Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Rural-Urban Linkages, Their Role in Sustainable Development

Category Developments
Essay type Research
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Although policy makers and the development community have widely used the phrase “rural development. The concept of rural development has changed significantly during the last 3 decades. Until the 1970s, rural development was synonymous with agricultural development and, hence, focused on increasing agricultural production. This focus seems to have been driven primarily by the interests of industrialization to extract surpluses from the agriculture sector to reinforce industrialization.

With the focus on increasing agricultural production, the stated objective of most countries was to promote smallholder agriculture. Over time, this smallholder agriculture-centric concept of rural development underwent changes. By the early 1980s, according to Harris, the World Bank defined it as “…a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people—the rural poor. Four major factors appear to have influenced the change: increased concerns about the persistent and deepening of rural poverty; changing views on the meaning of the concept of development itself; emergence of a more diversified rural economy in which rural non-farm enterprises play an increasingly important role; and increased recognition of the importance of reducing the non-income dimensions of poverty to achieve sustainable improvements in the socio economic well-being of the poor. The establishment of the Millennium Development Goals has significantly reinforced the concerns about non income poverty.

With the paradigm shifts in economic development from growth to broadly defined “development,” the concept of rural development has begun to be used in a broader sense. It is also more specific, as Harris noted “in the sense that it focuses (in its rhetoric and in principle) particularly on poverty and inequality. ” In more recent years, increased concerns on the environmental aspects of economic growth have also influenced the changes. Today’s concept of rural development is fundamentally different from that used about 3 or 4 decades ago.

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The concept now encompasses “concerns that go well beyond improvements in growth, income, and output. The concerns include an assessment of changes in the quality of life, broadly defined to include improvement in health and nutrition, education, environmentally safe living conditions, and reduction in gender and income inequalities. “Today there seems to be a universal consensus that the ultimate objective of rural development is to improve the quality of life of rural people. As the concept of rural development changed so has the focus and approach to tackling and planning for rural development also change.

Thus as already explained, today rural development is an integrated concept that that requires an integrated approach to development . thus the focus now is on sustainable development; hence an integrated sustainable rural development strategy is used to plan for rural development. However in order to successively design a strategy for integrated sustainable rural development, one must take into consideration rural-urban linkages because of the significant role it plays in sustainable rural development.

Before proceeding with a discussion about the role that rural-urban linkages play in integrated rural sustainable development strategy, it may be necessary to define rural-urban linkages. In general, “rural-urban linkages” refers to the flow of (public and private) capital, people (migration, commuting) and goods and services (trade) between rural and urban areas. It is important to add to these three economic flows, the flow of ideas, innovation and information. These rural urban linkages could be expanded as; * The movement of people between rural and urban households many of which are of circular nature.

These include temporary migration(as in seasonal moves ) and labour migration including weekly commuting; * The more permanent migration of people from rural to urban areas and vice versa. * The movement of people operating from a single rural urban household as in daily commuting or school trips, shopping and short term visits. * The movement of resources such as money and remittances, commodities and services. * There is also the more permanent type of linkages found mostly in infrastructure such as roads railway lines water and electricity telecommunication etc.

Over the past few years, interest in the linkages between urban and rural areas has increased considerably. This is clear, for instance, from the activities of the United Nations. The Habitat Agenda, adopted at the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul in 1996, states that “policies and programmes for the sustainable development of rural areas that integrate rural regions into the national economy require strong local and national institutions for the lanning and management of human settlements that place emphasis on rural-urban linkages and treat villages and cities as two ends of a human settlements continuum. ” (UNCHS, 1997: 93-94). however, Studies of rural urban linkages indicate that the nature of the linkages differs from one place to another and differs for different sectors in the same place. It is equally necessary to identify successful practices that promote local rural and urban development and alleviate poverty, using rural-urban linkages, and to build the capacity of rural and urban local governments to review, adapt and replicate such practices.

The growing understanding and the pool of good practices should form the basis for capacity building of local governments. Among the above linkages the ,focus would be on the point 1 and 4 that’s the migration and the economic exchange of goods and services and their implication on rural development . this is because they are among the important rural urban linkages necessary for integrated sustainable rural development. These would be dis cussed shortly. To begin with the economic exchange between urban and rural areas can be beneficial or detrimental to either or both areas . hus with economic links between rural and urban areas, the extent to which economic development in the one area benefits or obstructs economic development in the other area. For instance an exclusive focus on rural areas would result in an under-investment in urban areas and this would limit the growth of the urban sector and its ability to absorb the rural labour surplus. Likewise an exclusive focus on urban development would produce similar results, because it would accelerate rural-urban migration and reduce food production per capita (Richardson, 1987: 210).

Reardon (n. d. : 8-9) distinguishes three stages in the development of rural non-farm sector and of rural-urban linkages: • During the first stage, rural non-farm activity tends to have a production or expenditure linkage with agriculture while farming directly employs a large share of the rural population. Rural non-farm activity tends to centre on the countryside itself, with little dependence on rural-urban links. Rural non-farm activities are mainly home-based and small-scale production of goods, mainly sold locally.

During the first stage, agriculture tends to depend on local supplies of farm inputs and services and on local processing and distribution of farm products, usually carried out by small to medium-scale firms. • A greater mix of situations characterizes the second stage. The mix includes activities based on linkages with agriculture as well as on other, separate activities (e. g. tourism, mining and services), although the latter did grow out of a historical rural non-farm sector based on linkages with agriculture. The share of rural population dependent on farming is lower than during the first phase.

Rural-urban links as the basis for rural non-farm employment have a greater weight than in first stage with nascent sub-contracting of rural companies by urban or foreign businesses and a rapid rise in the labour force commuting between the countryside and rural towns and intermediate cities. • The third stage shows an intensification of the characteristics that differentiate the second stage from the first stage. There is a greater weight of urban-rural links manifested by the greater importance of more advanced forms of business linkages, such as subcontracting arrangements and labour commuting.

A number of other tendencies also characterize this stage: the expansion of subcontracting beyond light durables to medium durables. The great heterogeneity of the non-farm sector in rural areas implies that there is little scope for general, broad, policy prescriptions. This observation may well provide an important lesson for our thinking about the process of policy formulation. A wide variety of interventions may be required to promote the non-farm sector, each tailored to specific local conditions.

Decentralized decision-making may be necessary: mechanisms should be devised whereby local information flows upwards so that the localized bottlenecks are relieved and specific niches can be exploited (Lanjouw, 1999: 9). From the above it can be realised that, rural-urban linkages can play an important role in economic development and poverty alleviation in urban and rural areas. However,it is important to recognize that the nature of the rural-urban linkages differs from one place to another and from one function to another.

As Douglas (1998) has pointed out, a particular urban centre may play a crucial economic role for the surrounding rural areas in one respect, while the rural area may completely bypass that same urban centre and link directly to more distant urban centres and cities in other respects. It is, therefore, dangerous to generalize about the nature of rural-urban linkages and to base policy interventions on such generalizations. What is necessary is the recognition of (a) the existence a regional economy as a reality, rrespective of administrative boundaries, and (b) the need to develop knowledge about such regional (i. e. sub-national) economies (World Bank, 2000). The development of this knowledge should be demand-driven, as urban and rural local governments come to recognize their shared interests and constraints. The political impetus for this process of knowledge development may be t decentralization. In order to distribute economic and social opportunities equitably, the Government should strengthen grassroots economies that can provide sustainable incomes for the rural population.

The Government should establish economic clusters that link rural and urban areas, and the cluster-based economic development should be consistent with the economic potentials, preferences and functions of each area. Another important rural urban linkage that has immense implication for today’s rural development is the rural urban migration. Thus the movement of people between rural and urban households . these include temporary migration and labour migration. Rural-urban migration reduces population pressure in the rural areas and, thereby, should improve economic conditions and reduce rural poverty.

However, disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of income and employment and the availability of basic infrastructure and services persist. Urban areas offer more and better opportunities for socio-economic mobility of the poor and rural-urban migration, therefore, will continue. Labour migration could result in shortage of labour force for productivity in the rural areas which would intend result in low productivity and underdevelopment in the rural areas.

Whereas the urban areas may not also be able to absorb the all the labour from the rural areas ,resulting in unemployment and increase in sanitation costs and government expenditure. it also increase population pressure in urban areas resulting in pressure on the few social amenities in urban centres. in this case, rural urban migration has more adverse effect on rural development. In addition to the above, Circular and temporary migration is already a common pattern in many countries, but working and housing conditions in the urban areas may not always be conducive to this form of migration.

Housing is often an acute problem for temporary migrants who prefer to rent rather than to own housing, because they feel that their home is in the rural areas. Temporary migrants are sometimes not entitled to urban services and this makes their life in the urban areas more difficult than necessary. Local governments and private employers in the urban areas should accept temporary rural-urban migration as inevitable and perhaps even as desirable, and they may consider measures to facilitate such forms of rural-urban migration.

For instance, Remittances are a crucial component of rural households’ incomes and a key element of the continued links between migrants and their home areas across all wealth groups. In northern Mali, migrants’ remittances have become probably the most important source of family cash, and are used for consumption and for the purchase of consumer goods such as radios and bicycles, but also for the purchase of agricultural inputs or for investment in livestock.

In southeast Nigeria, it would be socially unacceptable for migrants not to send remittances and gifts: financial support to their parental households has greatly contributed to making young women’s migration socially acceptable. Most importantly, remittances and gifts ensure that migrants can maintain a foothold in the home area, and that they will be welcome upon their return. Gaile (1992: 134) argues that the problem is not urbanization as such, because the urban areas need to absorb the additional rural labour.

The problem is that migrants have only a limited choice when migrating, because most local economic development occurs in one or a few large cities. He points out that the problem is really “under-urbanization”, i. e. the underdevelopment of the urban system. The major impediment to the working of the general market and the consequent development of a labour market is the undersupply of centres of sufficient minimal size to provide sites for market development. The above implies that in developing a strategy for sustainable rural development projects that encourages the bridging of gab between rural and urban areas should be considered.

This would help reduce rural urban migration. Besides, major effort is required to ensure that the urban areas can absorb the growing urban population and that urbanization will not result in an urbanization of poverty. Small and medium-sized towns can play an important role in the urbanization process by absorbing rural-urban migrants. For instance Economic development in small towns can have a positive impact on the economy of the surrounding rural areas, if the increase in purchasing power results in the purchase of agricultural and non-agricultural products from the surrounding rural areas.

This will obviously depend on the types of products produced, their quality and cost and their competitiveness compared to products from other parts of the country (and elsewhere). The development of the local urban economy may also lead to a reduction in rural-urban migration to the larger urban centres and the city and redirect migration flows to smaller urban centres. This in the long run led to sustainable development in both the rural and urban areas. Conclusion and Recommendations

From the above discusions, it can be observe that there is growing interdependence of urban and rural areas that reduces the significance of the rural-urban distinction. The flow of people, capital, goods, services and ideas between urban and rural areas, made possible by improvements and cost reductions in communication and transport, is reinforcing the existing rural-urban linkages and more than ever conditions and developments in the urban areas have an impact on the rural areas and vice versa.

Rural residents adopt urban lifestyles and occupations; small settlements require urban infrastructure and services; residents of rural areas commute between rural and urban areas; industries move to rural areas; urban waste pollutes natural resources in the rural areas; and agriculture in urban areas is becoming important for both economic and environmental reasons. It is, therefore, an anachronism that governments still design policies and programmes that are focused either on urban or on rural areas, but rarely on both.

Rural and urban communities need to have an interest in each other’s conditions, and policy-makers need to consider these when formulating policies and programmes for sustainable rural development. Coordination of decision-making and cooperation between authorities of urban areas and their surrounding rural areas are critical to ensure that the development of urban areas and rural areas support each other. However, the continuing integration of rural and urban areas requires more than simply coordination and cooperation, it requires planning that incorporates rural and urban development.

Such regional planning should not be an urban-centred exercise as it often has been in the past. Rural and urban areas need each other and each can benefit when the other’s needs are met. Backward linkages and forward linkages between agricultural production and industry and services can foster positive rural-urban interactions and a virtuous circle of development. However, policies that encourage such mutually reinforcing linkages need to overcome the traditional separation between rural and urban planners. They also need to avoid generalizations and be grounded in the specifics of the regional context (Tacoli, 1998: 13).

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Rural-Urban Linkages, Their Role in Sustainable Development. (2017, May 09). Retrieved from

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