Economic, political, and social changes have altered the landscape of both urban and rural areas—as well as the interactions between the two—faster than perceptions and policies can keep up.
Policymakers, for instance, often view rural and urban separately. In addition, the conventional policy mindset in low-income countries can perceive rural areas as backward, populated by subsistence farmers who need to be replaced by large-scale, mechanized agribusinesses. But these stereotypes often do not fit. Most agricultural producers, for example, are connected to markets, earn substantial nonfarm income, and pursue a wide range of livelihood strategies. To make the most of the potential and diversity of current livelihood strategies, rural and agricultural policies need to take today’s realities into account.
Recent research provides insights into how rural conditions and livelihood strategies are changing, often in response to ongoing processes of economic transformation and urbanization. The research highlights the importance of close connections with urban areas and suggests how policies and programs can support the positive dynamics of change.