Integrated and Multi-sectoral Rural Development


“Interdependence between different sectors means that poor health, food insecurity and poverty cannot be tackled effectively by addressing one sector in isolation. Influencing sustainable and positive change means adopting a holistic, multi-sectoral approach to development.” (MDG Center, East and Southern Africa, 2007).

Almost half of the world_over three billion people ,live on less than $2.50 a day and most of them live in rural areas. (World Bank, 2013). According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2010, 75 percent of the world’s poorest people including 1.4 billion women, children, and men live in rural areas, and they depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood. 842 million people – or one in eight people in the world – do not have enough to eat. (FAO, 2013). The above numerical figures suggest that eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development in rural areas should be a priority if we want to improve the livelihood of the majority poor who live in rural areas .  Despite the large number of the poor population living in rural areas, official development assistance (ODA) to rural and agricultural development around the world has been declining as compared to other sectors. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) development assistance committee (DAC),  the share of the total ODA to agriculture and rural development (ARD) was almost 43% in 1980s,   and in 2011, only  about 7 per cent (of the total aid commitment ($133.5 billion in 2011) went to activities that relate directly to agriculture, food security and rural development. (OECD, 2012). Though interesting and promising seeing growing number of the private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and bilateral and multilateral organizations over the past years, the lack of co-ordination between development players and the lack of integration of projects have constrained what could be achieved. (ECOSOC, 2003).

Suggestions on Sustainability and Inclusiveness of Integrated Rural Development (Adopted from ECOSOC):

  • For development to be sustainable, it must be inclusive, both in terms of the people who serve as active designers and participants and also the ultimate beneficiaries.

  • At the macroeconomic level, pro-rural pol should encompass exchange rate, fiscal, and credit policies as well as the promotion of agricultural research and rural infrastructure.

  • Access to science and technology also needs to be included in rural development strategies in order to improve the nutritional value of crops, reduce production fluctuation and increase productivity on small-scale farms in a manner appropriate to the ecosystem in which they operate.

  • Development efforts should promote environmental sustainability.

  • Empowering rural populations includes by definition a large number of vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, member of low castes, and ethnic minorities. Women in particular are responsible for a vast majority of food production, household work, and care work, and they must be included in designing and implementing the programmes that will enhance the security of their livelihoods.

To read more on aid for agriculture and rural development in the global south, click here.

Addressing most of today’s development challenges require an integrated and sustainable multi-sectoral development approach centered around rural and agricultural development. A publication by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) shows that eradicating poverty and achieving rural development goals can be effective when there is a cooperation between development players and development projects follow a holistic, integrated and multi-sectoral approach. Without  a holistic approach to development, “well-intentioned reforms and investment in one sector risk being squandered because they are not supported by measure in other sectors.Pouring money into schools, for instance,without concomitant efforts in HIV/AIDS support and treatment, will not help the girl isolated at home, caring for her sick parents.” (ECOSOC, 2003).

To download and read a pdf version of ECOSOCs publication on Integrated Approach to Rural Development, Click here.

A publication on Rural Development Experience in Malawi by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) East and Southern Africa Center shows experience of multi-sectoral development approaches in Malawi. The summary of the multi-sectoral rural development projects indicates how cooperation between development players, multi-sectoral development programmes and  empowering local community are effective ways of addressing the multifaceted and interdependent problems in rural areas. The  multi-sectoral rural development programmes reviewed in Malawi included projects on  improving rural livelihood by improving health, ensuring food security, improving nutrition, empowering vulnerable communities with labor saving techniques, and etc.

To read more about an integrated approaches to rural development, click here.

A related example of integrated multi-sectoral development in Sub-Saharan Africa can be accessed here.


Admos Chimhowu. (2013). Aid for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Global South: A changing landscape with New Players and Challenges. Retrieved on 14 February, 2014 from

ECOSOC. (2003). An Integrated Approach to Rural Development Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council. Retrieved ON 14 February 2014 from

Pronyk, Paul M & et al. (2012).The effect of an integrated multi-sector model for achieving Millennium Development Goals and improving child survival in rural sub-Saharan Africa: a non-randomised controlled assessment. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

UNDP, MDG Centre East & Southern Africa. (2007). Rural Development Experience in Malawi. Analysis of Multi-Sectoral Rural Development Experience in Malawi: Towards identification and scaling up of best practice. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). Urban and Rural Areas 2009. Retrieved on 16 February 2014 from