Rural-urban linkages and social inclusion

Cazzuffi, Chiara (2018). 'Rural-urban linkages and social inclusion' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The world is urbanizing, but it has not done so exclusively in large cities: almost half of the world’s urban population reside in small and medium cities of up to five hundred thousand inhabitants, which have strong functional relationship with surrounding rural areas. The concept of rural-urban linkages reflects the increasing interconnection between rural and urban areas via reciprocal flows of people, goods, services, money and environmental services. “Rural” or “urban” may define people’s main place of residence, but no longer encompass the full spatial scope of people’s livelihoods. For instance, the livelihoods of most rural households, including smallholder farmers, increasingly go beyond rural areas and depend on city jobs, and on goods or services obtained in urban areas. Nonetheless, rural development policies have not internalized this, while urban development policies tend to have a metropolitan bias, either implicitly assuming that all cities are the same, or explicitly focusing on larger agglomerations.

There is some evidence that rural-urban linkages can contribute to growth and poverty reduction (Berdegué et al., 2015; Christiaensen & Todo, 2016), but much still needs to be learnt, in particular about how to promote and sustain socially inclusive economic growth in rural and urban areas by taking advantage of rural-urban linkages.

The proposed panel seeks to contribute new knowledge on rural-urban linkages in Latin America and on their relationship with inclusive growth. It presents work in progress that is part of a wider applied research program, financed by IDRC (International Development Research Centre, Canada), which seeks to contribute to the design of new public policies that take advantage of the linkages between small and medium cities and their rural hinterland to promote inclusive growth, in the context of three of the great transformation that characterize rural areas in contemporary Latin America: urbanization, structural change in employment, and agrifood system transformations.

The papers proposed in this panel are based on a novel multipurpose household survey of rural-urban functional territories of Chile, Colombia and Mexico, designed and conducted by Rimisp – Latin American Center for Rural Development, the Iberoamerican University (Mexico) and the University of the Andes (Colombia). Functional territories are defined as territories “with high frequency of economic and social interactions between their habitants, organizations and firms” (Berdegué, et al., 2011), which, because of that, have “more interaction or connection with each other than with outside areas” (Jones, 2016). Rural-urban territories are defined as cities between apox. 15 thousand and 500 thousand inhabitants, and their rural hinterland.

The survey is representative of the population living in rural-urban functional territories at national level in each country. In addition, it is also representative of the population living in rural-urban functional territories that have followed different trajectories over the past two decades in terms of inclusive growth: territories that have achieved inclusive growth; territories that have not grown but have managed to improve in social inclusion indicators; territories that have grown without social inclusion; and territories that have neither grown, nor improved social inclusion indicators.

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