August 21, 2008

How to empower rural communities

By letting rural people move in to the city.
Push feels like this: Life in your village is dull, backbreaking, impoverished, restricted, exposed, dangerous, and static. In the countryside, you are at the mercy of bad weather, bandits, and disease, with nowhere to go for help. But visit your relative in town and you see what “pull” means. In the city, life is exciting, less grueling, far better paid, free, private, safe, and upwardly mobile. Will you put up with slum conditions for all that? In a heartbeat. “City air makes you free,” said the Renaissance Germans.


[S]quatter cities are vibrant. Each narrow street is one long bustling market of food stalls, bars, cafes, hair salons, churches, schools, health clubs, and mini-shops of tools, trinkets, clothes, electronic gadgets, and pirated videos and music. What you see up close is not a despondent populace crushed by poverty but a lot of people busy getting out of poverty as fast as they can.

“In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and family elders, pound grain, and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business, and get education for her children.”
This was Steve Brand writing a few years ago in strategy+business.

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