Small towns often come under pressure from urbanisation – uncontrolled development, little infrastructure and poor service provision – combined with a lack of strong institutions of local governance. Community cohesion is rarely strong, as the population is often mixed, coming from different backgrounds. Further, rapidly urbanising areas are often reclassified into ‘towns’ by legal or bureaucratic measures – as has been the case for many (urban) municipalities in Nepal – although their social, political and physical infrastructure and services remain at a basic level.

Recognising and including the poor and vulnerable
In all its country programmes, Helvetas seeks to pro-actively include the poor and disadvantaged – defined according to country circumstances. One of the issues apparent in working at the rural-urban interface is that these definitions need to be contextualised. In targeting those residents most affected by pollution, Helvetas in Bolivia identified not only specific groups such as women and indigenous persons to be more disadvantaged, but also how disparities exist between different cities.