raso islet in Cape Verde. At that time, a specific community from a neighboring island traveled to the islet every year, where thousands of the endemic Cape Verde Shearwater were slaughtered. We started a big awareness campaign on this island (Santo Antão island) where we visited all high schools and communities. During the campaign, and in one of the classrooms of a local high school, a young student who was the daughter of the head of the shearwater hunters team (we didn’t know that at the time), listened to our lecture and was shocked by the images. She continued to study, became a biologist, and today is the head coordinator for studies and conservation of seabirds at our NGO, having already published several scientific articles. A success story that shows us how important awareness campaigns are, especially those aimed at young people, who are really the future of this planet. We have to thank MAVA for believing and supporting.