The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) characterises this process as follows: “Rural transformation may be defined as a process of comprehensive societal change whereby rural societies diversify their economies and reduce their reliance on agriculture; become dependent on distant places to trade and to acquire goods, services and ideas; move from dispersed villages to towns and small and medium cities; and become culturally more similar to large urban agglomerations.”

Often, however, “rural transformation” is not just a value-free description of an ongoing process. For many people, it is either a threat to be averted, or a major and perhaps not entirely achievable aspiration. There are many indications that due to the powerful economic and societal forces at play, rural transformation is ultimately unavoidable. So we should utilise it as an opportunity and do our utmost to move it in the right direction, both socially and ecologically – and that means guiding it towards sustainability.

Taking account of regional specifics

Rural development is indivisibly linked to the future of farming.