support the capacity of local institutions and government to identify the opportunities andconstraints for poverty reduction and regional development provided by rural-urban linkages, andact on them
help develop a dialogue between national and local government to ensure a better integrationbetween national macro-economic and sectoral policies and local initiatives.The principal topics that we are currently working on are:
Governance in decentralised structures, especially in small urban centres and peri-urban areas
Because of the variations in the nature and scale of rural-urban interactions between and within nations,local governments are best placed to respond to location-specific needs and priorities. Decentralisation hasgreat potential with regard to efficiency and democratic accountability, but often carries costs andconstraints (such as insufficient revenue and capacity, and weak links with national planning). Specialattention is given to the identification of ways to better support local governments, particularly inimproving the role of small and intermediate urban centres in the development of their surroundingregions and in peri-urban areas.
The role of urban centres in the development of their surrounding rural region
Access to urban markets is key to increasing incomes for rural and peri-urban producers. Crucialdimensions include: physical infrastructure (including road networks and affordable transport); therelations between producers and traders; and farmers' information on how markets operate, includingprice fluctuations and consumer preferences. Special attention is also given to local urban markets as linksto regional, national and international markets through the analysis of commodity supply chains.
Income diversification and rural non-farm employment
There is ample evidence that most rural (and in many cases urban) households rely on the combination of farm and non-farm income sources, thereby reducing fluctuations and risk and, in some cases, increasingtheir asset base. Research on this theme focuses on transformations in local labour markets (ofteninfluenced by globalisation) and how they affect different groups on the basis of gender, age, migrantstatus, ethnicity, wealth and location. Emerging issues such as the role of clustering in the development of small-scale enterprises, and opportunities in the growing tourism industry are also explored.