The changes which are happening in rural areas in LEDCs are very important. This is because the majority of the population live in rural areas. The countries which have the highest percentage of rural population are those which are the poorest. The land is used to feed the people both in towns and rural areas – LEDCs importless food from other countries than MEDCs. This means that changes in rural areas in LEDCs are important.
Rural to urban migration
Rural push factors (such as low wages) and urban pull factors (such as better jobs) cause rural to urban migration.
- The migrants are able to send money home.
- With more money from the urban workers, school fees may be paid or livestock bought.
- It is often the young males who move – the remaining family may be less physically able to carry out heavy tasks.
- With the absence of the young males, children may have to work on the farm, rather than going to school.
Subsistence farming to cash crops
Slash and burning of tropical rainforest, Amazon Basin, Brazil
Land which was growing subsistence crops is turned into commercial agricultural land for cash crops.
This can have positive impacts which include:
- The country has a greater source of income.
- There are jobs generated for workers.
- Less land is available to grow food to feed the local population.
- Water supplies may be used up on cash crops.
- Fertiliser may enter the local water supply.
- Rates of soil erosion increase.
- Local ecosystems may be damaged
The rate of natural increase is high in many areas. This puts pressure on the food supply. This leads to malnutrition and starvation. It also encourages rural to urban migration.
Hazards and diseases
AIDS and other epidemics raise the death rate. Wars also raise the death rate. This means that there are fewer older people to work on the fields to produce food.
As people seek to gain food and income from the land, more vulnerable land is used. The processes of desertification and deforestation mean the environment degrades. Clearing forests, such as in the Amazon Rainforest, causes many problems such as soil erosion and loss of the ecosystem.
Globalisation of tourism
Some rural areas attract tourists. The Maasai Mara in Kenya is one area which attracts tourists on safari. This brings money into the area and may help improve local infrastructure. However the money spent by tourists does not always go back to the local economy.
These changes can make rural areas more vulnerable and trigger a cycle of decline.
Diagram showing the LEDC cycle of decline
Sustainable rural change in LEDCs
Four key ways of helping rural areas become more sustainable
- By improving the rural economy. This includes encouraging income generation in the area. This may result in less rural – urban migration.
- By increasing rural food production. This will need to be done in an environmentally sensitive way, so the way the land is farmed is more sustainable.
- By improving the rural standard of living. Ensuring there is clean water and safe sewerage disposal. Giving everybody access to education and health care.
- Improvements in communication help rural people to keep in touch with developments. Better access and links to towns allows exchange of information, goods and products.
Charities working in rural LEDCs
There are many charities and non profit organisations working in rural LEDCs to help them become more sustainable.
They may do this by:
- Working alongside communities, teaching natural (organic) farming methods to boost crops and increase yields.
- Having a ‘pass on’ system, which means any benefit an individual is given, will be passed on when they are able. For instance when seeds are given, after the following harvest some of the seeds produced are passed on to others in need.
- Training people to help reduce soil erosion and improve water holding capacity of the soil. This can be through contour ploughing or applying manure from the animals given to the communities.
- Helping people to help themselves – boosting confidence and developing a strong community spirit.
- Developing self sufficiency over time – when the support from the organisation goes, the community will still be able to carry on.