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Relevant publications by others: Rethinking Rural Development
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Rethinking Rural Development

Rethinking rural development: what strategic changes are needed?

Rural development should be central to poverty reduction. Three quarters of the 1.2 billion people surviving on less than one dollar a day live and work in rural areas. Rural people are twice as likely as their urban counterparts to be poor. However, rural development faces a loss of confidence: funding has been falling, and governments and donors are scrambling to rethink policy. What new directions should rural development policy take?

A journal paper from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) takes stock of the rural development ?project? in troubled times. It outlines the evolution of rural development thinking and the key elements of change in rural areas. It analyses what it describes as the Washington Consensus on Food, Agriculture and Rural Development (FARD) and finds it inadequate to the current challenge. In its stead, a 'post-Washington Consensus' (PRC) and its counter-narrative is sketched.

Rural areas are highly heterogeneous but low potential areas, where the poor are concentrated and are worst off. Rural reality is changing: cereal prices are on a downward trend, agriculture is increasingly commercial and sophisticated, and a growing share of rural incomes derives from the non-farm economy. Many more of the rural poor are part-time farmers or are landless.

There are many challenging questions to be faced in rural development strategies: Can agriculture be the engine of rural growth? Can small farms survive? Can the non-farm economy take up the slack? How should new thinking on poverty be incorporated and particularly, governance improved? What is feasible, given implementation constraints? And what should be done in the growing number of areas subject to chronic conflict?

The findings of this paper highlight key elements that need to be incorporated into a post-Washington consensus on rural development. These include measures that:
  • offer different options for peri-urban, rural and remote locations
  • invest in agriculture, non-farm rural enterprise and linkages between them, while expanding diversification options for multi-occupational and multi-locational households
  • include a key role for states in supplying public goods, ensuring market institutions are in place before liberalisation proceeds, and supporting democratic deepening in rural areas
  • promote agricultural strategies consistent with natural resource protection, including water management
  • invest in infrastructure, human capital, research, and southern-oriented technical change
  • address inequality in assets and incomes, and include new social protection measures for the poor, including people in conflict areas and those with HIV/AIDS
  • enhance access to developed country markets.

Policy implications are as follows:
Rural development remains essential to poverty reduction initiatives and requires greater attention. It is important to identify the place for agriculture and rural development in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and sector programmes.
Further rethinking of rural development strategies is needed. New thinking suggests less emphasis on the primacy of a small-farm model, more emphasis on diversification and differentiation, and a larger role for the state than in the current conventional wisdom.
Contributor(s): Caroline Ashley and Simon Maxwell

More information: ?Rethinking rural development? Development Policy Review, 19 (4) Overseas Development Institute, Blackwell Publishers, by Caroline Ashley and Simon Maxwell, 2001
More information: ODI Briefing Paper on Rethinking Rural Development, March 2002

Funded by: UK Department for International Development (DFID), 2001-2

Date: 27 May 2002

Further Information:
Caroline Ashley
Overseas Development Institute
111 Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7JD

Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 0300
Fax: +44 (0)20 7922 0399

Simon Maxwell
Overseas Development Institute
111 Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7JD

Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 0300
Fax: +44 (0)20 7922 0399

Overseas Development Institute, UK

Other related links:

  • 'Rural change: sub-Saharan Africa in the balance'
  • 'Rural development: what can the sustainable livelihoods route offer?'
  • 'This land is your land. Rights and rural livelihoods in Southern Africa'
  • The World Bank focuses on Rural Development
  • See the 'Rural Poverty Report 2001 - The Challenge of Ending Rural Poverty' from IFAD
  • Further research is available from the Rural Policy and Environment Group at ODI

Relevant publications by others: Rethinking Rural Development
< Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |