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Problem statement: Rural population in Iran live in an unstable environment and geographically, villages are extremely diverse and more than 65% of them have population less than 250 persons, which do not provide sufficient population threshold for most of services and sustainable economic and job creation activities. Only 7.5% of rural areas have population more than 1000 persons. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to find out major challenges of Iranian rural communities for achieving sustainable development. Approach: To fulfill this objective, 60 rural development experts who are engaged in government organizations relevant to rural development, were randomly selected. Questionnaire was used to collect data and its reliability was confirmed by Cronbach’s alpha of 0.83. To arrive to consensus of expert’s opinion, factor analysis was used to achieve data reduction and extract factors. Results: In total, 5 factors, including "economic", "management and planning", "environmental", "social" and "physical challenges" were identified. These factors explained 65.52% of challenges to achieving sustainable development in rural areas in Iran. Conclusion: Diversification of rural economy, supporting job creation activities, promoting sustainable rural tourism, business and industrial activities, establishing a stable urban-rural network are among important agenda which can create an appropriate condition for sustainable development in Iranian rural communities.
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American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences 3 (4): 724-728, 2008
ISSN 1557-4989
© 2008 Science Publications
Corresponding Author: Khalil Kalantari, Faculty of Agricultural Economics and Development,
University College of Agricultural and Natural Resources, University of Tehran- Karaj, Iran
Tel: +98-261-2238293 Fax: +98-261-2818709
724
Major Challenges of Iranian Rural Communities for
Achieving Sustainable Development
1Khalil Kalantari, 1Hossein Shabanali Fami, 1Ali Asadi,
2 Iraj Qasemi and 1Shahla Chubchian
1Faculty of Agricultural Economics and Development,
University College of Agricultural and Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran
2Institute for Human and Social Sciences, Tehran, Iran
Abstract: Problem statement: Rural population in Iran live in an unstable environment and
geographically, villages are extremely diverse and more than 65% of them have population less than
250 persons, which do not provide sufficient population threshold for most of services and sustainable
economic and job creation activities. Only 7.5% of rural areas have population more than 1000
persons. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to find out major challenges of Iranian rural
communities for achieving sustainable development. Approach: To fulfill this objective, 60 rural
development experts who are engaged in government organizations relevant to rural development,
were randomly selected. Questionnaire was used to collect data and its reliability was confirmed by
Cronbach’s alpha of 0.83. To arrive to consensus of expert’s opinion, factor analysis was used to
achieve data reduction and extract factors. Results: In total, 5 factors, including "economic",
"management and planning", "environmental", "social" and "physical challenges" were identified.
These factors explained 65.52% of challenges to achieving sustainable development in rural areas in
Iran. Conclusion: Diversification of rural economy, supporting job creation activities, promoting
sustainable rural tourism, business and industrial activities, establishing a stable urban-rural network
are among important agenda which can create an appropriate condition for sustainable development in
Iranian rural communities.
Key words: Sustainable rural development, rural development challenges in Iran, Diversification of
rural economy
INTRODUCTION
In the end of 1987s a new paradigm, called
sustainability, concluded that scientific evidence
demonstrated rapid destruction of air, water, species of
flora and fauna, deserts, forests and other ecosystems as
well as overuse of natural resources. The Brundtland
Commission Report thrust the concept of “sustainable
development” into the mainstream of world debate, as
the only manner to confront the twin problems of
environmental degradation and necessary economic
development. The commission’s report defines
sustainable development as “development that meets
the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs”[1].
In the early 1990s rural development was almost a
synonym for the agricultural sector. Now it is clearly
understood that it also includes other industries
employing the rural population, as well as social issues
such as education and training, environmental
protection, medical care and infrastructure[2]. By
incorporating the dimension of time, or futurity, the
definition of sustainable development introduced three
inter connected, mutually inclusive themes, or spheres:
the environment, society and economics. Numerous
authors have presented the union of these spheres to
graphically illustrate the concept of sustainability[3]
(Fig. 1). According to the sustainability paradigm no
single sphere should be allowed to dominate a
development decision. In fact, each of the spheres
should be taken into equal consideration prior to any
economic decision.
In the words of Wilkerson and Baruah, while
sustainability has local, regional, national and
international dimensions, ultimately, it must be
achieved at the local level where people live,
Am. J. Agri. & Biol. Sci., 3 (4): 724-728, 2008
725
Fig. 1: The three spheres of sustainability Source:
Diagram adapted from: www.tcst.org
work and interact with each other and with nature[4].
Since 1987, however, a number of different agencies
have attempted to operationalize the concept of
sustainable development at the community level.
A community defined in terms of sustainable
development means, the pursuit of modes of economic
development that no just “environmentally friendly”,
but which also offer the community long-term
economic stability, diversity and prosperity. In this
context a sustainable economy means building a local
economy that is both stable and diversified. The social
sustainable means, a community satisfies basic human
needs for food, shelter, education, income, safe living
and working conditions, job opportunities, equity and
social well-being, participation and involvement Today
the term sustainability and sustainable development are
used interchangeably. These terms define a new
approach to development that requires the broad
integration of economic, environment and social factors
in contrast to the traditional economic growth model
that advances only the economic condition at the
expense of the environmental and social conditions.
Thus the concept of sustainability introduces a new way
of thinking about development, one which requires the
entrenchment of environmental and social
considerations into economic policy making[5].
In Iran 22.23 million people living in 65000
villages who directly or indirectly depend on
agriculture to survive, while most of them are living
under poverty line[1]. Still Iranian rural economy is
dominated by agricultural sector which accounts for
27% of GDP, 22.9% of employment opportunities, 82%
of food supply and 35% of non-oil exports, plus
considerable raw materials for industrial use[6]. These
figures show that rural economy has an important role
in national economy. To establish a sustainable
economy in rural areas, almost every village needs
credit, clean seeds, infrastructure and guidance in crops
and livestock production. They also need farm
machinery, marketing facilities, cooperatives, water
supplies, education and diverse economic activities. For
a sustainable and efficient rural development, each
village must be provision with all of these inputs and
functions. Integration of the functions and efficient
management demand an active and sustainable local
communities and institutions. Today a large number of
government organizations deal with the development of
agricultural and other issues in rural areas. The
institution which is most influential in rural
development is the Ministry of Agricultural jihad,
which is responsible for the agricultural sector, forestry,
natural resource, fishery and several rural industries.
Other ministries are involved with the process of rural
development according to their area of activities. This
implies the sectoral approach in rural development
prevails over the territorial approach in Iran. The rural
problems are tackled by various government institutions
and this requires appropriate co-ordination among
them. Lack of such co-ordination and co-operation
among institutions and organizations involved in rural
development is a serious problem affecting sustainable
rural development in Iran. Thus, the main goal of
millennium development in Iran should be focus on
methods of sustainable rural development. This
depends on addressing the challenges of sustainable
rural development in Iran. Thus the main objective of
this study is to investigate major challenges of Iranian
rural communities for achieving sustainable
development and provide some recommendations in
this respect.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
In this study the data and information were
gathered through extensive survey questionnaires filled
out by 60 experts of rural development of relevant
departments of Management and Planning
Organization, Ministry of Agricultural Jihad and
Housing Foundation. Questionnaire’s validity was
confirmed by university professors of rural
development department and several rural development
experts and it's reliability also was confirmed by
Cronbach’s alpha of 0.83 level. Factor analysis was
applied to analyze interrelationship between a large
numbers of variables and to explain these variables in
terms of their common underlying dimensions.
Am. J. Agri. & Biol. Sci., 3 (4): 724-728, 2008
726
RESULTS
In this study 48 challenges in respect of sustainable
rural development were considered. In total 60 experts
of rural development from three different ministries and
organizations which are engaged in the process of
policy-making, planning and implementation of rural
development projects were randomly selected to
evaluate the major challenges of sustainable rural
development in Iran. Factor analysis was applied to
reduce the number of challenges and detect structure in
the relationships between variables. KMO measure of
adequacy (0.72) and Bartlett’s Test of Sphercity
(Approx. Chi-Square = 2512.39, with Sig. = 0.000)
showed that the data are appropriate for factor analysis.
Exploratory factor analysis was used and out of 48
challenges only 35 challenges were classified into 5
factors which explained 65.52% of variance, (Table 1).
Factor loadings of each variable are shown in Table 2.
It is revealed from Table 2 that, lack of diversification
in rural economy, particularly in non-agricultural sector
(0.843), low income level (0.734), lack of
commercialization in agricultural production (0.830),
rural poverty (0.771), mechanization problem (0.734),
Table 1: Eigenvalues and variance explained by each factor
Percentage Share of each factor from
Factors Eigenvalue of variance Cumulative (%) total explained variance
Economic challenges 6.77 18.30 18.30 27.93
Management and planning challenges 5.06 13.68 31.98 20.88
Environmental challenges 4.62 12.49 44.47 19.07
Social challenges 3.94 10.65 55.13 16.26
Physical challenges 3.85 10.39 65.52 15.86
Table 2: Factor loadings of challenges of rural communities for achieving sustainable development
Name of Factor Challenges Factor loadings
Economic challenges Lack of diversification in non-agricultural activities 0.843
Low level of income 0.734
Insufficiency in commercialization of agricultural production in dominant agricultural operations 0.830
Rural poverty 0.771
Mechanization problem of agricultural sector 0.734
Lack of investment in tourism 0.811
Low productivity in rural economy (agriculture, rural industries …) 0.769
Insufficient allocation of budget and credits for rural development 0.750
Lack of basic infrastructure for rural industrial development 0.825
Limited access to agricultural production markets 0.588
Management and Interposing of different government organizations in rural development plans 0.831
planning challenges Theoretical weakness and lack of an appropriate operational model for sustainable rural development 0.907
Weakness of people participation in implementation and maintaining of rural development projects 0.928
Lack of a coherent strategy for sustainable rural development 0.793
Absence of participation of NGOs and local organizations in planning and implantation of rural
development projects 0.599
Uncoordinated plans and policies for rural communities 0.804
Lack of sufficient attention for sustainable rural development 0.660
Environmental Land use change from agriculture to non-agriculture 0.581
challenges Unfavorable ecological conditions for sustainable rural development 0.896
Weakness in rural natural disaster management 0.672
Lack of balance between human and natural resources 0.852
Over-exploiting of underground water resources 0.629
Use of unsuitable technology in agricultural sector 0.919
Rural sanitation problems 0.700
Social challenges Lack of attention to indigenous knowledge in different dimensions of sustainable rural development 0.722
Shortage of job opportunities for rural youths 0.785
Lack of awareness of villagers to the methods and principles of accessing sustainable development 0.684
Insufficient population threshold in many rural settlements for providing social services 0.816
Domination of unqualified work force in rural economy 0.631
Lack of social justice in providing socio-economic facilities between rural and urban areas 0.671
Physical challenges Weakness in rural infrastructure such as (road, health facilities, water, etc.) 0.987
Lack/weakness of urban-rural network for constructing a logical linkage between rural centers and
small towns to provide socio-economic services 0.929
Vulnerability of rural settlements to natural disasters 0.667
Lack of an appropriate spatial organization of rural settlement system, 0.890
Existing wide gap and disparities between urban centers and rural communities 0.670
Am. J. Agri. & Biol. Sci., 3 (4): 724-728, 2008
727
lack of investment in tourism (0.811), low productivity
in rural economy (0.769), insufficient allocation of
budget for rural development (0.750), lack of basic
infrastructure (0.825) and limited access to agricultural
production markets (0.588), are the main challenges
of economic sustainable development of rural areas.
Economic challenges contain 27.93% of total explained
variance (Table 1). Second factor is related to
management and planning challenges. This dimension
includes 20.88% of total explained variance (Table 1).
Interposing of various government organizations in
rural development plans (0.831), theoretical weakness
and lack of an appropriate operational model of
sustainable rural development (0.907), absence of
people participation in implementation and maintaining
of rural development projects (0.928), lack of a
coherent strategy for sustainable rural development
(0.793), absence of participation of NGOs and local
organizations in planning and implementation process
of rural development projects (0.599), uncoordinated
plans and policies for rural communities (0.804) and
lack of sufficient attention for sustainable rural
development (0.660) are among major challenges of
sustainable rural management and planning. Third
factor is named environmental challenges which
contain 19.07% of total explained variance. Land use
change from agriculture to non-agricultural activities
(0.581), unfavorable ecological conditions for
sustainable rural development (0.896), weakness in
rural natural disaster management (0.672), lack of
balance between human and natural resources (0.852),
over-exploiting of underground water resources
(0.629), use of unsuitable technology in agricultural
sector (0.919) and rural sanitation problems (0.700), are
considered among environmental challenges. Social
sustainability is another important dimension of
sustainable development. In this context Iranian rural
communities face with various basic challenges. Lack
of attention to villager’s indigenous knowledge in
various economic activities in general and agricultural
activities in particular (0.722), shortage of job
opportunity for rural youths (0.785), lack of awareness
of villagers in respect of methods and principles of
accessing sustainable development (0.684), insufficient
population threshold in many rural settlements for
providing social services (0.816), domination of
unqualified work force in rural economic activities
(0.631) and lack of social justice in providing socio-
economic facilities between rural and urban areas
(0.671) are important social challenges of sustainable
rural development (Table 2). Social dimension includes
16.26% of total explained variance (Table 1). Factor
analysis explored several physical challenges which
contain 15.87% of total explained variance. Weakness
in rural infrastructure (0.987), lack of an appropriate
urban-rural linkage to provide socio-economic facilities
(0.929), vulnerability of rural settlements to natural
disasters (0.667), lack of an appropriate spatial
organization of rural settlement system (0.890) and
existing wide gap and disparities between urban centers
and rural communities (0.670) are among important
challenges of physical dimension of sustainable rural
development
DISCUSSION
Overall situation in economic challenges indicates
that the rural economy in Iran is too much depending on
agriculture. The poor agricultural infrastructure and
lack of forward and backward linkages, that hinders the
development of other industries, are the main obstacles
towards diversify and sustainable economic
development of Iranian rural communities. Lack of
indigenous and appropriate theoretical framework and
coherent strategy for sustainable rural development
accompanied by centralized planning system indicates
basic management and planning challenges which
create pronounced obstacle for involving people in
planning process. People participation in local
management system and planning process should
become in the core of development plans and this
requires decentralization of planning system for rural
areas. In the process of decentralizing, rural areas
should have higher level of authority to participate in
planning process. Environmental challenges are
emerged in the form of over-exploiting of underground
water resources and use of unsuitable technology in
agricultural sector. As Iran is located in arid and semi
arid areas, there is a growing risk of droughts in most
parts of the country, which will further slow down the
economic performance of the country in general and
agricultural sector in particular. This indicates that
ecological and environmental sustainability should be
considered in policy making and planning system. Wide
Dispersion of rural settlements accompanied by
insufficient population threshold indicates physical
challenges for rural areas in Iran. This pattern of
settlement system does not allow providing any social
services as well as diversifying economic activities in
many rural areas. Finally, absence of rural-urban
linkage and inability to localize these linkages is one of
the greatest challenges in promoting a more dynamic
process of rural-urban development in most provinces
in the country. Due to lack of such policy, disparities
occur, as higher value added in processing is captured
in national core metropolitan regions. This phenomena
Am. J. Agri. & Biol. Sci., 3 (4): 724-728, 2008
728
not only crates a fundamental barrier for achieving
sustainable development, but generates a deep rural-
urban disparities in the country.
CONCLUTION
However 60 years of planning in Iran, has led to
better living conditions for villagers. But the important
point is that there is a long way to achieve a sustainable
local community. Most of the rural development
projects have been designed and prepared through
government agencies during the past six decades of
planning with the least or lack of participation of rural
people. It must be emphasized that this kind of
centralized planning has been organized through
centralized oil revenue. Now with the necessity for
more decentralization and privatization; people’s
participation is very critical to the whole process of
sustainable rural development. It is emphasized that
rural development cannot be observed without public
support and involvement of the whole society.
Today it is clear that rural communities face with
various challenges in achieving a sustainable
development. It seams that sustainable rural community
development in Iran can be achieved through:
Diversification of rural economy and capacity
building of rural communities
Supporting job creation activities and promoting
sustainable tourism, business and industrial
activities based on rural social and economic
potentials
Encouraging people for participating in the process
of planning, executing and maintaining rural
development projects
Establishing an appropriate urban-rural network to
serve rural areas by small towns
New economic policy needs to be established
encouraging micro-enterprise supported by micro-
capitals and national policy must secure, protect
and improve rural livelihoods
A new rural sector strategy has to be prepared that
incorporate the following objectives: structural
change to the production system, with suitable
utilization of productive resources and
environmentally friendly technologies, sustainable
managed resources; no urban bias in health,
education and safe water provision; off-farm
income and employment generation; decentralized
and participatory decision making; functioning
rural markets; and widely shared rural economic
growth
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The study was based on a research project
financially supported by the University of Tehran, Iran,
which is highly appreciated.
REFERENCES
1. Nasiri, H, 2002. Sustainable Development:
Perspective of Third World Countries, 1st Edn.,
Farhang Publication, Tehran, Irsn.
2. Kohen, G, 2001. Sustainable Development
Indicators: Economic Development and Green
National Accounts. 1st Edn., Bazargani Publication
Co, Tehran, Iran.
3. Roseland, M., 1998. Toward Sustainable
Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their
Governments. Revised Edn., New Society
Publishers, Gabriola Island, ISBN: 10:
086571374X, pp: 256.
4. Wilkerson, O.L. and B. Barauch, 2001. Organized
complexity, information and state of sustainability
reporting: A case study of the Tiazten Nation.
West. Geograph., 10/11: 64-88.
http://www.geog.uvic.ca/dept/wcag/wilkerson.pdf.
5. Ghaderi, Z, 2004. Sustainable Tourism
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Many of the most critical global environmental issues are rooted in local, day-to-day problems. Local decisions about such issues benefit all citizens globally. This book attempts to identify and document the current range of initiatives toward developing sustainable communities. Dozens of tools, initiatives, and resources are presented, accompanied by hundreds of references to aid readers in their own research. Part 1 explores the meaning of sustainable development and its implications for communities. A framework for sustainable community development is also presented. Part 2 is comprised of a set of sustainable community building blocks. Each chapter provides an overview explaining the topic and its relevance to sustainable communities followed by a set of planning tools, practical initiatives, and associated resources that have helped citizens and their governments move toward sustainable communities. Part 3 focuses on mobilizing citizens and their governments toward sustainable communities. It concentrates on government of sustainable communities and tools for managing community sustainability, and concludes with lessons for designing effective sustainable community development policies. Topics include urban agriculture and aquatic systems, water and sewage, conservation issues, air quality, transportation planning, land use, housing, and community economic development. This book focuses on the developed countries of North America, i.e., the United States and Canada. (PVD)
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