China is at the heart of debates around the perceived trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection. Since the early 1990s, the country has experienced remarkable economic growth, lifting nearly 600 million people out of poverty and averaging a per capita GDP growth rate of 8.9%. The question of how to release water to growing urban areas and industries while continuing to increase farm production and rural incomes is therefore something of a political headache.Since 2000, the government’s desire to build an ‘ecological civilization’ has meant greater integration of economic development, environmental protection and poverty reduction in the country’s most important national planning documents and policy agendas. Promoting more efficient agricultural water use can encourage economic growth and is a good investment. China’s success in releasing water from its agricultural sector has allowed its industry and services to use the water saved to grow.
The farmers in the Volta river basin generally rely on rain-fed agriculture. However, insufficient or irregular rainfall frequently puts farmers at risk of losing their crops. Farmers must have access to a reliable water supply to sustain their livelihoods. In line with the problems highlighted, the Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) set out to find ways to strengthen the capacity of the famers, communities and other stake holders in the basin. As a lesson learnt, it is reasonable to expect stakeholders to adopt improved agricultural practices if such new practices are of their own benefit. Experiences show that stakeholders will only participate in innovation platform meetings when they see the value of doing so.