Committed, experienced
specialists

The Team

Grande Mayhumba is a team of specialists with a diverse set of skills and a wealth of practical experience at the forefront of climate-smart, sustainable development in Africa. From developing and operating forestry plantations and timber processing businesses in Central Africa to establishing and running conservation tourism businesses across Southern and East Africa, leading conservation thinking on wildlife migration and management and spearheading negotiations on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on behalf of multiple nations, we are as at home in the field as in the boardroom

Alan Bernstein

Founder and Chairman

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Alan Bernstein

Founder and Chairman

Alan Bernstein is a pioneer of conservation-led development, having founded, invested in and successfully scaled a series of award-winning sustainable development enterprises in Africa, South America, South-East Asia and Europe over the past 30 years. He has led teams in developing new approaches to climate finance, particularly through the securitisation of environmental rights and emerging capital market mechanisms for investment in forest land conservation.

In 1989, Alan founded a financial advisory firm specialised in structuring foreign direct investment into sub-Saharan Africa, evolving new instruments for converting sovereign debt into long term investment. The following year, he established Conservation Corporation Africa, which grew into the leading ecotourism operator on the continent. Under his leadership the company pioneered public private partnerships in ecotourism and conservation-led development and grew to over 3,000 employees, operating 40+ ecotourism businesses and related conservation development programmes across six countries in East and Southern Africa.

Alan also co-founded SFM Ltd, a specialist global developer of sustainable forestry projects and terrestrial carbon offset development, building a portfolio of investments in Africa, South America, Indonesia and Australasia. He holds an MSc in Engineering and an MBA from INSEAD.

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Pierre Blondel

CEO

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Pierre Blondel

CEO

Pierre Blondel is responsible for managing the investment and implementing the development of the Grande Mayumba project. Pierre has extensive experience in Gabon’s forestry and timber processing industry and in Gabon more broadly, having first arrived in the country in 2004 when he was appointed General Manager to establish and grow a greenfield timber business exporting to several countries. In this role, he was responsible for all management operations related to forestry, transport, logistics, sales and export. He has also worked for several businesses in the timber trade in France. In 2011, he was appointed Country Manager for SFM Africa in Gabon.

In this role, he was responsible for all management, administrative, financial and operational functions, including engagement with local and national stakeholders. After just a year, the business grew to employ over 100 staff in different sites, with a significant positive impact on the local community. Pierre holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Timber and Forestry Engineering.

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Muriel Dube

Corporate Development Director

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Muriel Dube

Corporate Development Director

Muriel Dube is an experienced leader specialising in corporate strategy, governance and mainstreaming sustainability into core business practice. She has over 15 years’ executive and non-executive director experience in listed and unlisted companies in the UK and South Africa, spanning the manufacturing, energy, waste management, asset management, diversified services and telecommunications sectors.  

Muriel holds an MSc degree in Environmental Change and Management from Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, as well as degrees in Politics and Social Sciences from the University of Johannesburg. She has completed several executive and finance programmes at Saïd Business School – University of Oxford, Harvard Institute for International Development, the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment and Standard & Poor’s.

Muriel has served as Director of Atmospheric Protection and Chemicals Management, as Chief Negotiator on behalf of the South African Government regarding climate change under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Sustainability Manager at BHP Billiton, Banker at Investec plc and Group Commercial Director at Bidvest Group. She is currently a Non-executive Director of Sasol, PG Group, Enviroserv Holdings, RTT Logistics and previously of Vodacom SA, Bidvest Group Ltd and Fluormin Plc.

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Kevin Leo Smith

Development Director

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Kevin Leo Smith

Development Director

Kevin Leo-Smith has extensive experience in developing and growing conservation-based tourism projects. In the late 1980s, he developed the idea behind Phinda Game Reserve, achieving the then biggest private conversion of land use from agriculture to conservation in South Africa, and formed its parent company Conservation Corporation Africa with Alan Bernstein and others, where he was responsible for development and operations until 1996. After four years Conservation Corporation Africa was operating in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania and employed 2,000 staff. In 1997, Kevin established Kwando Safaris from scratch with a partner, constructing 5 luxury camps in Botswana’s Okavango region on over 400,000 hectares of private concession. In 2006, he co-founded SFM Africa with Alan Bernstein, creating and operating projects in Gabon, Guinea and Rwanda. Most of the projects had a safari tourism component as well as forestry and agriculture. He is the co-founder and partner of Safari Investments Advisory and the CEO of immedia, a South African cloud-computing platform.

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Dr Stuart Christie

Forest and Ecosystem Use Rights Advisor

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Dr Stuart Christie

Forest and Ecosystem Use Rights Advisor

Dr Stuart Christie led the development of the integrated sustainable development plan for Grande Mayumba. He has 27 years of international experience in the forestry, pulp and paper, agriculture, agribusiness and natural resource sectors. He has conducted project viability, due diligence, land-use planning, site classification studies and overseen forestry operations in 20 countries, including Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Indonesia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Recently, Dr Christie has worked on the biomass component of the UK government low emission development strategy (LED) and developed the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) protocols for the sequestration component of the South African Carbon Tax for the National Treasury and the Department of Environmental Affairs. Currently Stuart is engaged in developing the on the REDD+ Institutional Arrangements as well as the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) strategic framework for emissions reduction and mitigation for South African government. He was responsible for the registration of the first CDM project in South Africa and worked on the world’s largest biomass trials while at Shell International Renewables. Dr Christie holds a PhD in ecology and an honours degree in forestry.

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Don Millar

Corporate Finance Advisor

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Don Millar

Corporate Finance Advisor

Don Millar is an experienced corporate finance professional, having worked on numerous financial advisory mandates across Africa across a wide range of industries. In 2001 he founded Clarity Group, an independent advisory business, to advise clients on private equity transactions, capital raisings, valuations, mergers & acquisitions and black economic empowerment. Prior to this, he worked as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte and was a Director at Bridge Capital. Don has a passion for wildlife and the bush and is the co-founder of Safari Investment Advisory. In this capacity, he has been involved in numerous safari tourism and related businesses in South Africa and across the continent, having advised on numerous transactions in West and East Africa. He has also advised a number of clients in the infrastructure space, including a South African solar company for their capital raising and acted as an advisor to a South African private equity firm specialising in real estate and renewables projects. Don studied at the University of Cape Town and is a Chartered Accountant.

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Dr Rob Morley

Environmental Rights Advisor

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Dr Rob Morley

Environmental Rights Advisor

Dr. Rob Morley has extensive experience in conservation and landscape ecology. He has worked across Africa, most notably in Southern Africa, as a park ecologist, wildlife specialist and as the owner of an environmental consultancy in Mozambique. Rob joined SFM Africa in 2007 as a Programme Manager, responsible for scoping projects in East and Southern Africa with an emphasis on land use planning and landscape ecology. He was instrumental in developing Grande Mayumba’s conservation management and tourism management plans. He has also worked with the UNDP in Cote d’Ivoire and Cambodia. Rob brings a wealth of experience in ensuring scientific and business stakeholders are aligned in the sustainable use and value of natural capital. He is a British citizen and has been based in Africa for the last 20 years. He holds a Master’s degree in Wildlife Management and a Zoology Ph.D focused on elephant population dynamics. He is the author of several published papers.

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Martijn Wilder

External Counsel

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Martijn Wilder

External Counsel

Martijn is head of Baker and McKenzie’s Global Environmental Markets and Climate Change practice specialising in climate change, international carbon and broader environmental markets, climate and conservation finance and conservation projects.  In particular he has worked for many years on REDD+ and forest landscape conservation projects and developed innovative finance tools such as the first REDD+ Forests Bond. Martijn is also Chair of the Baker & McKenzie Law for Development Initiative. His other roles include Honorary Professor of Climate Change Law at the Australian National University, Chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Chair WWF (Australia) and a Director of the Climate Council. He holds advisory roles as Chair of the NSW Climate Change Council, a Governing Board Member of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and as a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. Martijn was previously on the Board of the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Chaired the Independent Review Committee of the Victorian Climate Change Act. He was formerly Chairman of Low Carbon Australia and for many years chaired TRAFFIC (Oceania). He has written widely especially on climate change law, environmental law and Antarctica. In June 2018 Martijn was awarded the Financial Times, Legal Innovator of the Year Award.  In 2012, Martijn was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition for “service to environmental law, particularly in the area of climate change through contributions to the development of law, global regulation, public policy and the promotion of public debate, and to the community”. Mr Wilder holds a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of Sydney, LLB Honours from the Australian National University, LLM from the University of Cambridge and has studied at the Hague Academy Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations. He is also a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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Audrey Alevina

Gabonese General Counsel

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Audrey Alevina

Gabonese General Counsel

Audrey Alevina is a legal and strategic adviser based in Gabon whose principal areas of focus include project finance, corporate finance and advising foreign investors and credit institutions on domestic and cross border transactions.

 

She gained over 8 years’ experience through diverse projects, first working in the Libreville and Paris offices of Ernst & Young and then in the Amsterdam and Dubai offices of PriceWaterhouseCooper, before opening her independent consultancy firm, Alevina&Partners, in 2013. Audrey’s legal skills, combined with her financial audit practice, enable her to understand the delicate and complex structuring required for successful international financing, particularly where multilateral funding is involved, for projects based in civil law and OHADA countries.

With Alevina&Partners, she specializes in the negotiation of major infrastructure projects (including port, rail, road, power plants and hydro), particularly around the establishment of public-private partnership agreements and concessions. She supports her clients to liaise effectively with governments, private companies and financial institutions throughout the project lifecycle. Her list of clients includes investment funds, sovereign funds, energy companies, borrowers and both senior and junior lenders in a variety of domestic and international financing arrangements. These are often complex and innovative transactions, generally based on concession agreements, PPP, BOT or similar agreements, structured and leveraged financings and infrastructure projects.

Audrey holds two masters degrees in business and corporate law from Toulouse University and  a Master of Sciences in international business law and management from the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Sociales (ESSEC).

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Josh Ponte

Director of Projects

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Josh Ponte

Director of Projects

In 2001, Josh Ponte swapped a successful corporate career in the UK for a rainforest in Gabon. Whilst living amongst sixteen gorillas, a handful of scientists had helped the government create a network of national parks protecting more than eleven percent of the country. Josh turned his focus to support their efforts by creating a media unit to disseminate information both locally and internationally. He has spent nearly two decades creating work relating to Gabon and its people, specialising in conservation and communities. In 2004, a visit to the communities living adjacent to the parks turned into a cultural odyssey. Josh and his team recorded and filmed more than 150 hours of ceremonies, interviews and music that became an award-winning documentary and the basis of one of the most important collections of national cultural artefacts. The project’s significance was recognised when Ponte was nominated to the National Geographic roster of explorers. In 2009, he was named special advisor to the new President of the Republic and the First Lady and curated the exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Independence. In 2012/13 Josh traveled to every corner of the country with 6 world renowned photographers to document the diversity of Gabon. The collection has been included in the most prestigious exhibitions and prizes of contemporary photography. He continues to deliver projects, consult for companies and assist media productions in Gabon.

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James Cairns

Natural Capital Valuation Advisor

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James Cairns

Natural Capital Valuation Advisor

James is a Chartered Surveyor and Registered Valuer by profession. Adventurous by nature, James has always pursued the application of his craft in emerging markets and through unique land development projects. James has a passion for the wilderness, which is formative of his approach to natural capital and the application of viable, sustainable finance. Recognising the need for change, James is leading the intellectual and regulatory practice for a standardised market approach for Natural Capital.

James was previously with the Paul Tudor Jones Family Office – one of the preeminent conservation investors in Africa. It was here that James pioneered the use of his proprietary Natural Capital model to be integral in attracting and closing Partner investment into the Jones Conservation Portfolio. Prior to the conservation world, James worked in the African Agri investment sector for AgDevCo and then by setting up and leading the International Farmland desk for Savills.

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