Bringing cities to the countryside: Infrastructure will help rural development

Although the title of this article many sound a contradiction in terms, agriculture (in which I include aquaculture as well) needs cities and vice-versa. Rural development is more than just agricultural activities; it is about creating and improving a cluster of many economic activities that are necessary for the proper functioning of a community.

As such, this should not be a surprise, because in the history of man, human settlements always have been linked to drinking water and sufficient food supplies. By developing agriculture, the very first “farmers” created the conditions for sedentarism, instead of continuous migrations. On these sedentary communities, other activities developed later to cover the needs of the locals. Maslow's pyramid of needs - Picture WikipediaThe hierarchy of the needs that we must fill can be easily identified according to the pyramid of Maslow: food and water, shelter and physical safety. Once this is achieved, adding other activities become more natural and simple.

This is why developing large urban centers is no guarantee of prosperity. Like all things in life, the key is about balance. Of course, over the last 150 years, the focus has been about growing the industrial capabilities and this has been the engine for a massive migration of population from the countryside to the cities. Although the conditions were far from stellar, many companies in the early industrial development were providing their employees with housing. Their ways may not always have been very social, but they were showing some level of social responsibility.

With the ups and downs of industries, cities have increasingly faced a problem of poverty, as the development did not include a sense of community anymore and company loyalty towards their employees disappeared as the workforce became expendable and factories could move to other countries.

This industrialization and urbanization have also affected the rural areas and the agricultural world. Many rural areas have faced and are still facing isolation and poverty. Although in many cases there have been many efforts made to improve this situation, the situation has not always improved.

Yet, we now see the challenges of feeding an ever-increasing population, we all recognize that we will need to cultivate more land and water, but this still does not seem to make things turn around.

In my view, the problem is that, too often, we restrict rural development to agricultural development, and by looking at this part in a separate way, instead of focusing on integrating agriculture in the development of the whole local economy, we just do not create strong enough chances of success. Having large urban centers with their problems on the one hand, and remote and depopulated rural areas with their problems on the other hand, should be the clear sign for all of us that our economic model is out of balance. There can be life outside a huge metropolis where everyone has become an anonymous person, resulting is a dislocated social fabric. What has made the success of our species has been our ability to act as groups. As isolated creatures, we probably would not have survived very long.

To rebuild the necessary social fabric in rural areas, we must create the conditions to have balanced and complementary activities. This is why, while some see the future of agriculture as urban farming, I believe that it has to be urbanizing the countryside, not with large impersonal cities, but with human size settlements where we can provide for all the needs.  Isolated farmers with no direct connection with their markets and not getting the value for their products to make a decent living will look for alternatives. If we want more people to produce food, we must understand that they must make enough money to want to keep producing food. By creating a proper infrastructure around agricultural areas, we can create a more local market that will drive production. A profitable market for the farmers’ products also means more money in their pockets, which in turn means more spending power to develop demand for other business, be it for products or services. This is how we will be able to grow local economies and communities. This is not about a romantic or idealistic back to nature movement, or creating local farmers markets purely for marketing purposes, but this is a thorough and integrated process embracing modernity. In the current rural areas and probably in other regions, the future will about bringing the economy to the people before bringing people to the economy.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

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One Response to Bringing cities to the countryside: Infrastructure will help rural development

  1. Major factors for civilization to end were, trade war, urbanization affecting natural resources and environmental disaster, modern growth neglecting basic human needs, population growth and human degradation, rivalries and aggression, excessive regime expenditure and economic failure. Extinction of any civilization is gradual, prolonging survival depends on strength of the country’ social pattern and resources. Strong countries prolong until they commit mistakes to become weak. It is because of natural law “nothing is immortal”. All civilizations when reaching to its peak, the regime’s overconfidence on modern materialistic growth and neglecting approach towards natural resources became the root cause to their extinction.

    Mesopotamian’s civilization with multi cities having finest cultural and literature achievements crumbled during 2300BC due to high toxic land unfit to agriculture. Between 1500-1000BC Indus valley civilization comprising two cities Harappa and Mohenjo-daro with more than 100 cities and villages were highly civilized knowing scripts of more than 250 characters. Rivalries and devastation by flood weakened this civilization; later invaded by Ancient Aryans. Ancient Mayan’s civilization was the first to introduce accurate calendar, mathematics and astronomy. This developed society gradually ended due to rivalries, converting crop lands to inspiring temples, complexes, and homes, diseases and viruses. The Plagues of Egypt (absolute astronomy.com) Archeology and natural explanation – The Egyptian Ipuwer Papyrus is a single surviving papyrus holding an ancient Egyptian poem, called The Admonitions of Ipuweror The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All…. describes a series of calamities befalling Egypt, including a river turned to blood, men behaving as wild ibises, and the land generally turned upside down. However, this is usually thought to describe a general and long term ecological disaster lasting for a period of decades, such as that which destroyed the old kingdom.

    Disrupted natural resources accounted falling of major civilizations. Major factor of each civilization’s disintegration was devastating agriculture land and ecological disaster. Most civilizations neglected the role of rivers when reached to modern growth. The situation applies to our modern world too as most of world river water unused end up in sea. Forests are converted to agricultural land, and agricultural land to urban cities, rising population and consumption of fuel, industrial commodities mounting up pollution for species. Anarchy formed by heavy urbanization and urban industrialization and so on.

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