Rural Sociology is a specialized field of sociology. It is the study of life in rural environment, which systematically studies rural communities to discover their conditions and tendencies to formulate the principles of progress. It is limited to various aspects of rural society in the study of rural social relationships.
The Definition/Explanation of Rural Sociology
According to F. Sturat the sociology of rural life is a study of rural population, rural social organization and the social processes operative in rural society. According to Desai (1978), Rural Sociology is the science of rural society.
So, it is clear that rural sociology is related to the organized and scientific study of the life of rural people and their personal inter-relationships.
Rural sociology is a branch of sociology which deals mainly with the study of social and cultural factors affecting the lives of those in rural or agrarian communities. Rural sociology as a science is the study and measurement of recurring phenomena in order to discover the principles by which these phenomena operate. An example of the phenomena which rural sociology studies include rural man’s reciprocal interaction with other rural people. That is, behaviours and relationship not within an individual but between individuals.
According to Ekong (1988), rural sociology is defined as the scientific study of social interactions of the rural population in their group. In other words, it is concerned with social processes and the whole system of interpersonal and group relationships involved in rural life.
Rural Sociology is interested in the farmers’ participation and their families in the wider systems of social relationships viz: community, mosque/church, local government, state and the nation. It is also interested in a determining those factors which influence clientele (farmers) decisions and actions, the effect of culture on the acceptance and rejection of innovations (improved technologies), their reactions to social and political changes in the society and the methods by which they adapt to these changes.
The concept of Rurality
Let us look at what rural is? The concept of rurality is a branch of sociology upon which rural sociologists have their basis. According to the 1963 Nigerian Census, the official designation of “rural” is a 20,000 population. Rural communities should not be considered to be homogenous units.
Now, we are going to look at the indicators of rurality. There are three indicators for determining the degree of rurality namely, community size, amenities found within the community and proportion of male heads of households engaged in farming as primary occupation.
Population density may be included. Another indicator is infrastructure facilities, example is socio-cultural characteristics of the population.
Rural can be defined as a remote area of distance far away from the seat of government; that is, the country side and the people living in villages.
In rural areas, they lack good amenities like good roads, electricity, pipe borne water etc. All these things are found in abundance in the urban areas, big towns or cities.
Historically, Rural, referred to areas with low population density, small size, and relative isolation, where the major economic activity was agricultural production, and where the people were relatively homogenous in their values, attitude and behaviour (Beter et al, 1975).
The Meaning of Sociology
We may ask this question, what is sociology? Sociologists have defined sociology in many ways. Auguste Comte (1789-1857) often referred to as the father of sociology named the field of the study from two words – (1) The Greek “Logos” meaning word, speech, reasoning or computation, and (2) Latin “socius” meaning companion. “Logus” indicates scientific study; for example bio-means science of life, geology- science of earth, anthropology-science of man, sociology would therefore mean the study or theory of companions, concerned with people’s relationship and interaction with one and another.
The word sociology was coined by Auguste Comte in 1837 but between then and now, a number of specialties have emanated form the field.
Sociology extends in scope to deal with such institutions, conditions and constraints as family life, population, crime, community life, poverty, deviant behaviour among others. Furthermore, there are special sociological aspects of the economic, political, religious, educational institutions and other activities. The study of these by sociologists has given rise to specialties like sociology of education, political sociology, agricultural sociology, economic sociology among others. However, these sub-specialties or branches provide the intellectual tools or instruments for the study of rural sociology.
Importance of Rural Sociology in Nigeria
Having now, gained some idea of what rural sociology is, let us go ahead to identify and explain more its needs or significance to any developing country like Nigeria.
- Exposes the characteristics and problems of ruralites: It brings to light the main characteristics and problems of rural areas which enable us to interact with them.
- Provides direct change programme: Rural Sociology provides a change programme designed to meet the needs of the rural man.
- The change programme should be a direct one such as governmental Rural Development Programmes (GRDP) containing relevant information needs about rural people.
- Provides feedback to the agricultural agencies on the progress made so far and the modifications needed in their change programmes.
- Acts as a change agent interaction with rural people: Interaction of any change agent with rural people with sociological knowledge on leadership, power, roles, norms, culture, family
- organisation etc, enables him perform his job/work more effectively because of experience and understanding acquired from them.
- Develops greater understanding: The purpose underlying the study of rural sociology is to develop greater understanding of the behaviour of rural people and rural society.
- Equips students with tools of understanding: It equips students with tools of understanding to enable them analyse behaviour of rural people in their relationship with others in rural society. It helps an individual understand himself and his own social nature, his relation to people in the society.
- Helps to develop a scientific attitude: Rural Sociology helps develop the scientific attitude of thinking critically and objectively with precision. This attitude is useful for future occupation.
- Provides professional training for a future career as a rural sociologist: Rural Sociology can provide a beginning professional the required training for a future career as a rural sociologist. For example, (a) as a teacher or researcher following academic interest in the field and (b) as a consultant of change and rural analyst in rural community development.
- The teaching of Rural Sociology helps to introduce the learners or students to sociological concepts and the application of such concepts to the analysis and understanding or rural social organisation, rural economic problems and the responses of ruralites to social change.
- It must be emphasised here that we cannot do without the rural areas because they form the most important sector of the economy since a large majority of people live there. For a country to develop, it must arise and tackle the problems in the rural areas and because agricultural productivity is indeed the cornerstone in the economic development and social progress of any developing country.