Plans to bring about positive change in rural society, although highly noble, often fail because a wrong approach has been taken. Sometimes, various programmes and schemes are implemented into communities where a need for something else was greater. This error often happens in a fit of urgency when disaster occurs, but happens even in long term community work where ignorance is not an excuse. [i] Educational aid is sent to places that are desperate for potable water and medical aid to those more in need of shelter. There is a simple solution to avoid being misguided and that is to fully understand the people in need of help.
In the rural setting, communities are varied. Within a radius of a few kilometres, it is possible to find significant differences in the way people of one village live to their neighbours. Traditions and cultures carried on for centuries are passed down generation to generation and lifestyles are deeply imbibed in the residents of a village settlement.
Understanding rural sociology is not a complicated tast. What are the key characteristics that drive a rural community? In India, these are some of the characteristics: [ii]
- Size – Rural communities are a lot smaller in comparison to those in an urban setting.
- Density – The low density allows people to have close relationships with all other residents.
- Occupation – For 70% of the world’s poor who live in rural areas, the occupation is agriculture.[iii]
- Nature – Their close connection with natural environment around them makes them dependant on nature for food, shelter and clothing.
- Homogeneity – Despite having differences, the people have some commonalities that bind them- religion, or language, or occupation.
- Social Stratification – In a village, traditionally the people are divided on the basis of caste.
In relation to income, living standards and technology, rural living seems very primitive. Yet, their ability to be a self-sustaining unit, having high community values with practices that very slowly fade with time, the structure of rural settlements is praiseworthy.