Leadership comes at a cost that I am always willing to pay. Adams Cassinga.

Adams Cassinga is one of those buoyant people with an eye for detail and very high standards.

He is a YALI East Africa alumnus 2017, a Mandela Washington Fellowship fellow, 2017 and a Community Solutions program finalist.

He is the founder and director for Conserv, a nature conservation aligned NGO which promotes scientific tourism, fights poaching, encourages participatory conservation and ensures food security through subsistence farming in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was born and bred in a middle class family until the civil war in Congo happened. It devoured all their family wealth and left them in utter poverty.

His father had to sell his remaining five cows to send him to South Africa. This was after seeking help from one of his friends who promised to take Adams to school.

He was in shock after arriving in South Africa as a young boy and no one came to pick him up at the airport.

A security guard felt sorry for me and took me to his place where I slept. After a few days, he took me to Hillbrow, probably the most dangerous part of the city at the time. A place that was infested with drugs, prostitution and gangs.

It turned out that my supposed countrymen to whom he took me to were actually from a different country and not Congolese.

That was how he found himself in the mix of Internet advance fee scams and drug peddling.

He worked his way up and made loads of money that he used to help his family back home who were oblivious to what was happening to him.

It had to all come to an end after the police got involved and rival gangs killed his closest friends.

Being very proactive and after being in hiding for some time, he landed a job with a South African newspaper as a writer tackling community stories.

That was how I kick started my career as a journalist and soon started scooping awards. After a series of short courses in journalism, I joined Rhodes university and pursued a diploma in journalism.

I was at the peak of my career with my great investigative journalism. In 2006, I was shot three times and left for dead when I went to investigate a story of an illicit circumcision scandal in a local school.

The story attracted a lot of attention locally and internationally and I scooped a few awards, including the Caxton’s, ‘ No guts, no story’ award for showing courage in the face of danger.

The fearless young leader also studied environmental management and a project management diploma at the National Occupational Institute and at the Damelin College in South Africa.

He worked as a consultant in the mining industry across Africa before dedicating his life to protecting the environment four years ago.

With Conserv Congo, we currently give support to 400 park rangers across the country. We empower them with specialized training, logistic support and their general well being.

We are fighting erosion in the eastern DRC by planting 30 000 trees on a surface of 50ha.

In the process, 100 women are empowered with temporary jobs, we green the village and save the environment. We are running a community project on the outskirts of Kinshasa where we are farming vegetables on a surface of 35ha.

We intend to add livestock as part of our food security program. We have over 40 youth and women employed on a temporary basis.

Talking to Adams Cassinga has taught me to focus on the now. To never give up and keep striving for excellence.

Well in fearless leader, keep lifting others with your valiant spirit.

Truly,  trust the Ethiopian proverb that says, “When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.”

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