Defining Rural Development
The term ‘Rural Development’ is a much newer term compared with earlier developments. Before going to the further discussion of what Rural Development is, we need to consider what the term ‘Rural’ is meant.
What is “Rural”?
Many people probably think that they have a clear cut idea of what ‘Rural’ means. However, it is difficult to define the exact characteristics of rural society. There are great variations between countries and continents and even within countries. Generally, the rural society is characterized by village communities, and the urban society is characterized by towns and cities, which have a number of contrasting features. The rural community is predominated by a natural environment having a direct relationship to the size of the community, with a general low density of population. According to demographic indicators, demographers tend to distinguish a settlement with less than 5000 people as being rural, whilst those with a population greater than 5000 as urban. In terms of occupations, settlements where more than 75% of the population depends on agriculture are considered to be rural.
Although, there is a point to note is that the indications of rurality may change at different rates relative to each other. Such changes in rural societies have been especially prominent since industrial revolution, as villages have undergone rapid and fundamental transformations. Thus, rural settlements may remain locationally rural while becoming functionally urban. In other words, settlement size and population density may remain as ‘rural’, but economies may become non-agricultural, and different parts of rural society may display more or less urban characteristics. So, it can be said that there is no precise distinction between rural and urban, although depends on where countries do wish to identify whether rural or urban.
The Background and Evolution of Integrated Rural Development (IRD)
Lately, rural development has assumed global attention especially among the developing nations. Rural development is the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people living in rural areas, often relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. After the World War II, poverty has stroked hugely around the world. As a consequence, most of the world’s poor live in rural areas and it is in the rural areas that poverty and associated deprivations are typically at their most extreme. In that case, the problem of poverty have been strongly and directly focused in most approaches of rural development. Since the apparent failure of the Community Development Program (CDP), Rural Development has emerged as a distinct focus of policy and practiced of research in the 1960s and gained full momentum in the 1970s. But in the 1990s, the old versions of rural development which delivered services to the rural poor in a top-down fashion from local or regional authorities, regional development agencies, NGOs, national governments or international development organizations. It principally focused on agriculture, seeking to extend the benefits of the Green Revolution to smallholders. After the inception of the old strategy, many observers increasingly realized that rural areas and rural development had important and different roles to play a country’s development, on the other hand, economic growth and industrialization were important. This concern gave rise to two development approaches; ‘integrated rural development’ and ‘basic needs’ programs. . Also, when we consider ‘rural development’, there can be two angles.
A state-led activity and a focus for development policy
A broader processes of change in rural societies, which may or may not involve state intervention.
However, when we talk of rural development as policy, it refers to a policy of active state engagement with rural development process.
The Process of Integrated Rural Development
Unlike the old approach, the new rural development aims at findings ways to improve rural lives with participation of rural people themselves to meet the required needs of rural communities. The outsiders may not understand the setting, culture, language and other things prevalent in local area. As in situations, rural people themselves have to participate in their sustainable rural development. This new ‘Integrated Rural Development’ approach has evolved, through experimental rural developments projects pioneered by agencies such as IFAD, and innovative NGOs and funded mainly by the World Bank etc. In this context, many approaches and ideas have been developed and implemented, for instance, bottom-up approach, participatory approach, area-based approach, multi-sectoral approach.
The latter integrated rural development approach is broader and more specific in the sense that it concerns with the development of the economy as a whole than the development of agricultural production and particularly focuses on poverty and inequality. There are debates concerning with whether agricultural approach or multi-sectoral approach to obtain sustainable rural development. The livelihoods of the majority of the world’s rural population depend, either directly or indirectly, on the agricultural sector. Agricultural patterns also set up the institutional pattern of the society as well as the cultural life of the people. Then, agriculture can produce for the market to meet the needs of people outside, even at a global level. Planned agriculture with planned industry can change the economy in such a way that proper use of natural, technical and human resources will be possible, increasing the wealth of the community and improving the quality of life and standard of living. So, agriculture is an obvious sector to concentrate efforts to promote growth. Indeed, the promotion of agricultural development and smallholder agriculture has particularly always been a central feature of rural development policy.
However, rural development is not just about agricultural growth and whilst agricultural growth is a very important dimension of rural development, it is not enough on its own to ensure economic growth in rural areas. This is where the ideas of integrated rural development came in. Other sectors or dimensions came into play in the process of rural growth, such as health, education and economic activities outside the agricultural sectors. Rural development is multi-sectoral. Although agriculture is the main economy in rural areas, not all the people are always involved in agriculture though could involve in various other occupations or supporting the primary economy. In other words, it embraces a variety of different economic and social sectors. In order to carry out the problems of complex rural societies, we need complex solutions. For example, a poor village need helps with many aspects of life and all of these are interrelated. Providing clean drinking water to a village does not only improve the people’s health but also increase children’s performance and attendance at school. Education for mothers improve the health of their children. And the irrigation system can do more than just provide water for agriculture; it also reduce the risk of landslides and floods. That’s why, integrated work programs provide success in one sector can strengthen success in other fields as well.
The Objectives of Integrated Rural Development programs
The main objectives of this program was to bring the very poor families of rural area, above the poverty lines. Related actions include
Strengthen the human capacities of rural people.
In that context: (a) Strengthen rural health-care facilities and capacities; increase numbers of health professionals and improve access to affordable and efficient health-care services, (b) Create and develop educational programs for rural communities; ensure access to primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities as well as vocational and entrepreneurship training.
Invest in essential infrastructure and services for rural communities.
In that context: (a) Increase the public and private investments in infrastructure in rural areas, including roads, waterways and transport systems, storage and market facilities, livestock facilities, irrigation systems, affordable housing, water supply and sanitation services, electrification facilities and information and communication networks, (b) improve access to reliable and affordable services, including renewable and alternative sources of energy for sustainable rural development.
Stimulate the creation of new jobs and income opportunities in rural areas.
In that context: (a) Support and strengthen rural diversification, including on-farm and off-farm production activities.
Ensure environmental sustainability in rural areas.
In that context: (a) Encourage the use of environmentally friendly practices, (b) Promote sustainable natural resources use and management through community-based programs.
Promote women empowerment and gender equality.
In that context: (a) Involve women in decision-making in all activities related to rural development, (b) Carry out awareness raising on gender equality and take measure to achieve equal opportunities for women in all aspects of rural development.
While maintaining the objectives of Integrated Rural Development programs, sustainability is the key word. We had seen that too many aid projects fail when outsiders take charge of running services, rather than the local population engage themselves in the progress and become self-sufficient. Therefore, engagement of local people themselves in building local capacities, knowledge and infrastructure helps communities reach a permanent improvements in living standards that endures long after the end of a project or a development program.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Depending on the local ecology, natural resources and also due to subsequent technological development, different types of rural societies with varied cultures, level of development and economic life gradually emerged in different parts of the globe. In fact, rural society is homogeneous but it is also varied and therefore the policy for rural development must articulate with such a varied context. Although agriculture is the main economy in rural areas, a large number of people either directly or indirectly support agriculture or could follow very different occupations not related to cultivation. Thus, while evolving a policy and plan for rural development, we have to address varied and complex socioeconomic and political contexts.
Growth does not necessarily mean development. Unless and until there is growth with justice, where people have equal share and access to resources, there cannot be true development. It is well-known that the green revolution has increased crop production, but it is also responsible for the concentration of holdings inequality. Proper development strategy may evolve with experience and experiment where traditional wisdom can contribute much. In the end, the only sustainable way to reducing rural poverty is to allow the rural poor to be agents of their own change. Since the rural poor have historically been the voiceless and the least represented segment of civil society. In order to depart from this past status, all we require is representing local poor in each of the objectives of Integrated Rural Development program.