Our Leadership Team
Managing Practical Action’s work around the world is the responsibility of our Leadership Team. This comprises the Chief Executive and twelve directors, including six national and regional directors.
The highest level of governance is the responsibility of our Board of Trustees. The trustees, who are also directors of the company, oversee the strategic direction and financial health of the organisation.
Paul Smith Lomas
Paul Smith Lomas joined Practical Action in 2010 as International Director, and became Chief Executive in November 2015. Paul joined from Oxfam, where he’d been an African Regional Director and their Global Humanitarian Director. Paul’s professional background is as a mechanical engineer, working originally in the UK water treatment industry, before going on a VSO assignment in 1985 to Eastern Sudan, where he set up water and sanitation systems for refugees. Paul was awarded an MBE in recognition of his leadership of Oxfam’s response to the Kosovo crisis.
Amy joined Practical Action in May 2016 as International Director with responsibility for the overall operation of our global programmes and policy work. She previously worked for Save the Children as Director of Programme Quality, and before that as Country Director in Jordan and Iraq, and Programme Director in Guatemala. She has also worked with The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW) in Egypt, and for a homelessness agency in Scotland. Amy has degrees Social & Political History, and Social Policy & Planning.
Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Director
Rachel joined Practical Action in January 2016. She is responsible for the organisation’s public fundraising and building our profile and reputation. Previously she was Director of Marketing & Communications for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Prior to that she has worked with DMS, a direct marketing agency with clients such as CAFOD, Send a Cow and National Trust, and in marketing roles with a range of other charities, and private sector companies.
John is responsible for the financial health of the Practical Action. Prior to joining, he spent eight years as Head of Finance at WaterAid. Prior to this he worked for various large commercial organisations in finance, systems and business analysis roles. He qualified as a chartered management accountant in 1999, holds a degree in economics and a Masters in development economics (South Asia), and is also a keen student of psychology.
Influence and Impact Director
Sarah’s role is to help Practical Action have the maximum impact possible in terms of progress towards a world that works better for everyone. She leads an expert team who ensure that changes that enable people to lift themselves out of poverty are embedded into local, national and international policies and change processes. Prior to joining Practical Action in 2020, Sarah spent 12 years as Executive Director of the Ethical Tea Partnership. She has additional experience leading sustainability consulting assignments for large companies and not-for-profit organisations and has worked extensively across Africa and Asia. Much of Sarah’s work has focused on agricultural value chains and driving change at a sector and systems level. She holds an MBA and an MSc in Environmental Technology.
South Asia Director
Achyut is trained as a civil engineer and has over two decades of devlopment experience in roles with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Helvetas. During this time he has gained practical knowledge in many different kinds of rural infrastructure programmes.
He helped design DFID’s rural access transport and livelihood programme between 2000 and 2001, leading this team until early 2006 when he joined Practical Action as the Country Director, Nepal.
Shawkat A. Begum, PhD
Dr. Shawkat joined Practical Action as the Interim Country Director for Bangladesh in late December 2019. Prior to joining, she spent about seven years with the International Potato Center (CIP) as Chief of Party (CoP) and Country Representative in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Shawkat has specialization in design, monitoring and delivering programmes in food security, livelihoods, nutrition, poverty reduction, agricultural technology, resilience strengthening, DRR and gender responsive programming. She carried out research, consulting and capacity building assignments in multiple countries across Asia, Africa and North America. She has a Masters and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, USA.
Regional Director, East Africa
Farida joined Practical Action in 2017. In addition to roles with UNICEF and UNHCR, she also worked as Save the Children’s Regional Programme Manager in East and Southern Africa, and The Children’s Legal Action Network in Nairobi, and held director level roles in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal, Central Africa Republic, and Congo.
Farida has a degree in Law and Human Rights and a Post Graduate Studies in Poverty Reduction- Policy and Practice.
Southern Africa Director
Kudzai worked for Practical Action for nine years prior to becoming Southern Africa regional director, most recently as Head of Sustainable Agriculture & Livelihoods. A graduate of the University of Zimbabwe and Cranfield University in Agriculture Land & Water Management, he has also worked for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture, the University of Zimbabwe and CARE.
Muna Eltahir joined Practical Action’s team in 2015 as Sudan’s Country Director. She has acquired a substantial and long history of experience in the humanitarian and development fields. Muna is a womens rights activist as well as a gender expert. She has worked for DFID, Netherlands Embassy, UNOCHA, ADRA and Windle Trust. Muna holds two master degrees; one in Economics of Human Resource Development from India, and the other is in International Community Development from Andrews University of Michigan – USA.
West Africa Country Director
Mattia became West Africa Director in early 2018 after 7 years with the energy team of Practical Action Consulting. Mattia has completed consulting assignments for DFID, the World Bank, GACC, FAO, UNDP, SNV, UNHCR and AFD. Prior to joining Practical Action, Mattia worked in Haiti for an environmental programme for internally displaced people and for an NGO promoting ethanol cookstoves in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Mattia holds an MSc in Science and Technology Policy and Management.
Latin America Director
Alicia is our Regional Director in Latin America since 2018, having previously been our Head of Consulting for seven years. Before joining Practical Action, she worked for Ciudadanos al Día promoting the Best Government Practices Prize in Peru. Her areas of work are communications for development, climate change, governance and rural development. She has implemented research projects about media, childhood and gender in Peru and co-authored a number of publications in those topics. She has a degree in Communications from the University of Lima (Peru) and a MSc in Development Management from The London School of Economics and Political Science (UK).
Dr Yvonne Pinto (Chair)
Yvonne has more than 25 years of experience in international agriculture and is the managing director of ALINE Impact Limited, a consultancy firm specialising in performance and impact. She has a BSc in Agriculture, a PhD in Molecular Virology and General Management from Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. After an early career in research and innovation, she has spent many years in the philanthropic sector, working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (USA) and the Gatsby Charitable Foundations. She has also worked for UN FAO (Italy), the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College and in agricultural research in the Philippines, India, Ethiopia, and Kenya. She has participated in many international boards, including the CGIAR System Management Board and the CONNECTED Management Board in the UK, WorldFish Centre in Malaysia, the Kilimo Trust in Uganda. Yvonne became chair of Practical Action’s board of trustees in December 2019.
Dr Roger Clarke (Vice Chair)
Roger is a director of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. He is a former Chair of Friends of the Earth and the Civil Society Advisory Board at DEFRA. He was CEO at the Youth Hostels Association, a director at the Countryside Agency and a director at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. Roger has served as a board member of Natural England, the Peak District National Park Authority and various other public and charitable organisations. Roger has a geography degree from Oxford University and a PhD from McGill University, Montreal.
Nigel Saxby-Soffe (Treasurer)
Nigel qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1974. After 20 years in the profession and in investment banking, he moved to ActionAid as finance director in 1994. There he oversaw the transformation of the organisation from a small UK-based charity into an international federation of local NGOs, based in the South. He took a particular interest in issues of financial and operational performance and accountability and of resource allocation. He left ActionAid at the end of 2009. He was awarded an OBE for services to international development in 2010.
Brenda provides consultancy services in civil society capacity development, primarily within the international development sector. Previously a Director at INTRAC (International NGO Training & Research Centre), she has worked on consultancies with a diverse range of International NGOs, Social Movements, Official Aid Agencies and local non-governmental organisations across the world. Brenda also worked for Oxfam and for Progressio in the past, with a focus on the Latin America & Caribbean region – a part of the world which continues to fascinate and engage Brenda’s interest. Brenda has an MSc in Management Development and Social Responsibility from Bristol University.
Graham is a freelance Consultant with more than 30 years of experience in international development. After working with Christian Aid, he was involved in the development of Traidcraft and Traidcraft Exchange. He was the founder chair of the European and World Fair Trade organisations and of the Fairtrade Foundation and a founder board member of Just Exchange in South Africa and Amka in Tanzania. Graham was a trustee of Progressio (CIIR) and SolarAid and a board member of social venture company SunnyMoney (Kenya). Graham has been a consultant to Fairtrade International, FLO-CERT, CBI, Progressio, Gatsby Foundation, Imani and Comic Relief. He is the chair of Northern Heartlands Great Place Scheme and a Trustee of Northern Heartlands CIO, he was also Chair of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.
Prof. James Smith
James holds a personal chair in African and Development Studies and is Vice Principal International at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a visiting professor at the Open University and the University of Johannesburg. Since completing his PhD in 2001 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, he has worked with and advised a wide range of organisations concerned with development, on issues such as rural development, science and technology policy and capacity building. His current research focuses on the evolution of research, treatment and control of African trypamosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in both humans and animals across the continent.
Joanne has been an international fundraising consultant for the last 10 years, working on the development of international and UK investment programmes and designing solutions. She coordinates the International Fundraising Leadership Forum and manages a global donor insight initiative for large INGOs. She has 28 years of fundraising experience.
Waleed Elbashir Elobeid
Waleed Elbashir Elobeid, who is Sudanese, is currently an Advisor in the UAE Foreign Assistance Department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He has 25 years of experience in development and humanitarian work, including two years as country director Sudan for Practical Action between 2012 and 2014.
Ian is a Senior Project Manager at Dalberg Advisors, a strategy consultancy focused on social impact. He is based in New York, where he mainly leads work on global health strategy for private sector players, foundations and donors. Often this involves shaping markets to ensure that drugs, vaccines or commodities reach the people that need them. Prior to Dalberg, he was in part of the UK government focused on the use of evidence in international development policy. His background is in think tanks in the UK and India. He studied at New College, Oxford.
Martin is a qualified accountant with over 25 years senior experience in the charity sector both as a Finance Director and as a Trustee. As well as finance his responsibilities have also covered human resources, IT, legal and governance. His career has included Finance Director roles at Christian Aid, Fairtrade Foundation, Amnesty International UK and the Refugee Council. As a trustee and non Executive director he has served on the boards of the Overseas Development Institute, Pesticide Action Network, Television for the Environment and Divine Chocolate. He is currently Honorary Treasurer for CPRE, the countryside charity.
Helena has over 18 years of strategic marketing and management experience working with global organisations such as Unilever and L’Oreal across markets (Asia, Europe, US & Africa), sectors and cultures. This experience ranges from leading large global brands, repositioning and building local businesses, to leading small entrepreneurial start-ups. Over the past five years she has worked with Marie Stopes, Oxfam and SolarAid, primarily in Africa and Asia, with a focus on energy, sanitation and sexual reproductive health. Helena recently founded a consulting company, A Bird’s Eye View, to help provide strategic and executional support for organisations seeking change. She has a Bachelor of Business and completed a Masters in Sustainability & Responsibility.
Fayez has over four decades of global experience spanning international development and professional services. He retired as Chief Executive of the International Federation of Accountants ( IFAC ) in 2018. Prior to that he was with the World Bank for 25 years, his last two assignments being Controller and VP Strategic Planning and Resource Management, and VP Corporate Finance and Risk Management. He started his career with Price Waterhouse in London, in audit then consulting, including 3 years developing PW’s consultancy practice in West Africa. Fayez has represented his organisations on the International Public Interest Oversight Board; the Standards Advisory Council for IFRS; the UN’s Iraq Advisory Monitoring Board; and the International Forum for Accountability Development. In a personal capacity he currently chairs the Audit and Evaluation Oversight Committee of the UNDP and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee of the FAO and has previously served on the boards of international NGO’s World Learning and the Partnership for Transparency Fund. Fayez has an MA (Hons) in Engineering Science and Economics from the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.