Monday, October 15, 2007

Rural - Urban Linkages

Developing suburban areas

For the majority of the world's poorest residents, local rural-urban linkages, investment patterns and population movements are probably far more important than the much touted global linkages, foreign direct investments, and international migration.

First, rural-urban linkages are important to achieve balanced economic growth. Isolated rural settlements that cannot tap local urban markets will not benefit from expanding global markets. Small urban centres bypassed by agricultural exporters will not play a dynamic role in regional development.

Second, rural urban linkages can reduce vulnerability, and play a critical role in the livelihood strategies of the poorest groups, both rural and urban. Low income rural dwellers often rely on urban-based non-farm jobs and on remittances and other transfers from migrant relatives. Low income urban dwellers often rely on seasonal farm jobs, and on the help of rural relatives in looking after children and family property.

Third, rural-urban interactions are often critical influences on natural resource use and management, especially in the sub-urban interface. But these linkages and interactions are usually neglected by both local government (which tends to divide rural and urban responsibilities) and national government (whose ministries rarely address urban rural linkages directly).

Rural-urban interactions can be defined as linkages across space (such as flows of people, goods, money, information and wastes) and linkages between sectors (for example, between agriculture and services and manufacturing). In broad terms, they also include 'rural' activities taking place in urban centres (such as urban agriculture) and activities often classified as 'urban' (such as manufacturing and services) taking place in rural settlements.

Action areas:

improve our understanding of how changing rural-urban interactions affect the livelihoods of low-income and vulnerable groups in urban and rural settlements (including developing appropriate methodologies);
support the capacity of local institutions and government to identify the opportunities and constraints for poverty reduction and regional development provided by rural-urban linkages, and act on them;
help develop a dialogue between national and local government to ensure a better integration between national macro-economic and sectoral policies and local initiatives.
The key focus areas

governance in decentralised structures, especially in small urban centres and Sub-urban areas
the role of urban centres in the development of their surrounding rural region
income diversification and rural non-farm employment
migration and mobility
transformations in sub-urban areas
Governance in decentralised structures, especially in small urban centres and Sub-urban areas

Because of the variations in the nature and scale of rural-urban interactions between and within nations, local governments are best placed to respond to location-specific needs and priorities. Decentralisation has great potential with regard to efficiency and democratic accountability, but often carries costs and constraints (such as insufficient revenue and capacity, and weak links with national planning). Special attention is given to the identification of ways to better support local governments, particularly in improving the role of small and intermediate urban centres in the development of their surrounding regions and in Sub-urban areas.

The role of urban centres in the development of their surrounding rural region

Access to urban markets is key to increasing incomes for rural and Sub-urban producers. Crucial dimensions include: physical infrastructure (including road networks and affordable transport); the relations between producers and traders; and farmers' information on how markets operate, including price fluctuations and consumer preferences. Special attention is also given to local urban markets as links to regional, national and international markets through the analysis of commodity supply chains.

Income diversification and rural non-farm employment

There is ample evidence that most rural (and in many cases urban) households rely on the combination of farm and non-farm income sources, thereby reducing fluctuations and risk and, in some cases, increasing their asset base. Research on this theme focuses on transformations in local labour markets (often influenced by globalisation) and how they affect different groups on the basis of gender, age, migrant status, ethnicity, wealth and location. Emerging issues such as the role of clustering in the development of small-scale enterprises, and opportunities in the growing tourism industry are also explored.

Migration and mobility

With urbanization and changing employment patterns, migration and mobility (such as commuting between rural settlements and urban centres) are increasingly important. Specific areas of interest are the differences and reasons behind in the mobility of different groups (including the often unintended impact of national macro-economic and sectoral policies), and the impact of migration on households and communities in both sending and receiving settlements.

Transformations in Sub-urban areas

The immediate periphery of urban centres often undergoes processes of extremely rapid transformation. There are many opportunities, such as increasing urban demand for high value horticultural and livestock produce which often trigger agricultural intensification; and non-farm employment opportunities help households diversify their income sources. But there can also be many constraints, which can result in the marginalisation of vulnerable residents and in environmental problems. Specific areas of interest are transformations in land tenure and natural resource management (and their impact on low-income groups), and the management of different types of wastes originating from the urban centre