Rural development continues to be a high priority in both developed and developing countries. Inadequate living standards in rural areas can threaten a nation’s food supply. Rural residents are often the caretakers of a nation’s natural resources and lack of development can lead to the destruction of those resources. Urban social problems can be exacerbated by high levels of rural-to-urban migration. Uneven development between rural and urban areas presents social and environmental justice issues for officials and has the potential of generating social unrest as well. Thus, rural development continues to be a critical policy arena because it extends to so many issues that affect the quality of life for both urban and rural residents. Rural development practitioners and policy makers face some common obstacles in addressing these issues. Low population density and distance to markets are often cited as major constraints to rural development because it is more difficult to provide services and to access markets. These same factors also typically translate into the lower political power of rural people. The small scale of rural communities limits access to key resources, such as education, health care, cultural activities and employment. Rural communities also tend to be dependent on single industries, especially those in the extractive sector (for example, forestry, mining and fishing). This dependency creates additional challenges to improving the quality of life in rural communities because residents are vulnerable to major shifts in markets and technology.
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