“Smart Villages” instead of “Smart Cities” – why our focus is rural

According to the United Nations, cities and towns are expected to be home to over 66% of the world’s population by 2050. Cities are, as reported by the World Bank, the ‘places where dreams for joining the middle class can come true and where better futures can be built for young families.’ The unbridled appeal of cities also increases the rural-urban divide. WECONNEX makes sure those staying behind do not get left behind.

Moving to urban areas is strongly connected to the promise of greater economic prosperity and improved livelihoods. But the shift from rural to urban – beyond being a fascinating development – also involves unprecedented challenges. While there are several grand challenges to be tackled by today’s world, achieving sustainable cities is one of them. Widening income gaps, unbearable levels of pollution, overwhelmed housing spaces and aging infrastructure are just some examples.

Few countries are adequately prepared for these challenges, and even fewer are capable of managing them in a planned manner. And what comes more and is often forgotten: who feels responsible for those missing out on this shift? The rural-urban divide will get too deep if an integrated development is not safeguarded.

Our reasoning
The NEXUS Projects by WECONNEX target underdeveloped rural regions of BoP (bottom of the pyramid) markets. We deliberately address communities strongly dependent on agriculture and/or fishing. Why is precisely this our business model?

  1. We support the policy of leaving no one behind. Therefore, we believe that rural regions also have the right to adequate infrastructure development. 3/4thsof the world’s poor live in rural areas. Thus, the increasing pressure on cities as well as the rural-urban divide shall be reduced.
  2. Food security. At the current rate of global population growth, the world will need to increase food production by 50 – 100% by 2050. Knowing that we depend to 50% on smallholder farmers to reach global food production, including them in development progress is crucial.
  3. The balance of our global ecosystem is struggling with the rapid and uncontrolled growth of cities and aching under the pressure of urbanization. We counter that imbalance by establishing sound and functioning rural (eco)systems.
  4. Promising potential for financial profit. The growing city populations need increasing amounts of food. The higher economic status often asks for better quality and more sustainability. Both trends add to the potential of smallholder farmers and fishermen to become economically profitable and offer attractive employment opportunities for young generations.
  5. Last but not least, even though “Smart Cities” receive a lot of attention from investors and development programs, we believe that “Smart Villages” offer more direct potential. Less administrative and legal hurdles, faster implementation, manageable size, better social and ecological impact and higher scalability are just some advantages of “Smart Villages” compared to “Smart Cities”.

Inclusive development and shared prosperity
We are aware that we cannot focus on rural areas exclusively, also here a holistic perspective is required. The products coming from rural areas need to be sold in urban settings, only then both sides can profit. Based on our mission to contribute to reaching the SDGs by 2030, we strive to be inclusive. Our projects integrate small fishing villages with larger fish markets through securing transport and a cold chain. Or they connect smallholder farmers with regional and (inter)national markets by improving their agricultural methods, product quality and network accessibility.

Not all people will migrate, some never will. Public services and productivity in the rural economy are to be promoted despite the main focus being on thriving cities. The future is about inclusive development and shared prosperity. About ensuring a connection and linked development between rural and urban areas. This improves human capital, health, education and pushes for better infrastructure for all.

Source: nexus ch

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