Agriculture Management and Rural Development
Course Summary:

The objective of this course is to introduce, discuss and frame aspects of rural development and to relate these to rural livelihoods and borrower perspectives of (micro)finance.
We start with analyzing the perseverance and determinants of rural poverty and food insecurity. We discuss the particularities of rural areas, and discuss issues of rural poverty with regards to risk, saving and lending. Next we discuss the specificities for (micro)finance of agriculture as the main employer sector in many poor rural areas. Again particular attention will be on risk and lending. 

Course Objectives:

  • Awareness of the multifunctional role of rural areas and agriculture and an integrated vision on development of rural areas;
  • Knowledge of different approaches to Rural Economics and Development and ability to apply these in diverse situations in developing, developed and transition countries;
  • Ability to apply adequate instruments, methods and innovative tools to analyse, evaluate and solve problems related to Agricultural Economics and Policy, Food Systems, Rural Development and Countryside Management;
  • Ability to develop innovative tools and instruments for the multifunctional development of rural areas;
  • A general formation in both technical and social sciences disciplines and advanced competence in at least two Rural Development related disciplines;
  • Ability to dialogue with different actors of the socio-professional world as a consequence of their pluri-disciplinary training;
  • Critical reflection skills and the necessary communication skills for integrated team work for dealing with Rural Development challenges.

Course Outline

Evolving themes in rural development
The opening unit looks at the origins of rural development, the state-led approaches to rural development that characterised the 1970s, and the shift away from such approaches in subsequent decades. The appropriate division of responsibilities between state, private sector, NGOs and other actors and related discussion of participation and sustainability are continued topics of debate and a recurring theme in this module.

Rural livelihoods
This unit asks questions about what it means to be poor and the nature of poverty. We introduce thinking about livelihoods, the concept of ‘entitlements’ as a means of understanding vulnerability, and discuss the processes of livelihood diversitfication.

Agricultural development
The unit outlines the distinctive features of the agricultural sector in developing countries, and looks at the role of agriculture in economic development over the past half-century. We compare strategies for agricultural development and consider the role of technological innovation and population growth and conclude with a look at food security, resource scarcity and population challenges

The rural non-farm economy
We examine here the characteristics and potential of the rural non-farm economy (RNFE), a sector which is an important source of rural income and employment across the developing world. We explore sector’s relationship with agriculture and ask how intersectoral relationships can be exploited to maximise the beneficial effects on rural income and employment levels.

Rural infrastructure
Roads and transport have an enormous influence on the ability of rural communities to access markets and essential services. In this unit we look at why infrastructure is important, why it has performed so poorly in the past, and what options exist for ensuring that infrastructure plays a more positive role in rural development. We conclude with a section focusing on communications infrastructure (roads, transport and ICT).

Rural finance
In this section we examine the role of finance in rural development and the challenges involved in providing sustainable financial services to the rural poor. We consider different types of financial services and the factors influencing supply and demand in rural credit markets and the problems facing borrowers and lenders. Particular use is made of insights from new institutional economics to help us understand the way rural credit markets operate and what can be learnt from the enduring presence of informal sources of finance, despite the attempts of formal credit programmes to out-compete them.

Agricultural research and extension
This considers the role of agricultural research and extension in rural development, of its key characteristics, and the objectives, delivery, and financing of evolving research and extension approaches and systems. We explore appropriate roles for public, private and other stakeholders and ask when the public sector should act as a direct provider and when it should restrict itself to creating an enabling environment for other providers.

Health and education
Health and education services are critical for the welfare of rural people and in expanding their opportunities for productive employment and increased incomes. In this unit we examine the roles of health and education in rural development, key challenges, the consequences of under-provision, and models for service delivery.

Land is a fundamental resource with diverse economic and cultural values critical in rural peoples’ livelihoods. We explore the ecological, economic and socio-political characteristics of land, including associated property rights and policy, taking particular account of agro-ecology, historical background, and regional and spatial issues.

This introduces the physical and economic characteristics of water, competition and scarcity in its different uses , and different management systems. This leads onto consideration of policy approaches to supply and demand management across multiple competing or complementary uses in the context of increasing water scarcity and vulnerability.