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Research Report

Changing rural-urban interactions in sub-Saharan Africa and their impact on livelihoods:: a summary

Cecilia Tacoli
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2002
Pages: 47
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-5)

    Rural-urban interactions affect both rural and urban change, and influence resource use and management. Linkages between urban centres and their surrounding rural regions include flows of people, of goods, of money and of information, as well as other social transactions that are central to social, cultural and economic transformation. Within the economic sphere, many urban enterprises rely on demand from rural consumers, and access to urban markets is often crucial for agricultural producers. In addition, a large number of urban-based and rural-based households rely on the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural income sources for their livelihoods. This may involve straddling...

  2. (pp. 5-9)

    This section summarises recent work relevant to the study of rural-urban interactions. In doing so, it also situates the findings from the case studies, discussed in the following sections, within the current understanding of social and economic change in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Although available data on Africa need to be treated with considerable caution because of quality and variability, there is little question that there has been an Africanisation of global poverty. Data on income poverty show that, since the late 1980s, the absolute number of people living on less than a dollar a day in Africa has grown five times...

  3. (pp. 9-14)

    For much of Africa’s rural population, farming is still the primary activity. Changes in the scale and nature of rural-urban interactions and their relevance for the livelihoods of different groups are therefore largely related to transformations in the agricultural sector. This section explores the ways in which access to different assets, such as natural resources (especially land and water), financial capital and information on market prices and fluctuations, affects farming in the case study locations. Access to assets is influenced by a combination of factors, ranging from national policies (for example, land tenure systems and agricultural policies) to village-level characteristics...

  4. (pp. 14-18)

    Non-farm income sources are increasingly important for the livelihoods of rural African households. Survey data on the income proportion derived from these sources ranges from 30 to 40 percent averages, excluding southern Africa where it can be as high as 80 to 90 percent (Ellis, 1998) to more recent findings of between 60 and 80 percent (Bryceson, 1999b). Partly as a result of the mainly qualitative methodology used and partly because of the well-known difficulties in gathering reliable information on income through questionnaire surveys, the case studies have concentrated on the types and mix of activities and on how these...

  5. (pp. 19-23)

    Historically, migration has been a key factor in shaping sub-Saharan Africa’s settlement patterns and in contributing to households’ livelihoods. The Igbos of southeast Nigeria have a long tradition of migration throughout the country and the region, although the civil war in the 1960s and recent civil strife have somewhat limited the scope of movement. In Mali, seasonal and long-term migration to the Atlantic coastal states of West Africa is also a long-standing tradition (Brock and Coulibaly, 1999).

    Traditional approaches to migration focus on ‘push’ factors (economic hardship in areas of origin) and ‘pull’ factors (economic opportunities in destination areas) to...

  6. (pp. 23-26)

    Governance systems and institutional set-up are important aspects of local economic development and of physical and social infrastructure provision. To a large extent, they also define the nature of the relationships between urban centres and their surrounding regions - although this needs to be situated within the broader context of fundamental changes in Africa’s social and economic structure. Like most countries throughout the region, Nigeria, Mali and Tanzania have been undertaking some form of decentralisation or deconcentration of administrative and other government functions. The differences between the three countries reflect the variety of models, as well as the rationale behind...

  7. (pp. 26-28)

    The findings from the case studies in the three countries point to significant livelihood transformations in all the research locations, and to the intensification of rural-urban linkages. They also underline important differences, depending on location, wealth, gender, generation and ethnicity. Two main trends are central to this process of change: first, the high levels of multi-activity, especially among younger generations, with potentially long-term impacts on the production patterns of rural households. Second, the widespread increase in mobility accompanied by strong social and economic links to relatives and kin in home areas, in what can be described as multi-spatial household organisation....