1250 GMT August 23, 2019
From an epistemological standpoint, the adopted approach for planning and development of rural cooperatives was positivism which has led to assume rural business as a component of the natural environment.
Adopting such a simplistic approach has resulted in taking the territorial division and rural zoning as a basis for national rural planning. Currently, the tradition of territorial-oriented planning has been dominated by the planning of rural cooperatives too.
Consequently, this form of planning, which neglects the gradual disposition of rural settlements in and out, could provide no vision for state investment in development project including dam construction, vast irrigation systems, superhighways, development of metropolises and new rural residents in the downstream lands of dams, railways, emerging markets, and tourism. Furthermore, it is not capable enough to address the institutionalized insecurity, cross borders, and regional transformations, geopolitical issues, circulation of people, goods, information and innovations as well as access to rare resources.
Although these parameters strongly influence the rural spatial development and surveys, they have been overlooked due to the huge domination of positivism in the field of national rural planning.
Even though recent measures of the two late states in turning several villages to townships, this important notion has been neglected.
The circulation and interaction of all of the agents, including individuals, goods, money, information, technologies, and materials as well as rural-urban linkages were the lost components of the rural areas.
I strongly believe that national planning, in general, and rural cooperative planning, in particular, should be done based on the rural zoning which categorized rural areas by spatial transformation rather than natural criteria including watershed zones.
Territorial-oriented zoning is no longer inspiring. In developed countries, rural zoning is done by observing the structural and functional transformation, since the development trend of each rural district differs and does not follow a single variable called natural environment.
Iranian rural areas are not traditionally integrated as 50 years ago. For instance, the villages neighboring metropolises are thoroughly different from those neighboring the agricultural zone.
Also, they are completely different from the villages which are under the influence of free trade zones. Villages affected by free trade are different from villages adjacent to the agro-industrial zone.
Furthermore, the borderline villages are influenced by formal and informal transactions and geostrategic specifications. Also, neighboring of many villages with the urban areas has functionally turned them into dormitories or leisure zones for cities. The villages around Sarein in Ardabil Province, the villages around Tehran Province, as well as Torqabeh and Shandiz around Mashhad could be named dormitory villages which absorb the spillover population of the metropolises.
In my opinion, the temporal-spatial dimensions of rural settlements have been faced with five major changes:
1. Huge land-use changes, triggered by the vast invasion of urbanism which has resulted in imperceptible degradation of mountains, forests, and coastal lands.
2. Transition to modernity, the formation of the individuality of peasants due to freedom from social constraints.
3. Spatial segregation resulting from the division of labor, power relations, social stratification, occupational opportunities, eco-tourism, agro-tourism and, cultural tourism. Furthermore, spatial segregation could be impressed by cropping pattern changes, commercialized cropping, incentive cropping and enhancement of the rural income because of diversification of income sources.
4. The role of the state in the transformation of rural habitats in the two major phases: First, after the land reformation era, and second, after the Islamic Revolution, associating with the injection of petroleum money in rural areas.
5. Expansion of the industrial-agricultural chain, locate inevitably rural settlements in the industrial zones which bring about new streams of raw materials, money, knowledge, machinery and result in pendulum immigration and slumming.
It is worth mentioning that direct and objective state interventions by the development of agro-joint stock companies, rural production cooperatives, greenhouses, technological changes in the irrigation system, along with the gradual movement of villages toward the main roads for enjoying infrastructural services has structurally changed them during the past half-century.
Exiting their historical position, the rural areas introduce differentiated potentials and represent diversified functions with no generalizability, yet they face differentiated challenges and problems, too.
Certainly, CORC would not succeed in acting effectively by adopting a mono facet national plan which is based on mere natural criteria. Even though CORC is going to develop a new generation of cooperative to be resilient enough for facing systematic and unsystematic challenges. It sounds natural that the cooperative developed based on the positivism planning lack of resiliency would be doomed.
Considering the potential functions of rural cooperatives as well as the complexity of human, economy and cultural development issues, it seems by inclusion of “spatial issue” in the literature of rural development, CORC would be able to promote cooperatives to a social and civilized organ, powerful enough to resolve many problems of rural communities through adopting a market-oriented approach.
The very high proportion of small-scale farmers causes irregularity in the management process of human resources and economy, therefore the importance of “spatial –oriented” approach reflects a fundamental basis for rural planning.
*Hossein Shirzad is deputy minister of Agricultural Jihad and CEO of the Central Organization for Rural Cooperatives (CORC).