When it comes to development most take sides. I am not talking about of one country over another, or good guys versus the not so good guys. Theorists and practitioners, however, do like to specialise in either ‘rural’ or ‘urban’ development. However, the distinction between the two really isn’t quite so simple. National bench-marks of what is considered urban and what rural certainly don’t help either since, depending on which country’s definition you use, India can be more than 70% or less than 30% rural (1).
Take the city of Sololá, the capital of a municipality and a department of the same name in the highlands of Guatemala. Every municipal capital is considered ‘urban’ by the national statistics office and the city’s latest official population counted 68,120 people residing across four barrios (city sections) (2). Whilst this figure would ‘feel’ far too large to any visitor, warranting further investigation, the image of it built in the mind of a distant reader (and their subsequent analysis of it by students and policy makers alike) will vary greatly depending on which statistic is used by the author: the official city figure or the actual population residing within the ‘urban’ space, which, at 8,851 is barely 13% of that (3). And that isn’t the city’s only rural-urban misconception. Read More »