Case Study Areas

The methodology described on this website and the resulting web-application was developed during research carried out from 2006- 2010. Field work was carried out in the Upper East Region of Ghana and in the Midden-Delfland area of the Netherlands.

The methodology was developed for redevelopment of two types of water infrastructure, but could be used for redevelopment of other infrastructure as well. It was developed in close cooperation with participants and facilitators. Participants are the local people whom local water governing institutions wanted to include in the maintenance activities of the future infrastructure. Facilitators are representatives of those governing institutions who do the planning, co-ordination and make implementation decisions. Facilitators were asked to participate in making images, but they were also asked to assist in methodology development because they are the ones who will most likely go into the field to apply the methodology and image-making approaches.


    Upper East Region, Ghana   Midden-Delfland, the Netherlands
Infrastructure   Small reservoirs mainly used for irrigation, livestock watering, fishing, domestic use, etc.   Nature-friendly embankments, mainly constructed to improve ecological diversity along water way
Use and Maintenance   Collective use of one infrastructure. There are ideas for collective maintenance because the infrastructure is too large for an individual to maintain, and the costs and effort could better be shared over all beneficiaries (many water users per site).   Embankments do not directly bring benefit for any individual or community; ecology mainly stands to benefit. However, embankment redevelopment and maintenance will become an individual and case-specific situation because each embankment borders a farmer’s land. Farmers could maintain the embankment individually.
Image making approach   Drawings: Images were made through use of flip-charts, markers, some pre-made drawings and tape.   Collage: A poster size image of a waterway was used as a background, pre-made pieces of various objects could be “stuck on” with remount adhesive glue.
Participants   Water-users: farmers, livestock owners, fishermen, etc.   Owners (mostly farmers) of the land lying next to the water ways along which the embankments are to be constructed = aangelanden (in dutch).
Facilitators   Agricultural Extension Agents of the district departments of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.    Technical specialists and policy-advisors of the Hoogheemraadschap (water board) of Delfland.


Nature friendly embankments, Midden-Delfland


In Midden-Delfland the collage-making approach was applied for discussion about nature-friendly embankments (natuur-vriendelijke oevers). These embankments are constructed along ditches and small canals that run between the polders. The embankments taken up in this research were part of the pilot project in which construction of the embankments took place between 1996 and 2006.

With increasing interest to improve the ecological function of waterways, it is not surprising that embankments, at least in the Netherlands, are also increasingly subject to ecological and environmentally friendly improvements. In practice many terms are used for such embankments: natural embankments, ecological embankments, nature friendly embankments and environmentally friendly embankments.

Dutch organisations such as STOWA (Stichting Toegepast Onderzoek Waterbeheer) in 2000 and 2009, CUR (Civieltechnisch Centrum Uitvoering Research en Regelgeving) in 1994 and 2000, as well as the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in 1993 have published a number of (guide)books in which they have tried to define what a nature friendly embankment is. Whether the embankment is labelled to be natural, ecological or nature-friendly, is not as important as that it has been designed, constructed and maintained to offer room for fauna and flora to thrive as much as possible in a natural way, while the ditch or canal in which it is constructed can still function as it was constructed to do (drainage, for example).

Within the general definition of the nature friendly embankments, maintenance activities are still allowed to take place, so the embankment is not left completely on its own. It also allows for placement of bank protection material which does not pollute the environment. Thus, there is a lot of room left for interpretation, depending on the function and location of the waterway. These two factors, in turn, will determine the following parameters which influence the embankments’ design:

  • how much room is available,
  • whether the water flows or is stagnant (and to which extent),
  • whether embankment protection is necessary or not (against erosion),
  • which ecology is already present and needs to be protected or stimulated,
  • what the present quality of the water is, and
  • what type of maintenance and management is possible and desirable.


Collage approach

From the initial interviews held with the aangelanden (in this case farmers who owned land alnd waterways) it was determined that participants preferred not to have to literally draw themselves. A collage making approach was designed so that they could choose from a pallet of elements to design their own nature friendly embankment and stick them onto a background which shows a water way, grass and the sky.

Materials needed

Poster-size background landscape, pre-made (photo) pieces, remoun, repositional adhesive glue, whiteboard markers, scotch tape, digital camera.





Small Reservoirs, UER, Ghana


There are over 220 small reservoirs (volume< 0,01 km3) in the Upper East Region, according to a reservoir survey held in 1994 by the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA). The reservoirs, formed by constructing small earthen dams in valleys, are used by communities for the provision of water mainly for small-scale irrigation, livestock watering, fishing, and domestic use.  The small earthen dams are constructed in river beds or land depressions, generally quite near to compounds and communities.

Many of the small reservoirs were constructed in the 1960s. Since that time the reservoirs have been rehabilitated and a number of new ones have been constructed by various organisations. Officially, the regional office of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) and the district departments of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) work together with donor organisations to design and construct the small reservoir.

Some reservoirs were not originally constructed for irrigation, and canals were only added relatively recently. While some communities were able to maintain their dams for prolonged periods or were able to find organisations to help them, others have not been able to do so. Thus, the dams and the irrigation infrastructure often fell into disrepair and functioned sub-optimally for irrigation purposes.

Generally, once the dam has been constructed and prepared it is officially handed-over to the community. There has been some discussion and confusion between water-users and MoFA staff about responsibilities for maintenance. The development of the methodology aimed to shed light on possibilities for responsibility sharing and on setting up agreements between the stakeholders which both could agree upon with.

Drawing approach

Initial interviews with facilitators showed that in any attempt to focus and stimulate exchange of information between water-users and “visitors” it is important that:

  1. if training is given to educate the farmers, they should still be able to remember that which has been taught and see the need or importance of applying it themselves,
  2. learning by doing and seeing seems to work best, but only if other farmers are doing and showing. Demonstration plots of MoFA don’t work as well. So MoFA staff can be facilitating, but communities appreciate learning from each other and other farmers.

Exploratory meetings with some of the communities during this visit also showed that these communities, at least, were willing to draw or make pictures in order to share their ideas. During meetings previous to this research, it was observed that members of the WUA were seen to make sketches on the ground to explain things to each other. Even though many water-users are illiterate, at the 20 communities they seemed generally quite willing to use these materials to make their images.

Materials needed

Felt-tip markers and flip-charts are readily available in the district capitals of the region (cameras, color printers, remount glue was not); cellophane tape to ensure that flip-chart papers don't blow away; rope or tape to hang the flip-charts on trees, in school buildings, etc.; drawn pre-made pieces of trees, animals, etc.