Definition, Characteristics, Typology, Effects, Provision of Rural Infrastructure


Definition, Characteristics, Typology, Effects, Provision of Rural Infrastructure

In this article, we are going to treat the concept of Rural Infrastructure and its characteristics and types of Rural Infrastructure and their effects. The issue of infrastructure has assumed increasing importance in Nigeria in view of the need for increased production of farm produce.

In this article, you should be able to define the characteristics of rural infrastructure, identify the typology of rural infrastructure, identify the effects of rural infrastructure and state the provision of rural infrastructure.


Definition and Characteristics of Rural Infrastructure

Rural infrastructure, according to Idachaba and Olayide (1980) is defined to include the system of physical, human and institutional forms of capital which enable rural residents to better perform their production, processing and distribution activities as well as helping to improve the overall quality of life. The most basic elements of infrastructure comprise rural roads, markets in rural towns and rural water supply facilities.

Rural infrastructure also includes social infrastructure, most significantly rural health and education facilities. At some higher level development, it includes rural electrification, telecommunication facilities and access to electronic mass media.

Rural Infrastructure is a very loose concept however, sometimes conceived narrowly to include only roads and water supply as well as social infrastructure.

The definition here is broad to capture the concept that the inputs necessary to develop agriculture - the major occupation of the ruralites and reduce poverty, are indeed all embracing.

Agriculture cannot be developed in isolation from physical infrastructure development, rural health and education or even from sound urban development policy (World Bank, 1993).

Rural Infrastructure as defined above possesses certain characteristics. These are heavy capital equipment beyond the reach of the average individual rural resident, huge initial capital expenditures, benefits accrue to all members of the society (or non-excludability in usage) and stocks of capital yielding streams of services over a number of years.


Typology of Rural Infrastructure

Definition, Characteristics, Typology, Effects, Provision of Rural Infrastructure

There are four major types of rural infrastructure.

These are:

1. Rural physical infrastructure

2. Rural social infrastructure

3. Rural institutional infrastructure

4. Rural farm infrastructure


Rural physical infrastructure is defined to include:

a) Transportation systems such as feeder roads, access roads, rail roads, bridges, ferry services, boats, ports, footpaths, etc.

b) Processing facilities such as public processing facilities, machinery, equipment, buildings, etc,

c) Communication systems such as rural telephone services postal agencies, etc.


Rural social infrastructure is defined to include:

a) Health facilities such as hospitals, dispensaries, maternity health services among others.

b) Educational facilities such as primary schools, secondary schools, adult education facilities etc.

c) Rural utilities such as rural electrification, power supplies and waters supplies.

The adequate provision of these services will tend to raise the productivity of small farmers as well as stem the rising rural-urban drift.


Rural institutional infrastructure includes:

a) Rural organizations such as cooperatives, farmers’ unions, etc.

b) Rural-based projects such as community projects, etc.

c) Financial institutions such as credit societies, banks, government credit institutions, post office saving banks, etc.

d) Agricultural research facilities such as research substations, experimental-out lying farms, schools of agriculture, demonstration plots, etc.

e) Agricultural extension services

f) Crop-animal protection - control-grading services.

g) Soil conservation services (Olajide and Falusi 1999)

Essentially, the institutional facilities have to be mobilized or fully financed, or promoted as the case may be by the public sector or government.

It is the ineffective promotion, financial support and mobilization of these facilities by government in various parts of Nigeria that is also responsible for the dearth of small farmers.


Rural farm infrastructure is defined to include:

a) Storage facilities such as silos, warehouses, go-downs, farm bins, open-air storage facilities, etc.

b) Irrigation water facilities such as dams, irrigation canals and tributaries, bore-holes, drainage systems, etc.

c) Land clearing and preparation systems

d) Farm inputs supply systems such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

e) Farm roads development/improvement facilities.

It is the rural farm infrastructure that is of direct benefit to the small farmers (Olayide 1998).

It is this class of infrastructure that has to be given immediate attention as a means of increasing the productivity and aggregate output of small farmers in Nigeria.

Most rural dwellers in Nigeria derive water from streams and shallow ponds. Bicycles service as a very important means of transporting rural products to urban market.


Effects of Rural Infrastructure

1. Production Effects

There are three classes of production effects of Rural infrastructure. First are the direct production effects.

These include important contribution to increased production of farm and non-farm goads, enhancement of productive ability of rural people through better health facilities, better decision-making by producers through education that provides access to information and functional literacy, and better farm products arising from the results of research institutions.

Second are the indirect production effects that come from the facilitating role of rural infrastructural facilities.

These include the effects of education on production-distribution management and the effects of improved facilitates on access to opportunities in decision making, marketing and farm supplies or inputs.

Third is the stabilization of agricultural production.

These effects include farmer operation at near equilibrium levels of optimum production, control of erratic fluctuations in farm production through the interplay of research and extension services, stable production and distribution arising from workable farm calendar and “market outlook” information systems and stable release of produce arising from provision of dependable storage facilities for the “marketable surpluses”.

2. Income Effects

Rural infrastructure’s direct production effects are translated or transformed into enhanced incomes emanating from increased output and farm produce due to adequate storage facilities. It ensures the stabilization of rural farm and non-farm incomes.

The provision of rural educational credit and institutional facilities combine to progressively eradicate rural poverty through access to sources of rural wealth and income generation opportunities.

3. Welfare Quality of Life Effects

Rural communities require more commodity and input programmes that significantly raise and stabilize rural incomes in addition to the need for dignity, self-respect, belongingness, social recognition and social participation to ensure continual improvement in the quality of rural life.

The supplies of communication facilities such as television and redifussion, electricity, vocational schools and water in rural communities improve the quality of rural life as well as promote socioeconomic integration.

Adequate and timely information via efficient communication systems helps to develop national consciousness in rural communities and therefore ensures socio-economic and social stability.

4. Employment and Resources Allocation Effects

The adequate provision of rural infrastructures creates new employment opportunities through construction or establishment operations, and direct-indirect effects on farm and non-farm production. There is additional effect of the elimination/reduction of underemployment through the provision of off-peak non-farm employment opportunities that facilitate all-season use of rural labour resources. Furthermore, Rural Infrastructure guarantees and continually improves the allocation of such resources as land, labour, capital and water in farm and non farm rural enterprises.


Provision of Rural Infrastructure

Considering the above listed benefits and salutary effects of Rural Infrastructure to rural productivity and socio-politico-economic welfare of our communities, the need arises for an examination of probable methods of providing adequate the facilities.

These probable methods will be discussed briefly in terms of five major efforts.

1. Governmental efforts: It is essential that governmental awareness of the importance and effects of rural infrastructure should be matched by equally important expenditures on their provision.

Federal, state and local government in Nigeria will need to ensure that about ten percent of planned expenditures in the 1990s will to be allocated to rural infrastructural development to ensure rapid and successful integrated rural development in Nigeria.

2. The class of community efforts at contributing positively and significantly to the adequate provision of rural infrastructure: In the field of environmental hygiene-wealth facilities, rural roads, processing facilities and community development projects, the role of self-help mechanisms with governmental matching grants cannot be overemphasized.

The village approach to the stimulation of community efforts promises the most powerful strategy and tools for adequate provision of rural infrastructures.

3. Cooperative efforts: Here again, the village approach through cooperatives promises an effective mechanism for the supply of rural infrastructure. Multiple purpose and single-purpose cooperatives can through service associations provide rural infrastructure at cost.

Examples include rural electrification, rural water supplies, irrigation supplies, rural telephone services, rural health clinics, rural transportation services, etc. processing and credit cooperatives organized on intra-village and inter-village basis constitute an effective mechanism for the provision of rural infrastructure (Schiller, 2002).

4. River B as in Development Authorities (RBDAs) efforts: This body, by its enabling decree, is established to undertake specific functions in addition to the provision of rural infrastructure. Four types of Rural Infrastructure can be effectively provided by RBDAs.

First is energy supplies through hydro power installed in dams and reservoirs.

Second are water recreation facilities for such activities as swimming, boating and fishing.

Third is water recirculation, a conservational programme designed to reduce the rate of disappearance of water or withdrawal of water in industry for coating purposes as well as reclaim municipal waste discharge, through on-site reutilisation and return flow use.

Fourth is navigation through construction of canals/roads in swamp lands, boat transportation and hoover craft transportation over mash land and swamplands that cannot be canalised (Olayide et al 199).

5. Research efforts: The research efforts in the provision of rural infrastructure can be effectively mobilized by public/governmental/public research institutes, research centres/bureaux, research consortium, research commissions, research associations, and intentional research agencies. Research into infrastructure can take many forms.

These include exploratory, utilization, cost-returns, production-design or prototype development, management and forecasting research. Since the issue of research infrastructures has been given very little or no attention in Nigeria, the needs arises for a dynamic and purposeful infrastructures research policy.


Conclusion on Definition, Characteristics, Typology, Effects, Provision of Rural Infrastructure

This article has examined in fairly general terms the issue of Rural Infrastructure. It is expected that by now you should be able to comprehend the conceptual issues of rural infrastructure.

Considering the fact that rural physical, rural social, rural institutional and rural farm infrastructure are necessary pre-requisites for rapid integrated rural development, the financial aspects on their provision to date seemed inadequate.

The fact must be emphasized that Rural Infrastructure has beneficial production, income, employment, resource allocation and socio-economic welfare effects on rural communities. 

Consequently, governmental, community, farmer-cooperative, river basin authority and research effects have to be mobilized and adequately funded to ensure adequate supplies of rural infrastructure necessary for rapid integrated rural development of our communities and their farm and non -farm enterprises.

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