Handbook of Rural Development

Handbook of Rural Development

Elgar original reference

Edited by Gary Paul Green

Although most countries in the world are rapidly urbanizing, the majority of the global population – particularly the poor – continue to live in rural areas. This Handbook rejects the popular notion that urbanization should be universally encouraged and presents clear evidence of the vital importance of rural people and places, particularly in terms of environmental conservation. Expert contributors from around the world explore how global trends, state policies and grassroots movements affect contemporary rural areas in both developed and developing countries.

Chapter 3: Rural policy

Thomas G. Johnson

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, development studies, economics and finance, agricultural economics, environment, agricultural economics, environmental sociology


There are no clear definitions of rural policy that help us determine the issues that should either be included in, or excluded from, the domain of rural policy. Bryden (2007) distinguishes between narrow and broad rural policies. Narrow rural policies are those that have as their stated purpose the improvement in economic and social conditions of rural people and places. Broad rural policies include all policies that have significant impacts on rural people and places but which have goals not directly related to rural economic and social conditions. Using these definitions, broad rural policies would include agricultural, transportation, health, education, economic development, regional, environmental and other policies that have implications for rural populations. Obviously, many of these largely sectoral policies and programs have different impacts over space and thus have differential consequences for rural people and places. Narrow rural policies are explicitly spatial rather than sectoral. Because they have spatial rather than sectoral dimensions, they are often more difficult to identify and categorize. Our government agencies are more often organized along sectoral lines (departments of agriculture, health, transportation, commerce, and so on), which means that narrow rural policies are distributed across many agencies. One useful way to think of narrow rural policies is to look for features of policies that are in some way conditional on a definition of ‘rural’. For example, health policies that make provisions for populations or service providers in less dense regions should be considered rural policies.

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