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Last Updated: Friday, 25 March, 2005, 11:15 GMT
Is rural Africa in danger?
rural women
Many rural dwellers have to walk for hours to reach basic amenities

This week Africa Live asks: What is the future for the African village?

The United Nations says Africa is the fastest urbanising continent, with huge numbers of rural dwellers moving to towns in search of jobs, education and a better quality of life.

With the pace of migration, traditional village life appears to be under threat, as young people in particular, desert rural settings, where most Africans live, for urban centres.

But modern technology, especially mobile phones, can help bridge the gap between rural dwellers and urban folk. In Tanzania for instance, farmers are now using text messages to advertise their cattle for sale.

To take you to the heart of the matter, Africa Live will be coming from the village of Soma in The Gambia, a country where two-thirds of the population still lives in rural areas.

Soma, a thriving border town, is actually bucking the depopulation trend and people are heading there from local towns to take advantage of its lifestyle.

Africa Live asks: What makes your village special? How is village life changing - for better or worse?

Are the youth abandoning your village for the lure of the big towns?

Or are city dwellers returning to your village, tired with the hustle and bustle of urban living?

Join the BBC Africa Live debate on Wednesday 30 March at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments - some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Here are some of your comments:

When I take leave, I go to the village to de-stress. I say let the villages stay the way they are, as long as there is clean potable water, a clinic and a school. We have enough stress in urban areas.
Isabella Kapolo, Windhoek, Namibia

Villages boast the traditional life that we yearn for in the West.
Michael Barry, UK
Rural Africa is best described as the best and worst of both worlds. The best, because most African villages have hardly changed and visiting is like going back in time. Villages boast the traditional life that we yearn for in the West: strong family support, respect for elders and a sense of belonging - to name but a few! On the other hand, rural life is probably the worst you could imagine because our leaders have no regard for either rural dwellers or preserving the beauty of the land. If only our leaders would stop thinking about what is good for them and start thinking about the greater good of the people they govern, rural africa would probably go back to its former glory.
Michael Barry, UK

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kiang, Kaiaf, which is about ten minutes from Soma in a car, (if a taxi is even available). For the people of Kaiaf, transportation is difficult, access to a fair diet is a daily challenge, and, if it weren't for some community health nurses and Cuban doctors, access to essential medicines and health care would also be poor. Despite this, many people prefer the calm and peace of the village with its warmer greetings and closely knit communities. There is a warmth from the people of a place like Kaiaf, that makes it very hard to leave, but at the same time it is difficult to stay with so many needs that are not fulfilled in the village. Many youths leave the villages and move to the Kombos or Brikama to have access to higher education and work. If more funds were allocated towards developing rural areas, improving the roads, agriculture and dietary options of rural residents, there would be less of a flow to the cities.
Isaac Christiansen, USA

I lived in a rural area in eastern Nigeria before moving to a more urban place. Living in a village in my opinion is like living in a blind world. I would have not been better if I had stayed in the village, especially when it comes to learning technical skills like computer science.
Obimdike, USA

Who cares about fresh air and running stream water when village life embodies nothing but backwardness?
Alex Quermorllue, Liberia/USA
My education, my dreams and my aspirations took off like a rocket heading into outer space when my late uncle brought me from the village to the city. Who cares about fresh air and running stream water when village life embodies nothing but backwardness, disease and poverty? Until governments take tangible steps to seriously address the acute underdevelopment in rural Africa, urbanisation will continue unabated.
Alex Quermorllue, Liberia/USA

I'm a university student now in town but when ever I have the opportunity to go to the village I don't hesitate. In the village there is no hustling and bustling as observed in towns. Village people live 'down-to-earth' lives and hardly complain of poverty as they do in town. If I ever have the choice of working in the village, I wouldn't hesitate to grab it because you face nature in its natural form, not tainted by anthropogenic factors.
Chi Primus, Buea, Cameroon

Many parts of Africa are much better than those pictures shown by the media. Nevertheless, urbanisation is real due to insufficient infrastructure and a lack of private investment in rural areas. In my village in Namibia, there is clean water, electricity, radio and TV, gravel roads or better, plus telephone and cell phone networks. However, unemployment is high due to low private investment.
Peter Muteyauli, Namibia/Spain

Writers say life springs from the villages.
Baabo Dan, Uganda
It's the villages that colour the African continent with a beauty that attracts tourists. For example traditional lifestyles, crater lakes, hot springs, and hunting areas thatare synonymous with villages. Writers say: " Life springs from the villages." With ongoing globalisation, it's not uncommon to find the latest technology in villages, with people making phone calls in ranches and shambas which was unheard of in the 1960's. Communications and the media have become diverse and the villages are enjoying TV and radio. Many youths are surely returning to the villages after failing to cope up with the life in urban centres that are always expensive. To them, life in urban centres are a heaven of sorrows not peace.
Baabo Dan, Uganda

I was born in the village. Now I live in the city. It is not easy staying in the village, especially mine - no electricity , no water except from the stream, and the road has always been bad. I used to have to trek three kilometres to a school in a nearby town. How can one be trekking that distance everyday before you can have anything to eat? If, after so many years in the village, you have the opportunity to visit the city you will see how people can enjoy life to the maximum. You will definitely want to be a part of the fun! Everybody has the right to a better living. People will continue to migrate from rural to urban regions in Nigeria until our government sees it fit to make life better for rural dwellers.
Olusegun Enujowo, Nigeria

Rural Africa is indeed the picture of traditional African society with its customs, rituals, taboos and so on. With the urbanisation of African villages, we are losing many traditional values. This is obviously a danger. What will happen to the next generation? They will not see things like calabashes, traditional drums, tam-tam... Moreover, they will never have that opportunity of listening to elders' tales. I strongly believe that we Africans have to pay much attention, otherwise we will destroy Africa ourselves.
Charles Cwinya'ay, DRC

Just imagine, in my village we can only listen to one AM radio station and the cities are privileged to have more than 12 FM stations. Where do I prefer to live? The city for sure.
Hankie Uluko, Lilongwe, Malawi

Urban life in Africa is terrible. There is a high risk of disease and poverty. In fact rural Kenya is richer and healthier. I love rural life. Although I work in Nairobi, I often drive to my rural home in Marakwet, some 500 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.
Kipkorir Lang'at, Kenya

I am planning to move 500 kms out of Nairobi in the hope of retaining my sanity.
Ogova Ondego, Kenya
Give me back my sleepy farming village! Life was enjoyable 14 years ago when I started living in a quiet village on the outskirts of Nairobi. Then, the spirit of communal togetherness ruled. There were no street urchins or beggars and people lived in an orderly, clean environment. Now the village is breaking at the seams as numerous informal settlements mushroom and crime soars. Water has to be bought from vendors, public transport has become a nightmare, and I have been waiting for a fixed line to be installed for the past two years. I am now planning to move 500 kilometres out of Nairobi in the hope of retaining my sanity.
Ogova Ondego, Kenya

I hereby appeal to all Tanzanians who left their villages and are living overseas - if things are not going well with you, then go home. Tanzania is fine now. So many years ago when I left the country, poverty was worsening day by day. But three months ago I visited my country with my foreign family and we went to my village in Rubya Bukoba. My wife, children and I have already made a decision to pack up and start a new life in Tanzania.
Julian Clement, Nagoya, Japan

It is the villages and rural areas that give Africa her unique qualities. Our grandparents are in the village; our past and our futures are in the village. Those in the village are not afraid to show that they are African because it is who they are, and Africans should learn to blend the pleasures of the city with the traditions of the village. When we move to the cities we forget where we come from, this is the real issue.
Marcia Ashong, Ghana/USA

I am yet to hear of a city dweller who has returned to their village because they are tired of city life.
Shuttie Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia
A lot of people in Zambia only go to their villages of birth once in a big while. There is simply nothing to keep them there. I have not been to my home village since my mother died in 1992. My dad died in 1988 and I haven't had any good reason to go and walk a distance of 32 kilometres on foot from the main road just to pay homage to an almost empty village. I love my roots, but the conditions there do not make it conducive for my sons and I. I am yet to hear of a city dweller who has returned to their village because they are tired of the hustle and bustle of city life. Funds from debt cancellation should be channelled to rural areas instead of the capital cities and other big towns.
Shuttie F.N.Libuta, Kitwe Zambia

The term urbanisation does not apply to Southern Sudan. I have also lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and am currently in the United States. These three countries are totally urbanised, but the movement of people in Southern Sudan that I knew was just from rural to rural and not from rural to urban. People were nomadic, moving cattle far distances in search of grassland during seasonal changes. Therefore, the term urbanisation is simply a joke to Southern Sudan and it is not in danger.
Thabor D. Ding, Sudan/USA

The young ones, are fleeing villages and leaving their parents behind.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA
In the early 60s and 70s, life was good in Southern Sudan as there was sufficient food and enough rain for a good harvest. Nobody thought of migrating to towns. Today there is no food because of the long drought which has resulted in crop failure. A rapid change has occurred and rural dwellers, especially the young ones, are fleeing villages and leaving their parents behind. What will happen after the present generations pass away? One reason for the migration is the civil war, another is the competition for land and water among ethnic groups. Eventually, people in rural areas go to towns in search of a better life.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

I was born in the Gambia. Your programme on Soma will end up highlighting one main factor: humans in general look for betterment for themselves and their family. Governments that care about their people should provide: better infrastructure, which is non-existent in a place such as Soma; water and electricity, which again are both in short supply in Soma; and education and health care, which are very poor all over the Gambia and worst in a place such as Soma. If governments tackle these problems, villagers would have very little reason to move to the city. Villages such as Soma don't need very big development projects to stay prosperous. The local people will ensure development if given a chance.
Samuel Njie, Uk

I am a Kenyan who was born in rural Kapenguria in the Rift Valley. As a child, water was plentiful as we got it from a stream that marked a boundary between our grandfather's farm and our neighbour. Life was easy and cheap. Urbanisation has bought problems such as reduced water levels due to dry streams and little food in the rural areas. Rural Africa has been left for the poor, the old and the sick. It is clear from national examinations that poorly equipped rural schools perform miserably, thereby locking people into a circle of total poverty. Educated and financially-able people should look back to the rural areas. Mobile phones have helped, but they have also encouraged folk not to visit.
Idris Sakwa, Seychelles

There are not enough youths to help clear and maintain footpaths to the stream and farms.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria
In my village of Amaba, the ratio of people who stay in the village and those who leave is about one to ten.This is because there is not much to keep the youths in the village apart from farm work, which many people look down on. These days in my village, there are not enough youths to help clear and maintain the footpaths to the stream and farms.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria

I remember the first time I went to our village of Khalexe. I remember it because it was the first time my dad let me run around all day long without a worry to where I was. I spent the day going from orange trees to mango trees and I was stuffed by 3pm. Coming from the city I felt a free man: there were no cars to dodge, no thieves to jump me and everyone was happy to offer you the little they had. Rural Africa is the safest place in the Africa.
Omar Bah, Kamsar, Guinea

Rural areas in Africa have their own internal dynamics for changing and adapting.The greatest hindrance to those dynamics are the African governments themselves. They never co-opt villagers into the 'development 'projects they (the governments) want to impose.
Weru Macharia, Brighton, UK

The issue is to educate the youth and provide them with reasons to stay in their home villages: e.g. education, jobs, and reliable infrastructure. Things like drought, access to information, the apparently easy life in cities, lack of occupational and trade opportunities are some of the reasons the youth migrate to cities. Governments need to facilitate the stay of youth in their villages.
Shyamba, Burundi/Canada

I lived in Soma - the Gambian village where Africa Live is being broadcast from - but I had to migrate to the city when my Dad got a better job. Moving to the city not only improved my grades in school and enabled me to study in the university, it also gave me access to the internet. The city is good for a growing youth!
Assan Jallow, The Gambia

I love my village and am proud to be a village boy.
Mama Tamba Jammeh, Gambia
In my view, it is the rural areas that make Africa what she is - in terms of dress, marriage, respect to elders and dancing. Urban centres have swapped their African culture for western culture. I feel very proud whenever I put foot in my village of Kanilai. Despite the underdevelopment, we still enjoy our living more than people in urban areas. When we go hunting and kill an animal, we youths have to seek advice from the elders before doing anything. It is every elder's responsibility to bring up every child in the village. Think of the nick names we give to each other; it makes us so popular and hard working. My property belongs to my village, like my donkey, horse, cows and so many things. I love my village and am proud to be a village boy.
Mama Tamba Jammeh, The Gambia.

Although living in rural parts of Africa is difficult, especially when it comes to things like medical needs and safe drinking water, I believe that it is the best place to live. You feel the pleasure of nature, free air, the cheap cost of living and cheap labour. Best of all, you get to know true friends and family and a really brotherly love is seen here.
Stephen Bendah, Liberia/Ghana

Are you kidding by saying somebody from my village of Tabenken should contact you to tell you of the situation there? How? There is no electricity, no water system, no decent road, and local radio is a taboo not to talk of TV. While in my village, you are cut off from the world and things are getting worse everyday. Deaths due to simple curable diseases are common, and the education level is dropping everyday.
Nfor Hadison, Cameroon

Most governments are focusing on developing the big cities to the detriment of the rural areas.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
Village life is sadly changing for the worse due to the slow pace of development. Most governments are focusing on developing the big cities to the detriment of the rural areas, so the youths have no choice but to emigrate to places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and Abuja. Cities are becoming over populated thereby giving birth to anti-social vices such as armed robbery, rape, touts, etc. But I think that village life is great. Peace and serenity, stories in the moonlight, lack of pollution, and fresh food from the farms are but a few of the good things one enjoys in the village.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

If governments are really serious about minimising mass urban migration, they should engage the youths in the villages! Give villagers infrastructure such as electricity, potable water and good roads, and mass urban migration would drop drastically. Life in the village is more pleasurable when you can get easy and hitch-free access to the outside world.
Dr. Christopher Enakpene, Erlangen, Germany.

Although Africa may be urbanizing at a fast rate, it is also true that rapid population growth in rural locations has put tremendous pressure on land. A big part of the reason behind urban migration is a lack of space for farming in rural villages. The population of Ouro Gueladio, in southern Niger, has more than doubled in the past decade and people are simply running out of places to farm.
Randy Brown, USA

When I grew up in South Sudan, I never thought of leaving my parents and staying away from them.
Dhoal Wicthiel, Minnesota, USA
Life in rural areas is worse now than before because of the wars. I remember that when I grew up in South Sudan I never thought of leaving my parents and staying away from them. Since the war, however, things changed and I have ended up in the USA. Young Africans in the diaspora are now learned in technology so it won't be hard for most African countries to develop good technology.
Dhoal Wicthiel, Minnesota, USA

The move by rural dwellers into cities is quite common here in Zambia. However, there is another trend that is developing: those who are in the cities are getting land in rural areas to farm. This supplements their food supplies as well as raising a bit of income. Previously, farming used to be scoffed at as a job for old people in the villages, but now more and more young people are taking it up as a very rewarding and profitable activity. Many have even managed to purchase some vans or light trucks for transportation. For me this trend is a good one as it guarantees food security and to certain extent it creates employment in rural areas.
Lungu, Zambia

Most African governments don't care about the welfare of villagers despite the fact that they are the suppliers of food to cities. Villagers are abandoned to their own fate with no electricity, water, or good schools. But I personally dream of dwelling in the village as I can easily make money in farming and spend less.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

The current trend of African youth moving to towns and cities is a sign of growth in African economies; a sign of change for the better. The youth can gain employment and save their income which they can invest in small businesses in trading centres where they come from. This money will bring economic change to African villages.
James Nyikole, Kajo-Keji, Sudan

The lives of rural people, especially women, have greatly improved through mechanised agriculture and adult literacy programmes.
Baboucarr Senghore, Gambia
Rural development has taken a giant leap forward in the past few years under the current Gambian administration. The lives of rural people, especially women, have greatly improved through mechanised agriculture and adult literacy programmes. With these and many other projects, poverty alleviation in the rural areas shall not be a big challenge for the Gambian people.
Baboucarr Senghore, The Gambia

I have lived in Lagos all my life, my first taste of rural life was about three years ago during my final year mapping project. I went to a village called Kwakuti in Niger State, Nigeria.My first shock was the absence of electricity, despite the fact that electricity lines were running through the main road that cuts the village in two. There was no potable water, as according to locals the pump packed up. During my two week stay in the village, I noticed daily life was harsh and I couldn't blame those young ones who wished to migrate to the city.
Thomas Ayeni, Lagos, Nigeria

Village life is absolutely changing for the better thanks to technology. Villagers are able to listen to the latest news through radios. I am able to talk to my mom in Lokomasama, a village in Sierra Leone, by cell phone from the USA.
Alimamy Kheiyo-Sesay, Minnesota, USA/Sierra Leone

Nanka - a village in Orumba North in Anambra State, Nigeria - is still filled with life. Its evergreen forests and arable lands are still intact, but face the threat of being destroyed by our young men who have made money in the cities and abroad. Mansions are now being built and our palm trees are in danger of being cut down.
Emeka Ekwosimba, Nigeria/Canada

Most of my childhood friends have shifted to urban areas and there are only old men and women left.
Mazuba Mwiinga, Zambia
Most of the Zambian villages I know are changing for the worse. After finishing high school, most of the village boys and girls run into the cities. Villages have nothing to offer apart from hunger, disease and dire poverty. I visited my village recently and it's a mess: most of my childhood friends have shifted to urban areas and there are only old men and women left. Villages in Zambia are in danger. Here in Chikuni, we see people from villages coming to stay. They would rather be at a place where there is electricity, transport, easy-to-get food, accessible schools and comfortable accommodation. Our governments should fulfil their rural electrification promises and provide all the basic social amenities to rural areas. Otherwise the problem of urbanisation will bring risks to our people.
Mazuba Mwiinga, Chikuni, Zambia

African urbanization is a good thing. Traditional farmers lack the resources to use the land wisely.
Doug Forbes, USA

The western media portray Africa as backward and now complain of people leaving from rural areas! People leave rural areas for the same reason they leave their home countries: for a better life
Adjoa, Ghana/USA

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