The topic of our discussion will be on theconcept and strategies of rural development. In our previous topics, wediscussed about rural social change and the various theories of social change.Social change can bring about progress. Progress is change in a direction thatis considered desirable.

Progress leads to development, anddevelopment essentially is a continuous process of generating and efficientlyallocating resources for achieving greater socially satisfying needs. Thistopic will introduce you to the various definitions of rural development, thebasic process of rural development and the strategies and approaches for ruraldevelopment.

After studying this topic, you areexpected to have achieved the objectives listed below.

At the end of this unit, you should beable to:

· definerural development

· explainthe basic process of rural development

· outlinebriefly the strategies and approaches for rural development.

Definitions of Rural Development

Within the structure of nationaldevelopment, the special attention being paid to rural development evolved fromearly thoughts on the role of agriculture in industrialization. Prominenttheoreticians in economic and broader social science literatures have paidattention to issues of agricultural and rural development and their interactionwith industry and urban development (IDRC. 2004).

Until recently “rural development” and“agricultural outputs” were considered synonymous. But agriculture is by nomeans the only possible occupation for people living in rural areas, andaccordingly a new and broader view has emerged which distinguishes rural frommerely agricultural development.

Various scholars have defined ruraldevelopment at different levels of what it involves. According to UNECA (1974)rural development is a process by which a set of technical, social, culturaland institutional measures are implemented with and for the inhabitants ofrural areas with aim of improving their socio-economic conditions in order toachieve harmony and balance both on the regional and national levels.

This definition implies that manydifferent elements must come together to achieve rural development. It meansfurther, integrating a set of sectoral programmes (health, agriculture,education, etc) to achieve a comprehensive development of the rural area.

Similarly, but in more encompassing terms,Coombs and Ahmed (1974) defined rural development as the far-reachingtransformation of the social and economic structures, institutions,relationships and processes in any rural area. It conceives the goals as notsimply as agricultural and economic growth in the narrow sense but as well asbalanced social and economic development, with emphasis on the equitable distributionas well as the creation of benefits. Among the goals are equitable access toarable land, more equitable distribution of income, widespread empowerment inhealth, nutrition and housing, greatly broadened opportunities for allindividuals to realize their full potentials through education and a strongvoice for all rural people in shaping the decisions and actions that affecttheir lives”.

A careful analysis of this definitionimplies the following:

  1. Transformation in termsof changes in social and economic structures, institutions, relationships andprogresses are desirable.
  2. Agricultural andeconomic growth are not sufficient, therefore rural development should engenderbalanced social and economic development.
  3. Benefits creation anddistribution are desirable in equitable terms.
  4. The outcome of theprocesses should include improved health, nutrition and housing.
  5. Education is a vitaltool through which broadened opportunities could be generated for allindividuals to realize their full potentials including women, youth and thepoor.

According to Williams (1978) the ambit ofrural development is therefore very wide indeed. It includes generation of newemployment; more equitable access to arable land; equitable distribution ofincome; widespread improvement in health, nutrition, and housing, maintenanceof law and order; creation of incentives and opportunities for saving, credit,and investment. It also involves creating wider opportunities for individualsto realize their full potential through education and sharing in the decisionsand actions which affect their lives. It is not sectoral but comprehensive. Ina nutshell, rural development is the result of many interacting forces.


  1. Definerural development according to UNECA.
  2. Distinguish betweenagricultural and rural development.

Basic Process of Rural Development

Rural development process evolves from acombination of a series of activities generated by creative human actions(element of innovation) backed up by available natural resources that ruraldevelopment flourishes only under certain political, social and economicconditions.

Sometimes an individual or a small groupof innovators triggers a process of rural development. Sometimes it is promotedby changes in the economic or legal framework on the national or internationallevel (European Rural Development, ERD 2005). All these point to onefundamental fact that rural development is characterized by great diversity ofconditions, actors and options.

Rural development is a cyclic process aspresented in figure 2, which is characterized by four main activities asfollows: (ERD, 2005):

  • Analysis: what is the currentsituation?
  • Policy: who are the main actorand what do they want?
  • Modelling: which developments arepossible?
  • Implementation: which measures shouldbe used?

These four stages can be found in allkinds of development processes.

They can also be found at different scalesfrom the initiative of an individual to the programmes of a national orinternational development agency. They are typically repeated many times tofine adjust a development process.

It might be worthwhile to complement theabove process by mentioning another process according to Jibowo (1992), whichconsists of five stages of a rural development programme as follows:

  1. Enquiry: obtaining reliable andvalid information about the target community (Availability of Rural RapidAppraisal (RRA) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PPR) tools have been foundto be effective to achieve this in recent time).
  2. Planning: base on informationobtained from enquiry. It should involve interventionists (administrators),local change agents, representatives of the rural people and related agencies’officials as stakeholders.
  3. Implementation: action time for allconcerned as stakeholders in systematic manner toward realizing the statedgoals of the intervention.
  4. Adjustment: necessaryinstitutionalization and change resulting from the intervention.
  5. Evaluation: adequate attentionshould be given to monitoring and review of the process to accommodate inprocess modifications and at the end to determine how far the set goals havebeen realized and provide basis for further action.


  1. Rural development as acyclic process is characterized by four main activities. List these activities.
  2. List the five stages ofa rural development programme according to Jibowo.

Strategies and Approaches for RuralDevelopment

A rural development strategy is asystematic, comprehensive and reliable tool aimed at bringing about desirablerural transformation. A strategy for rural development is expected to produceresults; hence it is tested and found effective under certain circumstancesbefore being introduced under similar circumstances in another setting. Itsexpected effectiveness could be because it is developed on basis of experience whichhad worked.

The strategies which had been adopted forrural development by many developing countries, according to Williams (1978)are:

  1. Community development
  2. Agricultural extension,and
  3. Integrated ruraldevelopment

Community development aims at utilizingthe rural people to develop themselves through self-initiative and motivationwith minimum assistance from government. It aims at social development such as preventionand control of juvenile delinquency and community development through self-helpprojects, health and nutritional improvement projects and similar projects. Itinvolves community members in planning and implementing programmes for theirown development. It stimulates government and other development agencies toprovide technical advice and materials in planning and implementing theprojects.

The multipurpose community developmentagent who is trained in many aspects of community life such as health,agriculture, education, cooperatives is stationed at the local level where heworks with local people. To succeed, the community development worker needs tomake use of the services of specialized agencies of government in the rural areas.This is because it is not easy for an agent to be skilled in the rural sector.

If coordination and integration of activitiesof development related agencies working in the rural areas can be facilitatedthrough the efforts of the community development agent, this strategy could bemore popular in rural development. The problems in using this approach are:

  1. It is not easy for oneperson to be effectively trained in all sectors of rural development; hence thecommunity development agent may turn out to be ineffective.
  2. There is often no formalcoordination between the agencies working at the local level; hence thecommunity development agent has power to enforce cooperation by other agencies.

There is often a dilemma concerningwhether community development should focus on development of the varioussectors of the rural community or focus on educating the rural people on how todevelop themselves and seek assistance for developing themselves. Education is thecornerstone of all forms of development; hence it is advisable that ruralpeople are educated on how to develop themselves. Even when infrastructuralfacilities are provided, the rural people should still be educated on how tomaintain these and even introduce others.

Agricultural Extension aims at assisting therural farmers to bring about agricultural development. It does this byfacilitating education of farmers to improve their skills, knowledge andattitude as related to agricultural development. It transmits the results ofresearch on how to solve problems of agriculture to farmers and encourages theapplication of these as well as other improved technical knowledge in agricultureby farmers. It utilizes demonstration farms, farm visits, audio-visual aids andother methods in teaching farmers. While agricultural extension concentrates onagricultural development and only encourages related development agencies toextend their services to the rural areas, community development endeavours toprovide some of the services.

The training received by the villageagents is therefore aimed at equipping them to perform their different roles.

A glaring deficiency of the agriculturalextension strategy had been its ineffectiveness in promoting agriculturaldevelopment. The main reasons for this had been:

  1. inadequate number ofextension agents who are to teach farmers improved farm practices;
  2. inadequate creditfacilities to purchase farm inputs;
  3. inadequate use of localleaders to assist extension agents in teaching farmers;
  4. inadequate planning ofextension programmes and
  5. inadequate motivation ofextension agents. If these and similar problems are largely solved, extensionshould become an instrument for effective agricultural development.

Integrated rural development strategy combinesthe development of the various areas of the rural society includingagricultural, educational, health, nutrition, rural electrification, ruralwater supply and cooperative simultaneously. The strategy also aims at improvedemployment, access to production resources, access to social services andmanagement of development resources. The distinguishing feature of thisstrategy is that the various development sectors are considered together ratherthan in isolation so that their relationships can be seen.

The use of this strategy involves increasedmobilization and motivation of rural people to participate actively indecision-making process concerning their progress and in the developmentactivities. There should also be established institutional relationships whichwill facilitate the development of the sectors. Rural development councilsshould be set up at the national, state, local government in village levels toeducate people, clarify ambiguities and mobilize moral and financial supportfor rural development.

Approaches for rural development are thegeographical and the subject matter scopes of rural development. Threeapproaches can be identified, namely:

  1. the sectoral approach
  2. the holistic approach,and
  3. the regional approach

In the sectoral approach rural developmentefforts are geared towards developing the various sectors of the rural society.Efforts are made to identify the important sectors such as the agricultural,health, education and infra-structural sectors of the rural society.Development efforts are then focused on one sector. It is this tradition thathad tended to favour the development of the agricultural sector, which had beenregarded as the most important sector of the rural society in developingcountries because majority of the rural population of these countries areengaged in it. Experience with this approach had resulted in some problems, namely:

  1. The agricultural sectorhad not been substantially developed partly because of its relationship withthe other sectors which had not been supportive;
  2. The other sectors hadbeen largely ignored in the development process, and
  3. There had been overwhelmingcriticism of this approach by the professionals from the other non-agriculturalsectors.

The holistic approach attempts to develop allthe sectors in a given area about the same time. The agricultural, health,education, and rural infrastructural sectors are developed simultaneously. Theproblems with this approach are:

  1. inadequate financialresources to implement development programmes in all the sectorssimultaneously;
  2. inadequate number ofspecialized and technical manpower to implement the programme, and
  3. inadequate coordinationof the development activities in the various sectors.

In the regional approach to development, asociety is zoned into development regions which are most suited forestablishing certain development projects.

In Nigeria for example, while potato productionmight be developed in the derived Savannah parts of the country, cocoa, kolaand oil-palm production are naturally encouraged in the rain forest areas ofthe country, infrastructural facilities are developed all over the country. Themajor criticism of this approach is that it ignores the fact that scientific ruraldevelopment aims at bringing development facilities to the rural areas wherethey do not originally exist, apart from developing the potentials where they naturallyexisted. Another problem is that some regions might be ignored while others aredeveloped or favoured on the basis of political advantage.


  1. Listthe strategies which had been adopted for rural development bymany developing countries.
  2. What are the approachesfor rural development.


This unit exposed us to the concept and strategiesof rural development and its distinction with agricultural development. Goodgovernance/ commitment on the part of government functionaries is a sine quanon to meaningful rural development. Finally, the greatest empowerment that couldbenefit the rural folks is education and information. Professional role of theextensionist is not negotiable for the attainment of sustainable ruraldevelopment.


The main points in this unit are asfollows:

  • Ruraldevelopment means integrating a set of sectoral programmes (health,agriculture, education etc) to achieve a comprehensive development of the ruralarea.
  • Agriculturaldevelopment means concentrating on the agricultural sector only to bring aboutdevelopment in the rural area.
  • Ruraldevelopment is a cyclic process and is characterized by four main activitiesnamely, (a) analysis (b) policy (c) modelling and (d) implementation
  • Thefive stages of rural development programmes are, (a) enquiry (b) planning (c)implementation (d) adjustment, and (e) evaluation
  • Thestrategies adopted for rural development by many developing countries include: (a)community development, (b) agricultural extension, and (c) integrated ruraldevelopment
  • Threeapproaches for rural development has been identified, namely, (a) the sectoralapproach (b) the holistic approach, and (c) the regional approach.


  1. Explainthe definitions of rural development
  2. Discussthe basic process of rural development
  3. Write explanatory noteson the following: (a) Communitydevelopment (b) Agricultural extension (c) Integratedrural development (d) Approaches to rural development


Coombs, W.W. and Ahmed, M. (1974). How Non FormalEducation

can Help. The Johns HopkinUniversity Press, Baltimore and

London, pp 13-14.

ERD (2005): Dimensions of RuralDevelopment

IDRC (2004). Some theories of ruraldevelopment in recent decades:

lessons from otherCountries’ experiences. http//


Jibowo, G (1992). RuralDevelopment: Essentials of Rural Sociology.

Gbemi Sodipo Press Ltd,Abeokuta, pp229-236.

Ladele, A.A. (2005). Rural DevelopmentProcess and Practice.In: S.F.

Adedoyin. (edn.).Agricultural Extension in Nigeria A

publication ofAgricultural Extension Society of Nigeria, pp 139-144.

Williams, S.K.T. (1978). Rural Developmentin Nigeria University of

Ife Press, Ile- Ife,Nigeria, 129pp.