Investigating the Efficacy of Non-agricultural Activities in Rural Settlements’ Economic and Social Development (Case Study: Firouzeh Mines in Khorasan Razavi)

Document Type : علمی


1 Guilan University, Rasht, Iran

2 University of Sistan & Balochestan, Zahedan, Iran


Extended Abstract
Within the economic structure of rural areas in developing countries, agriculture is considered the main pillar of people’s livelihood and, similarly, in most development plans, agriculture is the only and the most important aspect of any village’s economy. Lack of diversity in economic infrastructure and job opportunities, specifically for the growing workforce of villages, is the most important feature of such a structure which, to some degree, stems from the kind of attitude towards villages, governmental policies together with the internal issues of the village. Thus it seems that creation and expansion of non-agriculture jobs and remunerative activities, especially rural industries, alongside the expansion of lower-level rural centers should be considered as the major means of creating jobs in villages. Undoubtedly, creating job will forestall the mass departure of workforce from villages and their concentration in cities. Most development theorists, in order to decrease the negative consequence of such a structure, and within the framework of sustainable development, have suggested the development of non-agricultural activities. To this end, industrialization of rural areas, for creation of job opportunities and remunerative activities, as a means of reducing inequality in rural areas, has captured the attention of development policy makers and is able to play a crucial role in the process of rural development, through satisfying basic needs and creating links with other sectors of the economy.
Various theories have been put forward about industrialization including trickle-down theory or Louis logic, connection theory of Darkoh and Seidman, the theory of regional polarization, and sustainable development theory. In sustainable development, as a quasi-paradigm, emphasis on non-agricultural rural economy, as a supplementary economy, is among the crucial issues. In line with this theory, recently, the issue that not all the burden of villagers’ subsistence should be placed on the agriculture sector and that, alongside it, other extended activities, taking into account the specific opportunities available in each settlement and region, should be defined is receiving more attention. Bolstering non-agricultural activities, for the purpose of increasing the incomes of those who do not own any piece of land or own small pieces, is among the measures emphasized by experts. Such measures can lead to an increase in the participation rate of various social groups and, through improving villagers’ skills and income, can prevent them from immigrating to cities, paving the way for more development in economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects. With regards to the previous studies, Langroudi (2010) in a study on the relationship between the degree of social and economic changes in villagers’ lives, using non-parametric tests, found a significant difference in factors regarding income and saving levels of employed villagers, job satisfaction, willingness to continue living in the village, travel and leisure status, and improvement in healthcare. Jamshidi (2010) in a study of 364, through multi-stage sampling, depicted that industries exert a significant positive influence on the neighboring villages, both economically and socially, improving such factors as income, employment, welfare while, at the same time, decreasing poverty and unemployment. Bouzjahromi (2010) investigated the economic and living conditions of 190 industry workers and 198 non-industry workers and depicted that a significant economic difference exits between the two groups, with industry workers being in a better situation. Shohretaj (2010), too, in a correlational and associational study showed that Mayamay industrial region has created job opportunities for villagers and increased their income.
Firouzeh mine is located in Firouzeh rural district in TahtJolge section of Firouzeh county in Razavi Khorasan province, 53 kilometers northwest of Nishapur county. The present study aims to investigate the role of Firouzeh mines, as a non-agricultural activity, through field study and questionnaires. The research population included the settlers of Firouzeh rural district in Firouzeh county, with a population of 3205 comprising 948 families, among whom 250 of those employed in the mining and non-mining sectors were selected through stratified and then random sampling, using Cochran’s sample size formula. Questionnaire’s validity was established through content and face validity measures and was approved by four geographies and planning faculty members of University of Sistan and Baluchestan. The reliability of the questionnaire was established through Cronbach’s alpha, with a coefficient of 0.862 which is indicative of a satisfactory reliability. For analyzing the data and testing the hypotheses, one sample t-test, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and Tukey’s test were used.
The findings of the research are reflective of a general improvement in the region’s social and economic factors after the creation of the mining zone. So much so that the creation of the mining zone has been accompanied by positive effects on employment, income level, job-creation, purchasing power, participation, reduction of poverty, development of housing, together with economic and social welfare for the villagers. The findings, also, revealed that mining activities’ degree of influence on social and economic factors of various rural groups in Firouzeh rural district is not the same.
Mining activities in the region under the study have led to an increase in and elevation of social and economic factors and there is a significant difference between mining and agriculture workers in terms of enjoyment of social and economic factors, with miners enjoying higher status and having a higher standard of living; therefore, it can be claimed that, as shown in this study and in previous ones, expansion of non-agricultural activities, such as mining activities, plays a crucial role in social and economic development of rural regions. Clustering mining activities and their agglomeration into clusters is one of the major solutions in this regard. Agglomeration of activities in Firouzeh mine (extraction, cutting, etching, inlaying, jewelry making, etc.) makes using others’ experiences and facilities, creating shared facilities and performing tasks collectively possible. Thus, it can be said that creation of mining clusters in various fields can help this region develop further.


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