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Rural out-migration and rural development in Iran : implications for the roles of infrastructure in case of Hamadan province Sarrafi, Mozaffar


Large scale rural out-migration has gained momentum over the past four decades in Iran, contributing to urbanization at unprecedented rates. In the wake of the Islamic Revolution, it was recognized that in order to reduce reliance on oil revenues and foster self-sufficiency and social equity, it was essential to ensure the viability of agriculture and rural settlements. As a part of this new strategy, a rural infrastructure provision policy (RIPP) was undertaken in order to bring about rural prosperity and to curb out-migration. Yet, the plight of villagers and out-migration persist. This dissertation focuses on the village end of the problem, and on permanent outmigration in post-revolutionary Iran. It investigates the causes of rural out-migration and their impacts on the remaining rural households. Further, it examines the potential of RIPP to reduce out-migration and enhance village viability. In terms of methodology, a cross-analysis was conducted at the levels of individual, household, and community. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were employed. Data were collected from primary and secondary sources. While the latter served analysis needs at the macro-level, the former, which included case studies in five villages in Hamadan Province, served those at the micro- and meso-levels. The macro-level analysis reveals population pressure on agricultural resources and rural-urban disparities as the overriding causes of rural out-migration in Iran. Correspondingly, the micro- and meso-level analyses: (a) highlight the critical importance of the middle strata (MS) for the future viability of rural Iran; (b) identify household insecurity, resulting from precarious and uncertain rural livelihoods as the root cause of out-migration for MS; and (c) suggest that the ongoing migration of youth from MS must be contained to ensure the next generation of farmers. Finally, five roles are identified for RIPP to target the overriding causes as well as those pertaining specifically to MS. While there is need for policy changes in the macro-economic sphere in Iran, RIPP has the potential to reduce rural out-migration. More fundamentally, it suggests that it is not merely the presence of physical infrastructure and its direct role, but rather an effectively functioning social infrastructure and its intermediary roles that are vital to curbing excessive out-migration and ensuring village viability.

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