Urban drift

The Minister for Agriculture, Inia Seruiratu, is reported (FT 20/3) to have said that the cause of rural to urban drift is the lack of development in rural areas. He is by no means the first person to have said this or believed it, indeed it seems to have been a mantra of every government since before independence — but is it true?

The reason I question it is very simple. While I make no claim to have made a detailed study, my overall impression after many years of visiting villages throughout the country is that the number of yasa (persons absent from their village) is rarely related to the extent of ‘development’. In other words, I have found that many villages that are relatively well ‘developed’ still have large numbers of their denizens in the towns and elsewhere, whereas it is often the least ‘developed’ villages that are not only the most populous, but also the most vibrant.

I am not saying that things like schools, hospitals, water supply and roads are not welcome, or that the amount of arable land is irrelevant, but that the attractiveness of village life may be more dependent on other factors, such as community spirit, pride and good leadership.

So, has anyone ever done a detailed study of this correlation which so many so earnestly believe in, or is it a falsehood so often repeated that it has become accepted as gospel?