RuralNet Associates Limited was formed in August 1999 with the view of contributing to the challenge of improving the livelihoods of society’s disadvantaged persons (particularly national and international rural populations) in a sustainable way. As a private development consultancy firm, livelihood and economic empowerment issues relating to both rural and urban populations are RuralNet’s major focus, with a bias towards the rural population.
Sustainable economic development in Zambia would be impossible to achieve without a deliberate focus on rural development as the basis. This is due to the huge disparity in development between the country’s rural and urban areas. For instance, in the year 2010 the overall poverty levels of The Republic of Zambia’s rural population stood at 77.9% compared to 27.5% in urban areas. During the same year, 60.5% of the population lived below the poverty line. Furthermore, 91% of rural households engaged in agricultural activities in the 2008/09 farming season. The under-developed nature of rural Zambia is under-scored by other indicators as well: Only 49% of the proportion of rural households’ population had access to safe water in 2010, against 84% in urban areas, and 28% of rural households had access to health facilities within a 1 km distance in contrast to a corresponding figure of 75% in urban areas. Rural development takes place in socio-economic contexts that ought to be carefully understood in order for interventions to have their desired impacts. Three broadly defined factors have been found important in impacting on and shaping the course of rural development. These factors are highlighted below:
The geo-physical conditions which influence the production systems adopted in an area to cope with constraints imposed by the environment;
The social and cultural contexts of production, particularly the kinship relations within and among households and the social division of labour, and;
The relationship between local processes and the wider economy.
A lack of understanding of these contexts pose major limitations in knowing how public policy and interventions, technological change, environmental factors, provision of services and changes in the economy affect rural development. Clearly, rural development against such a background calls for an in-depth understanding of development issues, which consequently requires strong evidence based information and analytical capabilities. RuralNet Associates Ltd. places a high premium on these factors which have a bearing on the development processes.