In many low and middle-income countries, rural areas are undergoing fundamental processes of change that affect not only their economic structure but also their social, cultural and political fabric. Historically, rural transformation is often compared to the economic transformation from agricultural to industrial economies witnessed in many parts of Europe in the 19th century and across Asia and Latin America in the 20th century. Yet this concept does not suffice to describe the various simultaneous and intertwining dynamics that impact the rural space of developing countries today and the more complex and rapidly changing framework conditions that they are set in.
Dynamics of rural transformation
The complexity of the rural transformation process calls for multi-layered governance and new forms of technical and financial assistance. The international debate on the structural and political changes in rural areas is vivid and ongoing. There are many international working groups and forums, with different constituencies and mandates, that explore the central and unifying role rural transformation plays in the implementation of Agenda 2030.
All Platform activities in the Strategic Initiative Agenda 2030 of the Platform constitute a longer-term exercise in close cooperation with a growing number of institutions and initiatives towards the better informed positioning of donor programmes within the new development framework.
Irrespective of the definitional nuances, there is consensus that rural transformation is a complex and on-going process in the rural space in all countries. The effects of this process extend beyond the transformation of the agricultural sector and even beyond economic transformation and with some quite negative effects in many low- and middle-income countries. However, the direction and effects of these rural transformation processes can be shaped and steered to prevent and mitigate negative effects and produce outcomes that are beneficial for rural populations on a national and subnational level. The process of rural transformation must thus be addressed by a policy agenda aimed at making rural transformation ecologically more sustainable and socially inclusive.
Rural transformation trends and driving forces
Climate change and resource degradation
Urbanisation and rural-urban linkages
Cross-sectoral policy priorities, programming and governance
To effectively address the process of rural transformation, a higher level of policy coherence between the desired overall development path and agriculture, food security and nutrition policies will be required. Special attention must be paid to link sectors like basic services (energy, infrastructure etc.) with economic opportunities within and outside agriculture. Moreover, inclusive transformation can only be shaped successfully when associated with the establishment of multi-level governance structures that support and manage social, environmental and economic development in an appropriate equilibrium and thrive for inclusiveness.
Developing adequate policy solutions in a phased approach based on available capacity and finance can be thought of as “ARD+” whereby the plus stands for policy fields that are intrinsically linked to agricultural policies and that have potential synergies that should be exploited to achieve the kind of multi-sectoral and holistic approaches that are needed to address the challenges developing rural areas in the light of rural transformation processes.