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3. Background and concept of the ''urban functions in rural development" projects

The Bicol River Basin of the Philippines was chosen as the site for the first of a series of projects to test approaches to and methodologies for strengthening urban analysis and for locating services and facilities in urban centres that can promote rural development. The designers of the project contended that spatial factors were crucial to the success of the "new directions" in international aid policy, which is aimed at assisting the poor majority in the Third World, primarily through intensified rural development. Moreover, they argued that the functions of urban centres are essential to stimulate growth in rural economies and to increase the access of the rural poor to those services and facilities needed for development. "In addition to being the loci of opportunities for off-farm employment," they noted, "urban centers provide marketing, storage, processing, supply, credit, health, educational and other services to the rural areas they serve " They concluded that rural areas without access to urban centres and services cannot prosper and "those without access to fully functional and efficient [urban] centers are denied their full development potential."

The projects would both gather additional information about the nature of the relationship between urban and rural development and test analytical and planning methodologies for promoting integrated spatial development in rural regions. The sponsors of the Bicol study pointed out that:

The linkages between rural development and urban centers are clear, and the existing literature identifies and provides considerable insight into the kinds of general services and functions required at the level of the rural market town to support rural development. Less progress has been made in identifying similar facilities and services at other levels of the urban hierarcy-i.e., in the regional and supraregional centers- and little has been written of a comprehensive nature. More understanding is needed of the mix, magnitude and timing (i.e., order of priority) and location of facilities and services at all levels and for different types of agricultural patterns. In addition, practical information is needed on alternative ways of providing the required services and facilities.

The ultimate outputs of the pilot projects would be a process of analysis and a "package" of analytical techniques and methods for planning that would assist developing country planners to design policies and programmes for strengthening the role of urban centres in rural development. The methods tested and proven effective in these developing countries would be disseminated to development institutions throughout the world.

The Conceptual Framework

The importance of the spatial dimension to "growth-with-equity" policy was strongly confirmed in preparatory research conducted in 1976. The study found that spatial systems in most developing countries were not conducive to equitable growth. Although metropolitan centres and smaller cities could play an important role in stimulating rural economies, in most less-developed countries they were not well dispersed, and were often poorly linked to rural hinterlands and, thus, the rural poor generally lacked access to the services, facilities, and productive activities located in them. As a result the cities did not provide inputs needed to develop new resources, increase agricultural production, or meet basic human needs in rural regions.

The report proposed a general framework for analysing rural regions and determining the degree of articulation and integration of the settlement system, and the linkages between urban and rural areas. Functional analysis of settlement systems in developing countries could help determine the types of "urban" services and facilities needed at each level of the spatial hierarchy and the means of providing better access for the rural poor to those functions. The study pointed out, however, that any analytical framework would have to be modified in application, adapted to local conditions, and tested in a number of developing countries. The scarcity of data and general unreliability of statistics in developing nations, and the need for analytical techniques that could be easily applied by planners and readily understood by policy-makers in rural regions, mandated substantial testing through experimental and pilot projects.

The report suggested that the pilot projects focus on three areas of analysis.

  1. Analysis of Regional Resources and Activities: including such factors as physical characteristics of the region, land and resource uses, cropping patterns, volume and diversity of agricultural production, population distribution and rural settlement patterns, services and facilities distribution, non-agricultural and commercial activities, and subsistence system characteristics.
  2. Analysis of Central Places: including the location of market towns, small cities, intermediate or regional centres; the size, composition and density of towns, the location, concentration and dispersion of central functions, changes in the size and concentration of social and economic activities over time, and the labour force and income distribution characteristics of settlements.
  3. Analysis of Regional Spatial Linkages: including physical, economic, population movement, technological, social service delivery, political and institutional interaction patterns among settlements within the region, and linkages with external centres.

A number of specific analytical techniques, and the types of information needed to apply them, were also delineated. The report emphasized, however, that the pilot projects should be tailored to the needs and constraints found in the regions under study. A predesigned package of methods could not be imposed; methodology should be designed in collaboration with planners and researchers in the country chosen for study only after initial data inventories and surveys of available information were conducted.

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