The last 100 years have ushered in major changes to the countryside. Rural people have been reduced to a minority and the farmers too have become a minority even in the rural areas. Mines have opened and closed, creating and then eliminating communities. Forests have been harvested and restored. And in some rural regions, a large number of manufacturing units appeared and then largely disappeared. At the turn of the 21st century, one thing is clear: rural areas will not return to the way they were unless there are sound policies for rural development.
In the Third World countries villages have been uprooted in the name of development. In setting up thermal plants, forests have been cleared, destroying the homes of indigenous people residing there for centuries. Installation of hydroelectric power generation systems dislodged hundreds of thousands of villagers from their homes.
 What is Lacking in Rural Areas
In several countries, though the growth in population is slowing down and there is increased efficiency in agricultural production, what is lacking is improvement in public services, such as health, education, and physical infrastructure. Also sufficient nonagricultural rural jobs to absorb the growing rural work force are also not being created
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures:
• The majority of the world’s poor lives in rural areas, and is disproportionately dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, particularly resources such as soil, forests and fish.
• In 2000, 53% of the world's 6.1 billion people lived in rural areas, a figure that is expected to drop to 40% by 2030.
• To meet future demands, the world's farmers will have to produce 40% more grain in 2020 than in 1999. Most of this will have to come from yield increases on existing land.
• More than 30 million of the world's 240 million irrigated hectares have been severely damaged by the build-up of salt, and a further 80 million hectares are affected by a combination of salinization and water-logging.
• Consistency of grain supply is a major global problem. 2003 saw the largest ever shortfall in world grain production - 105 million tonnes - bringing stocks to their lowest level in 30 years and allowing for only 59 days of consumption.
• In 2003, 67.7 million hectares of genetically modified crops were planted globally - a 15% increase on the previous year - involving nearly 7 million farmers in 18 countries.
• The number of tractors in most developed countries in 2001was 895 per 1,000 farmers while, in the least developed countries was four tractors per 1,000 farmers
 UN Millennium Declaration
Many international institutions such as UNDP, OECD, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration of bringing world poverty down to half by 2015. This calls for very major thrust on rural development as 75% of the world’s poor lives in rural areas.
Global efforts towards reducing poverty will be affected because India and China, which have the largest number of poor people in the world, are not receiving adequate help with their anti-poverty programs. Moreover, major stress especially on liberalization and economic growth has left social sectors such as health and education neglected. There is insufficient focus on rural development even though 70 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas. This percentage is much higher in sub-Saharan Africa
 Rural Development Process
Rural development is a process, in which typically a large number of individuals in many different sectors of society are involved: local farmers, administrators, representatives of advisory boards, business managers, local politicians - to mention just a few.
Some of the major processes involved in rural development are:
• Inputs of communities in efforts to identify barriers and find solutions.
• Innovative approaches to more effectively resolve rural development issues at all levels.
• Assistance to member agencies and organizations in structuring and implementing a problem solving process at the agency and/or organization level.
•Serves as a voice on common issues of rural concerns.
 Technology for Rural Development
Rural technology development should be driven by the motive of providing convenience. People may be ready to pay higher prices for goods which provide greater convenience. Nothing should hold back the introduction of complex and sophisticated technologies for rural areas. As long as these technologies are backed by good after-sales service, are convenient to use and are reasonably priced, they will spread rapidly.
• A number of technologies are developed for rural areas. But they are mostly urban based and only percolate down to rural areas.
• Technology development should take place keeping in mind the aspirations of the rural people which are similar to those living in urban areas.
• Most of the technology developments for rural areas are kept simple so that the rural people can make the devices themselves. This is needless because in urban areas we don’t make things ourselves but depend on specialists to do so.
• Rural technology is developed with the aim of catering to needs (with small improvement) rather than creating a demand. Technology is successful when it meets a demand. For this reason work on making better ‘chulahs’ is not accepted because it doesn’t meet a demand for greater convenience, but is only an improvement on an existing need
• It is unfortunate that those with resources lack perception of the needs and demands of rural population. Whereas the grass-root NGOs, who have the perception of the problem, do not have the technological resources to meet the needs
PC for Chinese Flower growers
Growing flowers and plants has been the mainstay small business in China’s YAOJIA VILLAGE in Henan Province. Today the plant growers are transforming the trading model with the use of computers. Intel recently launched a PC platform designed to promote digital literacy and simple, affordable technology access to China's rural population.
Mobile phones helping rural markets in India
In India rural population is greatly benefiting from the use of mobile phone. They are able to widen their markets by providing timely information on crowd gathering. With mobile phones even small traders like fish, watermelon and balloon sellers are able to widen their market, locate customers, and raise their revenue
Renewable energy for rural development
Access to energy is essential for rural development. If providing conventional energy is difficult or expensive in rural areas, specially tribal areas, with proper planning and appropriate conservation measures existing springs and streams can be revived to make micro and mini hydel plants to generate adequate electrical energy to meet the needs of the villages dependant on it. There is also great potential for establishing the potential biomass-based gasifiers in many far out areas.
Health and Education
Good health and education are two prerequisites for sustainable development - and agriculture contributes to both. Adequate nutrition is indispensable to attaining good health and an adequate supply of food is a key determinant of adequate nutrition. This factor alone can drastically reduce malnutrition in adults and children, and increase birth weights of newborns. By improving incomes and nutrition, gains in agricultural productivity can help break the cycle of passing malnutrition from one generation to the next. In addition, it is often the savings from agriculture that provide the means to meet expenses relating to educating children.