Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Rural Settlement’ for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Rural Settlement’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Rural Settlement
- Essay on Introduction to Rural Settlement
- Essay on the Distribution and Patterns of Rural Settlements
- Essay on the Factors of Rural Settlements
- Essay on the Function of Rural Settlements
- Essay on the Advantages of Rural Settlements
- Essay on the Disadvantages of Rural Settlements
- Essay on the Evolution of Rural Settlements
Essay # 1. Introduction to Rural Settlement:
In rural settlement the most basic sitting factors can be seen clearly at work. This is because permanent villages, like the semi-permanent settlements of shifting cultivators or nomads, or the temporary camps of hunters and gatherers, from which they evolved, have the same basic requirements of food, water, shelter and protection.
As man has developed more and more sophisticated techniques of obtaining a living, he has been able to depend more and more on a single place to provide his livelihood, but the basic requirements must be present. if these needs are provided, other factors such as planning can come into play and affect the siting of settlement.
In most countries the pattern of rural settlement that we see today is the result of a series of adjustments to the environment which have been going on for centuries. In some countries, however, either as part of a land reform scheme or because the pressure of population in the existing settled areas is becoming too great, new villages and rural settlements are being established today.
Some of these may grow up spontaneously because migrants or squatters settle on hitherto unused land, or they may be the result of government policy and be carefully planned. The planning of settlement in new areas was fairly common in the past, too, but the planning involved was usually to ensure an equitable distribution of land.
Today when a new village is planned many related facilities, such as roads, electricity, schools and clinics, as well as land for the farmers, have to be provided. More is known, too, of soils and other natural conditions and this makes planning of modern villages both more complex and more costly than it was in the past.
In view of the high cost of opening up new land in this way, we should consider whether this is really the best way of coping with the problem of pressure on land. What are the advantages and disadvantages of planned rural settlements today?
The best way to answer this question is to concentrate on one kind of settlement in particular. The Federal Land Development Authority Schemes of Malaysia are an excellent example of planned opening up of new land. By 1980 the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) had established 286 schemes of various sizes and the number of families resettled was over 30,000 (or more than 150,000 people).
The largest schemes are the Jengka Triangle Scheme in central Pahang, which covers over 40 000 hectares (100,000 acres) and even larger areas in Johore and southern Pahang where development is at an early stage. The early schemes of Felda were much smaller and this enabled the authority to gain essential experience in land development.
The process of opening up the land is in several stages. First the selected area has to be carefully surveyed and investigated in the field to find whether soils, slope angles and accessibility are suitable. Once this has been done it is possible to draw up plans of the exact areas to be settled, the number of settlers to be accommodated and the type of crop to be grown.
The land is cleared, the forest being exploited for timber, and a network of roads is laid down. Houses are built for the families and other facilities such as schools and electricity are also established. In the meanwhile, young plants are raised in nurseries and then transplanted into the cleared lands. The main crops on Felda schemes so far have been the two main cash crops of Malaysia, rubber and oil palm, but greater diversification is foreseen in future schemes.
When the settlers come to the area they are at first employed by the authority to maintain the land. When the trees have become established and are yielding, and the farmers have mastered the work they will have to do, the land is handed over to the individual settlers. They have to pay back the cost of their homes to Felda over a period of 15 years. Central processing facilities such as oil- palm mills are built, and are run by Felda.
It will be seen that Felda proceeds slowly and carefully in selecting land for settlement and in ensuring that the crops are well-established and well-cared for before allowing the settlers to fully control their holdings. In the early stages of a scheme a settler is not much different from an estate labourer except that, if he is far-sighted enough, he realizes that in time he will have a worthwhile holding and a reasonable income.
The Felda schemes are staffed by well-qualified managers and agricultural assistants. Ideally, during the period of waiting for their trees to mature the new villagers will become used to their new surroundings, settle amicably with their new neighbours who may come from widely scattered localities with different traditions and outlooks, and learn to run their land carefully and not over-exploit it.
Essay # 2. Distribution and Patterns of Rural Settlements:
The distribution and pattern of rural settlements can be approached in two ways. Firstly we can examine the size of settlements in relation to the environment and secondly we can study the pattern and shape of the settlements.
Rural settlements are of three sizes; the isolated building or group of buildings, housing one family and perhaps a number of farm workers; the hamlet of a few buildings, some of which may be farms or houses; and the village, which may have only a few houses or several hundreds depending on the conditions in the area.
Isolated settlements are usually farms built at a distance from other settlements because the farmer wishes to live on his own land, rather than live in a distant village and travel to his farm every day. Alternatively the farm may be so far from the next settlement that such travel would be impossible. This is often the case with ranches in western U.S.A. or Canada or with Australian sheep or cattle stations.
Hamlets are also found in the rather remote areas where the population is sparse, such as the Pennines of northern England. They consist of only one or two farms or houses and perhaps a church or shop or post office which serves not only the hamlet itself but also the outlying farms and houses.
In most countries however the village is the typical form of rural settlement. Apart from houses and farms it usually contains public buildings like a mosque, church or temple, a village hall, perhaps one or two shops and a post office.
The size of the village is determined by a number of factors:
1. The absolute size of the population will naturally affect the size of the village. In areas of dense population, or areas where families tend to be large the villages may each house several thousand people and will cover a fairly large area. In sparsely or moderately populated areas, however, villages will contain fewer people and fewer houses.
2. The number of people in villages is governed to a great extent by the ability of the land to support population. When the limit is reached part of the population will have to move away to new areas to create new villages and clear new land, or will move to towns to obtain work. Thus there is an optimum size for villages in any particular area.
3. The size of the village may be determined by a preconceived plan. For instance new villages created on Federal Land Development Authority Schemes in Malaysia are expected to house a certain population, necessary for the working of rubber or oil-palm plantings in the area.
4. The size of a village may be affected by its stage of development or by changes in population due to outside influences. If a village is newly-established it may be smaller than the average size of villages in the region, but this may only be a temporary phase.
Changes in population can cause villages to grow or decline. As a result of poverty or due to agricultural changes rural depopulation may take place. On the other hand if a village is near a town it may attract extra non-farming population and thus expand.
So far the size of villages has been considered in terms of the number of buildings and the size of the population. The areal dimensions of villages containing a similar number of people may however differ according to the traditional shape and distribution of the village buildings.
If, for instance, each house is surrounded by its own plot of garden land, as in a Malay kampung, the village may spread over a fairly large area. On the other hand, the settlement may be very compact like the Iban longhouses of East Malaysia, where the whole village lives in one or two long buildings in which each family has a separate compartment. Most African and European villages are clusters of buildings at the centre of the cultivated land but in many parts of North America, for instance, isolated farms are more common.
The size of the village may also be determined by physical factors of site; a village may be prevented from growing in a given direction by an obstacle such as a hill or swamp. Island or hilltop villages are restricted in all directions and are thus often compact and small in area.
The most marked differences in settlement patterns are those between dispersed and nucleated settlements. Almost everywhere in the world nucleated settlement is more common than dispersed. There are several reasons for this. In the first place men tend to dislike solitude and thus gather together for company.
Often people in a village share tools or other equipment and in some cases work the land in common so that it is most convenient to live together in close proximity. The need for defence against animals or people also encourages nucleated settlements for such dangers are more easily withstood by groups than by single families.
Finally, many villages were established where forest or other vegetation had to be cleared. Such clearings were originally small and the village had to be compact. As more and more land was cleared, however, the village would not have grown in proportion but would have remained relatively small in area. Thus men have built compact villages from the earliest times.
Dispersed settlement, however, is almost always of relatively recent date. The dispersed pattern of the Prairie settlements of North America is a clear example, being established only during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Elsewhere, as in Europe, some dispersed settlements are of long standing but even these grew up long after the original village settlements were established.
New techniques have made hitherto unusable areas productive, and improved transport and communications mean that the people who live in scattered settlements are not cut off from other human contact as they would have been in an earlier period. Thus dispersed settlement has been more common in modern times but it has never succeeded in replacing or improving on nucleated settlement.
Even where it has been practiced most widely, in North America, there is now a tendency for people from outlying farms to move into neighbouring small towns to take advantage of the human company they provide as well as the modern facilities and shops.
Essay # 3. Factors of Rural Settlement:
1. Water Supply:
Water is the most necessary of human needs and examples of settlements which are not located near water are very rare indeed. They are mostly very recent settlements to which water can be supplied by modern means such as pipelines and where other factors such as rich mineral resources make this an economic possibility.
Ancient settlements which had, for reasons of defence, to be located on hills or at some distance from water are often characterized by the presence of deep wells, dams and dew-ponds for the collection of water.
Usually, however, settlements were founded near rivers, lakes, and springs where water could be easily obtained. Sometimes the need for water drove people to settle in otherwise disadvantageous sites such as islands surrounded by swamps or on low-lying river banks. Such sites are often restricted in area or are liable to flood.
Most water-based or wet-point settlements have many advantages. Besides providing water for drinking, cooking and washing, rivers and lakes can be used to irrigate farming land: Water contains fish which can be caught to supplement the diet, navigable rivers and lakes can be used for transport, and defence is also facilitated if a village is surrounded by water.
Springs and wells allow settlements to survive in areas where few rivers flow such as deserts or extensive limestone areas. Water often issues from the base of a limestone layer at a series of springs and villages sited by such springs are known as spring-line settlements (Fig. 2.12).
Farmers will not choose to settle at points where the land is unsuitable for their traditional crops. Thus the founders of villages in Europe avoided swampy, low-lying land and settled first in the areas of rolling country. On the other hand, when the Mongoloid peoples entered South-East Asia and began to settle they chose the low-lying river valleys and coastal plains which were suited to wet rice cultivation.
Not only must the land suit the crops of settlers but also it must be suited to their tools and equipment. Early farmers in Europe could not turn the heavy clayey soil of the valleys with their simple ploughs so they built their villages on the uplands where the soil was lighter and more easily worked.
It is also important to remember that most original village settlements were almost self-sufficient, though many are no longer so, and thus they would choose a site from which they had access to a variety of types of land including pasture, arable land and woodland. It is common for villages to enclose within their boundaries such a variety of land (Fig. 2.12).
3. Dry Land:
If water and land were available, the site chosen for the building of a village was usually one where the land was dry and not subject to frequent flooding. This was an elementary precaution to prevent damage to houses and loss of life. Thus, wherever settlement has taken place near rivers or in low-lying areas, people have sought out dry-points.
These may be on the outside of river bends rather than on the lower inner sides of meanders; on river terraces or on levees, e.g. along the levees of the lower Mississippi there is a continuous line of settlements; at the side of valleys above the flood plain or around the foot of prominent hills (Fig. 2.13); on islands in marshes (Fig. 2.2) and lakes; on sandy beach ridges (permatang) as on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia or even on man-made mounds (terpen), e.g. in the Netherlands.
Another way of overcoming problems of flooding is to build houses on piles or stilts. This is common in lakeside and coastal villages in Africa and Asia. In Malaysia and Indonesia a large proportion of the houses are built on stilts, both as a protection against flood and against insect and animal pests. Building houses on stilts in tropical countries has an added advantage in that it helps to keep them cool by allowing the air to circulate beneath them.
The availability of building materials, either wood or stone, near a settlement is another great advantage. When most villages were first established they were built in forest clearings arid wood was plentiful. But wood and stone are not the only important building materials.
In loess areas such as northern China, for example, cave dwellings are excavated in the soft earth. In regions with few trees, e.g. in the African savannas, the chief building material is the earth itself, often made into mud-bricks. In the polar regions ice-blocks are used to construct the typical igloos of the Eskimos.
Another aspect of shelter is the choice of sites favoured by climatic conditions. In mountain areas people often choose sunny south-facing slopes (Fig. 2.14), (in the northern hemisphere) or north-facing slopes (in the southern hemisphere) as the site of their villages because this side of the valley will be warmer.
People usually avoid wind-swept heights, frost hollows and areas prone to damp unhealthy mists. Where winds are strong in open country they often have to protect their houses with windbreaks of trees. Coastal villages are often sited on sheltered bays or lagoons.
Another important factor is health. People do not choose to settle in disease-prone areas. For example the low-lying areas of Italy, which were malarial, were not settled until malaria had been brought under control. When this had happened a series of new settlements was established, e.g. in the Plain of Latium to the west of Rome. In Sri Lanka, too, the Dry Zone was long avoided by settlers because of the prevalence of malaria.
Most villages were created in the distant past when political instability, the hostility of neighbouring groups and other causes of insecurity made a defensive site a great advantage. For this reason many villages were built on defensible hills, islands or promontories.
In Nigeria for instance the upstanding inselbergs formed good defensive positions and were often used as settlement sites. Many villages, though not actually built on hills were located at their foot (Fig. 2.15) so that in times of trouble the people could retreat into the fortified heights. In many areas villages were also built near monasteries or the castles of powerful nobles, which offered some form of protection in times of unrest.
6. Planned Settlements:
Sites for settlements may not be spontaneously chosen by the villagers themselves and this is often the case with planned settlements in hitherto uninhabited areas. Providing that water, food and shelter can be obtained planners can arrange new settlements in a variety of patterns.
New villages have been created and old villages re-planned from the earliest times by landlords, conquerors or governments who wished to impose greater order on their possessions or to streamline agricultural production.
Planning is mostly associated, however, with recent expansion into unsettled land. New villages have been created in newly drained land, e.g. in southern Spain and in newly cleared forest areas, e.g. in Malaysia, and such settlements often follow the traditional patterns of settlement in surrounding areas.
Sometimes, however, the arrangement of new settlement is almost independent of the natural features and does not resemble established villages. The influence of this kind of settlement planning can be seen in central and western U.S.A. and Canada where a grid-iron pattern was rigidly applied.
Essay # 4. Functions of Rural Settlements:
The functions of most rural settlements are agricultural. The isolated settlements are usually farms while the main functions of villages are to house the rural population. In addition, however, the village or hamlet has -other functions. It is often a minor shopping centre, with one or two shops and perhaps a post office and it is also a social centre.
Its church, mosque or temple is a religious focus and other social activities such as clubs are often based on villages. Many villages also have some administrative functions though these are usually on a minor scale. Elected village councils or hereditary leaders in the area sometimes have a degree of power over village activities, while in many areas the villagers must act as a body to decide when certain crops should be planted or harvested or when irrigation water should be released into the fields.
Not all villages are based on agriculture. The largest group of non-agricultural villages are fishing villages. These are sited on rivers, lakes or coasts and the people look to the water rather than the land to provide their livelihood. The main occupation is of course fishing, but this may be combined with some agricultural activity.
In some parts of the world mining villages exist, but these were more common in the past in areas such as northern England and southern Belgium, when small-scale mining for coal or other minerals was economic.
Nowadays mining is usually an urban activity. Lumbering, too, can sometimes give rise to village settlement, but the kind of lumbering camp which is only occupied while felling is going on and then abandoned in favour of a new camp, is not a true village. Where lumbering is on a large scale and timber industries develop, urban rather than rural settlements are more usual.
Fishing, mining or lumbering villages are like agricultural settlements in having a few shops and some small-scale administrative functions, but they differ from towns, as do all villages, in the relatively narrow range of their activities and their lack of commercial and industrial development.
Essay # 5. Advantages of Rural Settlements:
The main advantages of such carefully planned settlements can be summarized as follows:
1. Social Advantages:
The main advantage of planned (and of unplanned settlements) is that they give people who were previously landless a holding of their own. In planned schemes this holding is more likely to consist of good land because it has been carefully surveyed, and already carries a crop suitable to the area.
The settlements are planned to give each family a reasonably good income and the land is equitably distributed. At the same time, rural resettlement has wider advantages of restricting the ‘drift to the towns’ and relieving the dissatisfaction of poor peasants in overpopulated areas.
As yet Felda has made little headway against the very rapid population growth and its associated problems in Malaysia, but when larger schemes are completed it may go some small way towards solving the problem of rural overpopulation.
2. Economic Advantages:
There are several economic advantages for the settlers themselves. They are ensured a steady income, and they come to areas where basic services such as roads and electricity have already been provided. In unplanned settlements this is less likely to be the case. The fact that the central government provides facilities means that the land can immediately be used to full advantage.
The development of such facilities would be beyond the range of private farmers. On a wider scale, the opening up of new land increases the productive area of the country, contributing to the national economy, and the planting of established export crops increases production and revenue from important commodities. The opening of the land on a haphazard basis, often for purely subsistence crops, does not have these advantages.
3. Conservational Advantages:
One of the most important advantages of well-planned settlements is that they ensure that the land cleared is of sufficiently good quality and that it is planted with the crops best suited to the soil and slope characteristics of the area.
In unplanned settlements the land cleared might be infertile or easily eroded. By retaining control over the schemes for a number of years, Felda tries to impress upon farmers the importance of caring properly for the crop and not over-exploiting the land.
The number of people settled in a given area is carefully planned also, to ensure that the land is not over-exploited. In planned schemes areas with steep slopes or poor soils are known before settlement takes place and can be left under a protective forest cover.
Essay # 6. Disadvantages of Rural Settlements:
There are some disadvantages to planned settlements, both of a social and economic nature.
These may be summarized as follows:
1. In the early stages of a scheme the settlers have little freedom of action and find the schemes do not provide an immediate solution to their problems as they perhaps thought they would. Some settlers become dissatisfied and leave the scheme but most realize its long-term advantages.
2. Settlements are planned for a given number of families, based on the capacity of the land to support them at a given income. Naturally, when they have children, not all the young people will be able to live in the same area. To overcome this problem, people will either have to move away from the area in future generations or will have to make the original settlement schemes the basis for trading and rural industries.
As yet this problem does not really arise, for most of the settlers are fairly young and their children are still small. However, it is going to require careful development of activities other than farming in the schemes if the population is not going to drift away in future. If no alternative jobs are developed, land schemes will only postpone the ‘drift to the towns’ for a generation, instead of finding a permanent solution.
3. The crops planted are the traditional cash crops of the country, but there is no guarantee that, they will continue to be valuable crops for the future. If prices drop markedly the settler’s income from his fixed plot of land will also drop, resulting in poverty or in the settler over-exploiting his land.
If, however, educational schemes can be implemented to help settlers raise yields, and if alternative occupations to farming can be developed, this problem may never arise. A few other crops such as cocoa, sugar, maize or livestock have yet to be introduced on development schemes, but there are plans for this in future. Such diversification would help to stabilize both farm income and the economy of the country.
4. The size of the farms allocated to settlers is fairly small, just enough to be worked by a family and to provide a moderate income. It is well-known that larger farms obtain more benefits from economies of scale, mechanization and so on. If technical improvements change the methods of growing or tapping rubber, for instance, the settler’s farm may become uneconomically small.
In any case, the size of farm is fixed by the planning authority and it may produce a varying income according to price fluctuations. This is not a problem at present, but as farming becomes more sophisticated it will be necessary to review not only the crops grown but also the size of farms.
The disadvantages of planned settlements outlined above are linked with inflexibility of planning in such fields as the numbers of people, farm size and crops grown. They will only be problems in the future and will only arise then if the planning authority is slow to adapt to new conditions.
Care will have to be taken that land schemes do not become too rigid to allow for change and adaptation to meet the conditions of the future. The Indonesian policy of ‘Transmigration’, which has been operating with varying degrees of success since 1905, has some similar features to Felda developments.
Settlers from overcrowded agricultural areas are encouraged to move to areas which are being opened up in sparsely peopled regions, especially in southern Sumatra. They receive cash allowances, food and primary farming equipment for from six months to one year and they are allocated parcels of cleared land. But the Indonesian system is much less strictly managed and coordinated than that of Felda.
Because there is less careful planning, houses, roads, water supplies and land clearance may not be undertaken at once and some settlers find themselves very uncomfortably placed when they arrive—they may have houses but no water, or farming equipment but no food for immediate needs, money but no road by which to reach existing settlements and so on.
Despite some training and preparation before they leave their homes settlers often find conditions strange. They are frequently unable to grow their traditional crops and they may misuse the land leading to erosion and soil degradation.
Many give up their land because they find conditions too hard or because they are isolated and homesick and because they receive too little encouragement to remain. Some of the problems faced by Indonesian migrants, therefore, illustrate the advantages of careful planning, despite its inevitable restrictions.
Essay # 7. Evolution of Rural Settlements:
Rural settlements change through time both in pattern and in function. It is clear from the foregoing discussion of nucleated and dispersed settlements that not only can the shape of villages change but the whole pattern can change from nucleated to dispersed or dispersed to nucleated in certain circumstances.
Such changes are still going on in many areas, partly because of new developments in agriculture, such as the use of machinery, which often cause changes in the pattern of land tenure and of settlement. For instance in the U.S.A. the use of machinery in the Mid-West has made some of the original half-section or even section-sized farms uneconomic to run and many former farmers are selling their land to neighbours and moving to the towns.
This, together with the desire for society, which is also causing some people to move from isolated settlements, is gradually changing the settlement pattern in the area from one of even dispersion to a much looser pattern of rural settlement interspersed with small towns.
In the U.S.S.R., too, where large collective or state farms employ large numbers of workers, the people tend to live not in traditional villages but in large villages with many urban characteristics or even in small towns.
Changes are also taking place in some European mountain areas where transhumance is practiced. While the villages in the valleys retain their traditional character, and sometimes grow as a result of new functions connected with the tourist industry, the settlements on the alps and saeters are sometimes being abandoned because fewer people work on the land and thus there are not sufficient farm labourers to take the cattle or sheep to the mountains in the summer.
On the other hand, rural reforms in many parts of the world, e.g. in Mexico, on the Bolivian altiplano or in the White Highlands of Kenya are leading to the break-up of large estates into smallholdings, and this often leads to a dispersion of settlement as new farmers take possession of the land.
In many regions very rapid changes in rural settlement are taking place as a result of large-scale projects such as the damming of lakes for H.E.P. generation, or for irrigation purposes. Villages are often drowned and have to be re-established elsewhere. For instance the Volta River scheme in Ghana meant that about 89,000 people had to be housed in new townships and villages.
In other underdeveloped countries hitherto unsettled areas are being opened up by forest clearance or the provision of water for irrigation. In such areas the cost of the development and provision of roads, water supplies and social services, such as schools and clinics, is so high that it is much more economical to resettle people in villages than in dispersed farms.
Moreover it is in line with the traditional way of life of the people. Development schemes of this type are found in such countries as Philippines, Malaysia and Ghana. But some countries prefer to encourage a dispersed pattern of settlement. This was true in the settlement of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
During the course of time it is not only the pattern and size of settlements which change but also their functions. A good situation can help to develop a village into a small market town, or the discovery of mineral resources can turn it into an industrial town. Similarly a fishing village can grow into a port or can acquire new functions as a seaside resort.
Another way in which the functions of villages can be changed is by the influx of urban people either temporarily or permanently. In many villages around major European towns the agricultural community is far outnumbered by people who have their homes in the village because of the pleasant surroundings but in fact work in the towns and cities.
The spread of suburbs of large towns can also engulf villages in the vicinity, reducing their agricultural activities and giving the village urban or suburban characteristics.