Prof Shobhana Madhavan

Shobhana Madhavan is professor emeritus of Business and Environment at the University of Westminster, London. She is an economist with substantial experience of teaching and research in the areas of development, technology, transportation and the environment. Her research includes a pioneering study, using original survey data, of rural travel and transport in Karnataka, India. She is co-author of a book on European Economic Integration and Sustainable Development, and she was specialist advisor to the House of Lords, UK, advising on promotion of small and medium enterprises in Europe.
Food for thought: Agriculture and rural development
The development of countries has always implied transitions: economic, political and social. The development process has created dualistic economic systems (the urban rural dichotomy) and policies have emphasised industrial and infrastructure development with rural development as a secondary aim. Although attempts in some areas to increase agricultural productivity through intensive cultivation have been successful, in itself increased productivity has not led to overall development of rural areas. The dualistic economic system persists leading to net migration to urban areas and disruption in the economic and social life of rural areas. These are repositories of traditional life and values and include both oppressive social (and tenurial) systems and social and cultural frameworks, which provide support networks. Given the limits to the rural sectors growth through increased agricultural productivity, it could be argued that the development of the non-farm sector in the rural areas is better placed to promote rural growth and employment. Small scale enterprises with support from micro-finance institutions, and the creation of markets for goods and services, supported by complementary infrastructural development, will enable productive employment of labour, and in the process help to redress gender and other inequalities. So the development of the rural sector whose mainstay has been agriculture, traditionally, must now emphasise non-agricultural activities. This is happening against a background of economic liberalisation and globalisation in which economic activity is increasingly subject to the law of comparative advantage. So we must ask where this is leading, and how rural societies fit into the wider picture.