Experience of the World Bank
Rural development has been one of the main intervention strategies used since the mid-1960s by governments of developing countries and international development agencies to raise agricultural productivity and improve the quality of rural life. It was the single most important element of the development strategy adopted by the World Bank in the early 1970s, and it remains the central focus of the Bank's current agricultural development program.
As the term implies, rural development is concerned with promoting change toward higher levels of productivity, consumption, welfare, and social organization for those who find their livelihood in rural areas. Since most people in rural areas of developing countries are poor, rural development is concerned with improving the productivity of the rural poor. This approach at once distinguishes it from "basic needs" approaches which focus on improving the welfare of the poor through improved social services, without the essential change in productivity. Although growth in productivity may follow from a basic needs program, it is central to rural development. Nevertheless, rural development has a social dimension because of its focus on alleviation of poverty. Since the majority of families in rural areas are subsistence-oriented farmers, or smallholders, the focus is largely on smallholder development.
Rural development thus constitutes a particular approach to agricultural development, one which, unlike typical commodity-oriented