New Case Study Online!

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has extensively supported the construction, rehabilitation and governance development of small multi-purpose reservoirs in northern Ghana. But what are the effects of these investments on local water governance? Who controls the local Water Users’ Associations? How do users deal with conflicts of interest around the scarce resource water, in an area that experiences an 8 months dry season every year? And: How can Net-Map be used by a development agency as part of their project evaluation?

Go to “Case Studies” and read about our experience in an exploratory field visit to rural communities in the Kasena Nankana district.

Drawing a Net-Map about Water and Sanitation Issues in Bolga


Representatives from non-governmental organizations, traditional authorities and government agencies in Bolgatanga, the regional capital of the Upper East Region of Ghana, map and discuss, who can influence the sanitation behavior of local people. Bicycle ball bearings serve as locally available influence tower pieces.

How can we stop the people from doing this?

I asked the participants of our Net-Map workshop in Bolgatanga, Ghana, what pressing issues out of their own work they would like to explore. This was a group of regional and district level government officials and representatives from NGOs, all somehow related to the water sector, concerned with drinking water, agricultural water use and nature conservation respectively.

One participant proposed: “I would like to talk about how we can improve the sanitation behavior in our communities. How can we teach people not to defecate around their houses and not to throw rubbish everywhere?”

Once I had introduced the basic steps of drawing the map, the group went head-first into a vivid discussion. As one participant told me later: “Eva, if you hadn’t pushed us to keep the time, we would have continued our discussion until late in the evening…”

Now what was the most remarkable thing that happened through the discussion? You can see that the group started with a question that puts all the blame on the individual who is showing wrong sanitation behaviour. But in Bolgatanga, though it’s a regional capital, about 75% of the population live in buildings without toilets or running water. And you can walk through the whole town without seeing any public dustbin.

After drawing a network of everyone who can influence the sanitation behaviour of the individual and putting them on influence towers, the discussion took a completely different direction:

  • “The district assembly should be on their toes. They should start planning 5-10 years ahead and implement sanitation strategies when new town development areas come up.”
  • “We have to sort out the issue of rubbish dumps. At the moment the districts like to dump their rubbish at un-registered sites in their neighbour district. We have to propperly set aside land for this and make sure the environmental impact assessment is done.”
  • “We have to take the building code more seriously and not allow people to build any new houses without toilets.”

Drawing a Net-Map led to a re-framing of the issue. The participants understood that this is not an individual but a structural problem; that it is not enough to teach and punish people into correct behaviour but that proper planning and infrastructure development are needed to provide opportunities and incentives for the desired behaviour. If there are no toilets, what is the individual supposed to do?

The most exciting experience for me was that this learning process happened with very minimal facilitation. I only gave them the most basic instructions, as in: “Write down all the actors who can influence the process” or “Put influence towers next to the actors.” Just by following these steps and discussing each move as they went along, the participants understood something crucial about the nature of this problem and developed concrete strategies to put this shift in thinking into action.

Who is the civil society?

That is a question that really concerned the district directors of the National Commission on Civic Education in Ghana. As part of the African Peer Review Process these district directors are supposed to set up district APRM supervisory committees comprising representatives of “the” civil society. The idea is that these committees will supervise the implementation of the local plan of action. They are supposed to keep track of whether a school or health center is really getting built, how the local communities feel about the process and blow the whistle if money starts leaking.

Sounds great. But “the civil society” is one of those catch all phrases that makes life easy for policy makers (“You have to involve the civil society!”) but hard for implementers, because if you go to the field, you will find a lot of people and groups active in their communities, but because “the” civil society basically includes everyone of them, it concept doesn’t tell you who you should involve.

Our colleague Douglas Waale in Ghana has started using Net-Map to help the district directors to make this term more concrete and find out who would be the ones who could drive the APRM to a success in their specific district. While we are still waiting for the final results, we already know that his interview partners were greatly relieved to find a way of structuring the decision making process. As the district director of the Jirapa District put it:

“It’s a very important tool, from the way we came out with the members. I was picturing how I was going to form this committee all alone, there was a big question mark as to who to choose, but through this method I have seen that certain groups are inevitable, looking at the coordination. The method has opened my mind and I would want to use it in my work”.

(I could write a lot about what the African Peer Review Mechanism Process is, but others have done that already. NEPAD’s up to date web-page about the process is an interesting starting point For Ghana, a critical appraisal of the process so far was done by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) (367 KB).