Rural Area And Village Planning Process

Concept Of Rural Area

What is “Rural”?
Definition of the term “Rural” is a concept or an expression that appears quite difficult to define, due to its multi-dimensional approach and nature. As there are many professionals involved in the studies and development of rural areas with much controversy; so are there diverse definitions and views expressed either from economic, social, psychological, ethnical, racial and numerical perspectives.
Principally, two methods of identifying or defining what is “rural” are usually given. First and foremost, is to identify the rural areas as an entity. While the second, is to identify and classify the urban areas, and assume the rest to be rural (Kadiri, 1998). This approach is based on the simple understanding that once we can identify what is urban; it automatically means the rest is rural. This therefore means what is not urban is rural (Obot, 1986).
Similarly, some researchers have identified certain criteria as the basis of classification of settlements into either urban or rural (Okpala 1986, Jones 1996, Sanders 1977, Kadiri 1998, Olaseni 2004). The three commonly employed criteria are:
Legal and administrative definition and classification. This is the declaration made by law of the end.

Population thresholds classification, that is, by stating a given minimum thresholds population figure. In case Nigeria, this was shifted from a figure of 5,000 people in q1952 / 53, to 20,000 in 1963.
This is in line with the United Nations International Statistical Conference figure; and
The use of functional definition, which employs certain universally –acceptable urban characteristics such as density of development, occupational structure and the presence of certain infrastructural facilities and services. In line with this, Olaseni (2004) looked at rural areas as a place accommodating between 2,000 and 5,000 people; predominantly engaged in primary activities such as agricultural, forestry, fishing and lumbering, and having a small homogenous settlement that often lacks essential public facilities and community services.

The village can be referred to as the basic settlement unit of rural areas, and its orbit of influence is the target of the policy; based on this concept of the village, it therefore becomes the fundamental unit of rural planning (Abin, 1987)

A village is the center of contemporary life and for most people, a record of long historical background. The village of any Nation occupies a central place in the affection and pride of its people. Therefore, village planning efforts must attempt to maintain the traditional harmonies in the village, while justly infusing development changes, which attempt to integrate and modernize the rural communities.
Abin (1987) advocated the concept of Model Village Planning as a way of articulating policies aimed at improving the standard of living of the rural areas and it folks. In this concept certain existing villages or new ones are strategically and technically selected, for the purpose of demonstrating the result of the articulation of policies. The consequence of this is to stimulate internal changes within the village, while its effects spread to the neighbouring villages, who aspire to copy same model. It is of the view that over a given period, the positive effect would spread over, to the network of villages in the country or areas as a whole.

The village Characteristics can be viewed in terms of settlement size, density, homogeneity and occupational differences; as well as, the physical enclave forms, patterns, structure and functional elements.

Pattern and forms
Villages as a component of rural settlement can either be classified as dispense or cluster in terms of its locational pattern (United Nations, 1974).
The dispense pattern is viewed based on number of people or distances between houses; this can be Isolated or Hamlets in form. The isolated ones are single houses, surrounded by gardens near farmlands for gardening and planting of some food crops, around the dwelling; while the hamlet consist of group of compounds locate in the countryside in a scattered form. The form a village has is a function of the topographical, economic, historical, and cultural development in which it has developed (Olaseni, 2004).
As for the nucleated pattern, this takes the form of dwelling arrangement around some central features like market, Oba’s palace, Mosque, Church and other important natural or artificial landmarks. This may be in a linear form (i.e. along a road or other linear natural features, like river, stream etc.), compact, cluster, or circular shape. In this case, houses or compounds are closely-knitted; and shaped either roughly square, oblong, rectangular or spherical; thus, focusing the route centre, of a “Y” or “T” junction road.

Structurally, human settlements including development of villages show that people tend to organize their dwellings around central installations and facilities spatially and hierarchically, in an interconnected manner. The core area of hierarchical structure of settlements function as a network of “centres”, embracing the choices of services, which satisfies the principle of maximum return with minimum effort (Doxiadis, 1968; Udeh, 1978;).

Functional activities
Basically, the main functions or activities being carried out in the rural areas or a village is principally agrarians in nature, where people predominantly engage in primary activities, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, pottery, weaving and a host of others. Emphasizing this importance as far back as 1967, agriculture constituted about fifty six (56%) of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); but by 1985, its share of the GDP had fallen to less than twenty percent (20%), even though the rural areas still contain about eighty percent (80%) of the population of the country (Nwosu, 1986). The above characteristics should be clearly identified in any village planning exercise, specifically with a view to harnessing the potentials in the rural areas towards improving the living standard of the rural dwellers generally.

Village planning in the context of land use planning process demands a well thought-out plan of activities, comprising rational decisions on the socio-economic, physical environment, and available resources. Also, the location of infrastructural facilities and services need to be designed to facilitate maximization of travel cost, equity and satisfaction of special needs, on which appropriate future actions depend. Therefore, a well thought out land use planning processes must be followed to devise such plan. It is in this context that Ratcliffe’s (1978) work, amplified by Agbaeze (2003) noted that, the process of planning the human environment requires the ability to analyze and comprehend the existing situation in the context of its social, economic, political, and physical circumstances; and then forecast any likely changes apparent from prevailing trends; while understanding the extent to which such changes could affect other aspects of the environment; judge their desirability; decide upon the best strategy, and tactics to guide and control changes; and assess the performance of the chosen strategy and tactics. Similarly, city planning is considered a procedure involving-gathering of information, making recommendations, and taking actions. It also involves a system of analysis, studying the situation and reaching rational conclusion concerning municipal needs, objectives and the best courses of action (American planning Association, 1985; Agbaeze 2003).
Consequently, the rural village planning is conceptualized in line with the aforesaid procedures. This examines and analyzes the existing conditions, potentials, problems and prospects of a village and its adjoining settlements. The planning process is therefore presented as detailed below:

Site selection
In preparing a village development plan, the site selection, which determines the extent and boundary of a village to be planned, need be established first and foremost. This is declared as the planning area. Thus, the village base map is sourced and updated, using a topographical map on a scale of 1:2500 or 1:1250 to a clear understanding of existing development in the area. Subsequently, a reconnaissance survey is conducted using observation method to get familiarized with the existing problems and potentials; while emphasizing the physical, social, economic and environmental peculiarities of the area.
Outline of the village planning process
Devising a village plan can be achieved in different ways. At one extreme, careful and meticulous steps are logically followed to arrive at the best course of action. Great deal of time is spent collecting relevant facts and figures; while objective merits and demerits of actions are considered before selecting whichever options appear best tom meet the requirements.
At the other extreme, less effort may be applied before the selection of the first plan considered that would more or less meet the requirements. The process of devising a village plan depends on the subject matter of the plan and predisposition of the planner. Therefore, planning process to be adopted for production of a comprehensive planning process such as that of the rural village planning approach can be broken into a number of stages adopting different models, such as:
Rational comprehensive model; and
System analysis model.
Applying Rational Comprehensive Model approach in this instance. The following stages are carefully followed, having selected a site for study as earlier stated. These are:

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Formulation of Goal
First and foremost, goal and objectives should be formulated to ensure actions are not without purpose. The essence is to achieve certain ends, such as even and integrated development of all parts of the village. This becomes achievable, through identification of existing problems, potentials and prospects, as to facilitate judicious use of available resources; with a view to guiding future socio-economic, physical, cultural development of the village. The plan therefore infuses development impulses, though provision of facilities and services, in order to make the rural area worthwhile for living, working, recreation and circulation.
A goal is a mission statement of intent of an organization or individual. In most cases, usually broad and appear vague. For example, the goal or aim of a Village plan may be to prepare a development plan document, to serve as a guide for even development and enhancement of the living standard of residents of the study area. In this light, Nwachukwu (1998) identified the following qualities of good goals, as differentiated from a mere “wish”. These include, being specifically and clearly stated; measurable and verifiable achievements; realistic; specific period of achievement; intermediate targets, to facilitate attainment of major objectives; relevancy to issue being addressed; and ranking based on relative importance. To achieve the set goal, statement of objectives must be succinctly stated too.
However the goal of village planning/design is to supply the basic economic activities of the rural setting and guarantee good living standard of the rural population.

The objectives of a village development plan may include, but not limited to the following:
To comprehensively analyze and assess the existing physical characteristics, spatial structure, including infrastructural facilities, trend of development, problems and prospects of the study area.
To generate future development proposals for the study area among others.
Concisely, objectives simply highlight various way of achieving the desired goal of study. It is in this vain, Rue and Byars (1983) concluded, it is a statement designed to give and organization and its member direction and purpose. This stage is followed by organizing public information and organization forum.

Public Information and Interaction Forum

Information is crucial to effective planning, and its successes. Since nothing can be done in the absence of knowledge of real world. For instance, statement of desire of future goals is meaningless without appreciation of whether they have been achieved already. Public information and interaction forum should be organized to provide the necessary information and interactions. This is where the discussion of planning intent, public enlightenment and education, as well as problems and issues are analyzed and x-rated accordingly. This is followed by a detailed identification of the planning problems and data collection.

Identification of Planning Problems
Identification of problems facilitates drawing up of objectives, which addresses the generalized goal, and further leads to refinement of such goal. Meanwhile, the problems identified serve as the basis for the information to be collected.
This information could be collected from various sources; such as library research and documentation of relevant information; as well as comprehensive preliminary field survey of the study area and its environs. This x-rays the existing facilities and morphology of the areas, using observation technique (Goode and Halt, 1952; Agbaeze, 2003). This is use for analysis and examination of the trend of phenomenon, and updating of the base map. Others include oral interview, including administration of questionnaires to collect socio-economic related data, which touches on occupation, employment, income, household size and some other facilities; such as education, health and public utilities, housing, leisure and recreation, transportation among others, as existing in the village for proper analysis and focus.
These data are further analyzed using appropriate statistical tools, including the use o regression analysis technique, and computer aided packages to elicit vivid explanation of the planning problems. Whichever technique is adopted, the following steps according to Agbaeze (2003) become necessary they include:
Categorization of data into groups
Indicating relationship and trends
To replicate relationship of various variables.
The information analyzed, therefore, assist in anticipating a possible forecast for the future; as well as generation of active plans.

Generation of Alternative Plans

Generation of alternative plans or ways of achieving the desired goals is necessary in order to ensure that potentially useful plans are not overlooked. All the alternative concept village plans to be generated must be implementable; however, one of such plans is usually picked on critical evaluation based on some selected criteria. It also needs to be highlighted that no specific procedure of generating alternative plans exist, but this is usually based on information collected and analyzed. At the level of village design, it involves preparation of schematic representation, basically in form of sketches, maps, chart, designed for purpose of illustrations.
The list of these maps includes:
Existing situation map showing
Building situation map showing
Land use
Vegetation and soil type and distribution
Rainfall and wind (distribution and direction)
Crops production and geographical distribution
Infrastructure amenities and services
Topography and geographical features
Population distribution
Alternative plan maps
Site analysis map
Location map in Regional, National and Local setting

2. List of chart may include
(i) Demographic trend and structure
(ii) Major economic activities and volume
(iii) Sun intensity and duration

In addition, a report is to be written to give detailed explanation of the plans. The components of the plan needs to be prepared on an appropriate scale, say 1:2500 or 1:1250, 1:2000 or 1:1000 as applicable. Other elements of the village plan may include, land use plan; constraints and potentials map/sieve map; relief and vegetation; temperature; humidity and rainfall; road network proposal; utilities and facilities map; action area map, phasing plan among others.

Evaluation of Alternative Plans
Evaluation of the alternative plans is required to identify the optimum strategy. This is a state where evaluating course of action is taken in ascertaining the desirability of concept plans or alternative plans for recommendation to decision makers. The evaluation of alternative plan takes into consideration the cost implication of the plan to be selected. Such cost may be economic, social and physical, in terms of components. The essence is to eliminate subjectivity in the plans; while some relevant techniques for plan evaluation, even at the village level, include Cost Benefit Analysis, Goal Achievement Matrix, Simulation Techniques, just to mention a few.

Implementation of Acceptable Plan
Having evaluated the plans, implementation of the chosen strategy is necessary if planning is to have an effect on the village environment. Implementation of the chosen plan is the execution of the preferred plan. At this stage, effort is made in the realization of the objectives of the plan; and adequate political will and public participation, including financial resources, together with legal framework are required to be put in place, for effective plan implementation. This involves series of action and interconnectivity of the plan toward realization of its goal. Similarly, the role of all agencies to be involved in the implementation of the plan must be well spelt out; while adequate coordination must equally be ensured. Also, cost of the plan must at this stage be ascertained; this is, the financial implication of activities and actions to be carried out. Furthermore, phasing details, including spacing out the developmental programmes over a period of time-say 20 years should be adequately covered and programmes spaced-out accordingly.

Monitoring of the Plan
Monitoring of the plan being implemented is then required to ensure that the plan is working successfully. The success of the plan can only be ascertained, when compared with the goal and objectives earlier set for the village development. It is in the course of monitoring the plan that a categorical statement could be made as to the success or otherwise of the plan; while this could lead to generation of additional problems, which may necessitate review of the plan and setting of a new set of goal and objectives altogether.

The above described stages are basic steps involved in village planning process in a typical rural setting, which may be designed to facilitate even development of the rural area, towards ensuring improve living condition of the people as a whole.