PN 40 Legacy

Integrating governance and modeling

Draft 17 March 2010 by Jonathan Woolley

This document is mainly focused on the innovative design of the Net Map tool by Eva Schiffer.  It also touches on policy issues on the more difficult-to-use broader products of the project.

1.        Project “technical” justification description (from Completion Report)

In recent years, multi-stakeholder governance structures, such as River Basin Management Boards, have gained increasing importance for the management of water resources. To become more effective in their decision-making, such platforms benefit from access to policy-relevant information about the bio-physical and the socio-economic parameters that determine the opportunities and challenges of water use. In particular, they benefit from information about the economic, social and environmental impacts of different development and management options for water resources. In recent years, there have been major advances in developing bio-economic models that can provide such information by combining hydrological, agronomic and economic information for the simulation of different policy scenarios. Agent-based models, which capture the interaction of different water users, are a particularly promising approach in this regard. Yet, prior to the project, they had hardly been applied to inform multi-stakeholder decision bodies in charge of river basin management.

The project was implemented in the Upper East Region of Ghana and the Maule Region of Chile (by chance, where the major earthquake of February 2010 occurred). The project first conducted an analysis of multi-stakeholder governance structures, and then developed two decision-support tools on that basis: (a) Mathematical-Programming-Based Multi-Agent Systems (MP-MAS), which combines economic, hydrological and agronomic models and allow for simulating policy scenarios; and (b) influence-network mapping (Net-Map), a participatory method for research and organizational development.

2.       How will the project improve the lives of the communities it aimed to assist?

Summary: One particular product of the project, a tool for working with stakeholders called Net-Map, offers a way to build effective river basin organizations to make sure that the needs of different users are properly heard and that the RBO functions correctly. This is an essential step that contributes to the well-being of all water users in the community. Furthermore, Net-Map has already been used in some 25 very different research and development situations by a range of institutions, all thanks to careful development through CPWF 40 in a real life situation.

Net-Map is an innovative, easy-to-use, participatory method for research and organizational development, that combines social network analysis with participatory mapping techniques. Net-Map makes it possible to identify, visualize and understand how different stakeholders can better interact with each other to achieve their desired outcomes. The method was first developed in Ghana to support the establishment of the White Volta Basin Board.  In 2008, Eva Schiffer won the 2008 CGIAR Young Promising Scientist Award for developing Net-Map. Meanwhile, the method has been used in more than 25 different projects in Africa, Europe and Asia, including projects involving the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, Red Cross, IFPRI, Inter-American Development Bank, ICARDA, African Peer Review Program, InWent, ILRI and various universities in the developed and developing world. Topics for which Net-Map proved useful ranged from strategies to prevent the spread of Avian flu in Ethiopia to understanding local government in India. See the box below for more details


The method is particularly suited to measuring the influence of different actors on a defined outcome, and identifying the sources of their influence. The method can be applied with individual respondents or groups.


See for details of the steps involved and for images. Also see for information on varied case studies where this method has now been used by Eva and others and for additional images.

As an example of how network meetings and workshops lead to innovation, Eva comments that the idea came to her after being involved in a CPWF participatory impact pathways (PIPA) workshop that had each project in the Volta basin draw the network of actors through which their project had influence. She felt that the relative influence of different partners needed to be included (“the power towers”) and hence her original idea was born.

The context of NetMap development with the White Volta basin board (edited from Completion Report pp45-46)


The development and use of the Net-Map method with the White Volta Basin Board played a significant role in the organizational development of the Board and in increasing of the “social capital” of its members. At the beginning of the project, the institutional idea of the Basin Board was approved but still awaiting implementation. Thus the Post-Doc employed for the governance component of the project (Eva Schiffer) was present when the Basin Officer set up office in Bolgatanga, invited potential membership organizations and started the process of forming the Board. The membership was rather diverse in terms of expertise, position in the governance system and process understanding. In the first round of introductory interviews, it became apparent that board members had widely differing ideas of the purpose of the Board and their own role in it. The continuous presence of the Post-Doc in the field allowed the project to interact with the Board members and other stakeholders on a regular basis and to help them use Net-Map for a network learning process. The general reaction of Board members both to the individual and the group mapping exercises was considerable excitement about the learning experience and improved understanding of the networks they were supposed to be interacting with. This proved to be particularly beneficial for a governance body with high diversity and high expectations, but—as it turned out—rather low formal enforcement capacity. The discussions about the network allowed the Board members to exchange knowledge and increase the social capital of the board as a whole by becoming aware of all linkages that individual board members used. It helped them understand who their core partners are and why and develop strategies for interacting with those and the other network members.


While in most research activities the learning effect of research partners can only be expected when the results are presented, Net-Map allows participants to learn during the process of data collection. The common network map showed a broader diversity of actors than most individual maps. This indicated that most board members were only aware of, and linked to, similar actors (e.g., government representatives drew mainly governmental networks; district representatives included more local actors than regional representatives). Through engaging in the network mapping exercise together, they became aware of their own “blind spots” and developed a more inclusive and balanced idea of the governance network they interact with. For example, very few individual interviewees mentioned the private sector or faith-based organizations as important actors. However, when discussing the common network vision, they realized that many water related activities (planning and building water infrastructure, training water users, marketing agricultural inputs) are carried out by the private sector.  Similarly, when realizing that most of the goals of the Basin Board cannot be imposed and that policing compliance is also difficult for the board, the group engaged in a discussion of strategies to involve actors who can change public opinion and actions, especially traditional authorities, the media and religious leaders. At the presentation of the results to a broader stakeholder forum in Bolgatanga (beyond board members), a number of participants expressed their wish to be included more prominently in the network and initiated a dialogue about various ways of involving non-member stakeholders.

3.       Present and future use of project results.

(From completion report, p53) “Dissemination of research results will be pursued under IFPRI’s Ghana Strategy Support Program (GSSP), which has secured funding, a long-term commitment to support policy-making through research and networks with policy-makers at the national level. Informed by the results of this project, GSSP has already included irrigation development into its current work plan.”  (The exact plans are not clear from this statement)


“In the case of Chile, maintaining the database/software for practical use and more end-user training is required in order to make the projects achievements sustainable. Accordingly, INIA has formed a national consortium and applied for funding for a follow-up project; Hohenheim scientists will support this new project through consultancy services (final decision regarding approval of funding from INNOVA Chile was expected for late-2009).


In general CPWF projects should be made aware of Net Map as a useful tool that is well documented and also has specialized equipment available (through IFPRI).

4.       Areas of policy change required. Connection to global issues.

The project has a number of policy proposals for Ghana and for Chile. Most are derived from the MP-MAS modeling tool (summarized below and in more detail in pp 26-49)

Making optimum use of the Ancoa dam. According to the completion report, in Chile, the application of MP-MAS helped water user associations and the irrigation administration better understand how the benefits from investing in the proposed Ancoa dam will be distributed. This will assist both the farmers and the administration to make optimum use of this large-scale investment. MP-MAS showed that the government needs to pay more attention to reaching smallholder farmers when reforming the subsidy programs for irrigation investments. Smallholders with insufficient water rights who benefit from unused water resources and spill-overs in the present system may lose income as a consequence of irrigation investments. Both the water user associations and the irrigation administration in Chile have decided to use MP-MAS for their future planning and management purposes.


Modeling shows that irrigation makes fertilizer much more profitable in Ghana and that farmers in northern Ghana need access to water to move out of poverty.  MP-MAS predicted that farmers who have access to irrigation would triple their fertilizer use if they get access to credit, even if the fertilizer is not subsidized. The project staffsay that, in view of the international policy debate on fertilizer use in Africa, this is an important insight that shows how relevant access to irrigation makes fertilizer more profitable. MP-MAS simulation results also show that farmers in the semi-arid North of Ghana who do not have access to irrigation will not move out of poverty, even if they have access to fertilizer and credit. MP-MAS simulations also indicated that pumping out water directly from the river is not a viable option under current price relations, thus throwing light on a much debated policy option in the region.


Governance is a major challenge to expansion of small reservoir use in northern Ghana. The project revealed that even though investing in small-scale reservoirs is a promising strategy to expand access to irrigation in Northern Ghana, it is confronted with major governance challenges. A survey showed that out of 19 small reservoirs constructed with substantial donor funding between 2000 and 2006 in the Upper East Region of the country, only 3 were in fact used for irrigation. There were major problems in procurement, construction and design. The project suggests that donor agencies—before investing in new small reservoirs—should urgently address these problems, for example by strengthening the accountability of contractors and the irrigation administration to local water user organizations and their elected representatives. Other steps could include increasing local press publicity about problems in infrastructure construction; involving NGOs to mobilize communities; increase monitoring by central in addition to than local agencies; training contractors to improve their technical capacity in small reservoir construction; and fostering competition among them. Some donor agencies could be more rigorous in using their own monitoring and evaluation systems to detect problems before investing in new reservoirs. The project also suggests learning from Burkina Faso, where small reservoir governance appears to work much better, and from the Office du Niger irrigation project in Mali, which benefited considerably from giving farmers private rights to land. Note however, that the 19 reservoirs were all in the small Upper East region; it is conceivable that the problems were more severe in this region than in others due to local factors.