Synthesis Documents

Stepping out of agriculture. Topic Guide, by Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats,Evidence on Demand, 2015

    In low-income countries, rural areas are currently home to the majority of households. Most households in these rural areas are engaged in small-scale agriculture. As economies grow and countries develop it is expected that some households will specialise in farming, but that many others will move out – or ‘step out’ – of farming. Household members will take up work in the rural non-farm economy (RNFE) or migrate to towns and cities. This Topic Guide concerns how members of smallholder households leave agriculture for better-paying businesses and jobs.

    The Guide is organised as follows:
    • Section 2 presents a broad schema of development transformations and transitions as countries move from low to higher income status. It considers the implications, and the questions these transformations and transitions prompt
    • Section 3 looks at the rural non-farm economy (RNFE) – its nature, the opportunities it offers, and what affects growth rates and patterns
    • Section 4 deals with migration and how this can produce positive outcomes
    • Section 5 examines the links between urban and rural areas and the influence of these links on the potential for rural non-farm activities as well as for migration out of rural areas. It also reviews urban hierarchies and the different opportunities offered by metropolitan and secondary cities, since these affect rural-urban links
    • Section 6 looks at the social implications, including for gender relations, of the changes that may take place
    • Section 7 summarises the lessons for DFID advisers.