Small urban centres in Sierra Leone : a geographical study with particular reference to their role in rural development
Regional inequalities in the developing countries have in recent years led to increasing attention to various proposals of deconcentration and decentralization, which in turn have triggered renewed interest in rural developnent and the potential significance of small urban centres. Yet little is known about the social, econanic and geographical relations of these centres with whom the majority of the rural population have contact. This thesis is a geographical study of small urban centres paying particular attention to their role in rural development in Sierra Leone. In choosing these centres as subjects of study, the author echoes other scholars, that the instances where they play a positive role are few and that to get than to do so would entail transformations within the economy and society which though necessary may prove so difficult under the present political and economic structures. The study is divided into two sections. Section I (Chapters IIII) forms the theoretical framework. Section II (Chapters IV - VII) is devoted to testing the hypotheses in the study area. The thesis starts with introducing the aims and objectives of the study, definition of tents and concepts used and justifies their application in the study area. The data and methodology are also fully discussed and the structure of the study outlined (Chapter I). The second chapter reviews various economic and spatial theories and literature on small urban centres forming the theoretical framework on which the hypotheses drawn are based. Studying small urban centres without paying attention to the macro-economic. and political context in which they are set and operate may prove futile. The third chapter therefore examines those aspects bf the study area which are considered relevant to this investigation. Section II of the thesis starts with tracing the origins of these centres and finds out how these origins have influenced their functions and thereby structures. Here a retrospective approach is adopted by tracing their pre-urban origins and discussing the factors which contributed to their urban status. The implications of these origins for rural development are pointed out (Chapter IV). In assessing their present role (Chapter V) the numbers and spatial distribution of these centres and their relative centrality are examined. From the furtional units within these centres, centrality ratios are calculated to determine whether these centres are adequately provided for. The limitations imposed on the positive role they can play in rural development by their lack of adequate numbers and low centrality is examined and their implication on using the present framework for the delivery of goods and services is assessed. Chapter VI is devoted to an examination of the relationships of small urban centres and their immediate rural hinterlands, through the consumer travel patterns to secure goods and services fron these centres. Where no positive links exist the chances of such centres acting as stimuli for rural development are indeed limited. The functional relationships of these centres through consumer travel patterns form the subject of investigation in Chapter VII. These relationships give us an idea on the way these centres function with other members in the urban hierarchy. The analysis is based on the hierarchical concepts of central place theory. The conclusion (Chapter VIII) sunmarizes the findings of the study and makes recamiendations where it is deemed necessary and in each case pointing out the implications of, such recaT1m ndations.