Rediscovering the Importance of Rural Communities

There is impetus for us to reaffirm the importance of rural community to our interconnected society. Approximately 53% of the countries’ population lives in the countryside. Most of our food products come from the country — crops, fish, poultry, you name it and chances are it originated from a quiet farming town or wind-blown coastal village. In the face of the coming food crisis, these communities will have a vital role to play. Despite their importance, though, encroaching powers continue to unravel the very thread that keeps these communities together.

To save the societies of tomorrow, we must allow the rural communities of today to thrive.

Modern society, unfortunately, has been unkind to rural communities. Big industry has converted agricultural lands and depleted natural resources, and the lure of the city has unwoven once tight-knit towns. Through pictures and mass media, the average city-goer has inculcated an image of the rural community that is depressed and impoverished, a place to both pity and escape from. But if the farmers and the fishers were to escape their rural lives, where would they go? And who would be left to feed us?

Along a black coastline down in Tiwi, Bicol, fishermen lay their ring nets out to dry under the late afternoon sky. It is not a scene of struggle and suffering, as one may be accustomed to when thinking of rural communities. Rather, they laugh, joke, and tell stories as they look forward to a night’s rest. It is an image repeated in fields and coastal towns across the country. They share dreams and aspirations — for their own lives, and for their neighbors.

To reassert the importance of rural communities, we must remember their inherent dignity.

We may then realize significance these communities have to the modern city-goer. This is not limited to mere food products — in fact, there are many lessons to be learned in the provinces. When the tuna boats pull in along the Bicol coastline in the early morning, the whole community turns out to help them land their catches. It is a moment of community-wide support and neighborly trust, founded in the interpersonal relationships born out of a tight-knit community. In an increasingly-isolated world, such lessons in community building can be integral to building the societies of tomorrow.

The encroach of modernity has put many towns at risk of coming apart, but their collaborative nature and tight interpersonal relationships have helped them survive into the modern age. External support is needed to help them face the challenges of today. Whatever support that comes to them must be built out of respect for their culture and identity, though. Through careful study and an understanding of the dreams and the relationships they possess, there may still be hope for the rural communities of today.

Images © Alo Lantin

Environmentalist, culture conservationist, essayist. Development studies graduate. A collector of stories.