Clarification of the Relationship between Diversification of Economic Activities and Sustainable Rural Development Case Study: Mashhad Township

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof. of Geography and Rural Planning, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad

2 Prof. of Geography and Rural Planning, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad


Extended Abstract
Investigating the economic structure of rural areas of the country particularly
Mashhad has revealed that agriculture is the main factor for making a living, and
that unfortunately in most of the development programs, it has been considered as
the only and the most important economic factor in rural areas. Although this
structure, given the limited economy of rural areas and their specific features, could
work in the past, considering the expansion of the markets and their undeniable
effect on rural spaces, and also considering many unsustainabilities in several
natural, economic, and social dimensions, it can no longer guarantee sustainable
residences and occupations in rural areas. Most of the scholars in the area of
development have proposed the diversification approach within the framework of
sustainable rural development. Based on this theory, diversity is a necessary factor
for maintaining the sustainability of rural economy and development; it is suggested
that following this approach will contribute to the stability sustainability of
economic structures. Based on this theory, sustainability is created and maintained
when a system has numerous and diverse elements; the more diverse a system is, the
more ability it will have in reducing internal and external discrepancies. This will
* Responsible Author:
Rural Research Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer 2014
result in sustainability, dynamicity, and stability during long periods and in different
places not only against internal tensions but also when external challenges are faced.
In addition to investigating level of sustainability in rural residences in Mashhad,
this study aims to discover whether sustainable villages are the economically diverse
ones. It also aims to find out what relationship exists between levels of sustainability
and diversity of economic activities. The significance of this study first lies in the
fact that it uses cluster analysis which can provide a new model for investigation of
sustainability; second, it investigates sustainability in relation to diversification.
The method of study is descriptive-analytic. The data needed in this study was
collected using survey (Village and Family Questionnaire) and library research
methods. The population under investigation in this study included the rural
residences in Mashhad, and the unit of analysis was village. The sample size was
determined in two levels for village and family using the Cochran formula. The
number of sample villages and families was determined to be 34 and 350
respectively. The sample villages were chosen using the stratified sampling method.
To ensure the content validity of the questionnaire, the opinions of the scholars in
the areas of geography and social sciences were used as the reference. In addition, to
measure the reliability of the questionnaire, alpha Cronbach formula was used. In
this study, the sustainability of rural residences was the dependent variable and the
diversity of economic activities played the role of independent variable. To measure
sustainability, several techniques exist which can be used differently based on the
type of study. In the present study, cluster analysis is used to quantify sustainability
and classify residences. The collected data were analyzed and interpreted using
SPSS and Excel. Statistical tests used in the present study include cluster analysis,
variance analysis with the Tukey test, and Pearson correlation.
Data Analysis
In the present study, to measure and assess sustainability, cluster analysis, which is
statistical method to determine homogeneous clusters, was used. The created
Rural Research Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer 2014
clusters were labeled sustainable, semi-sustainable, and unsustainable based on the
value of the sustainability index. The results of cluster analysis revealed that 9% of
the villages under investigation were sustainable in economic, social, and
environmental dimensions; 44% were semi-sustainable, and 47.1% were
unsustainable. In fact, 91.2% of the sample villages were unsustainable or semisustainable.
To compare the mean of the diversity of economic activities in
sustainable, semi-sustainable, and unsustainable groups, Fischer method was used
for conducting a unilateral variance analysis (F test). Since the level of significance
for this test was less than 0.05, one can say that the mean of the diversity of
economic activities for the three groups was not the same; in other words, there was
a significant difference between the mean of the diversity of economic activities
among these three groups. According to the results of HSD test, the mean of the
diversity of economic activities in the unsustainable, semi-sustainable, and
sustainable was 27.5, 30.7, and 38.6 respectively. These results determine the
answer for the first research question in this study. In fact, sustainable and stable
villages are those which enjoy higher levels of the diversity of economic activities.
To investigate the relationship between levels of sustainability and diversification,
Pearson correlation was used. The correlation coefficient found between the abovementioned
variables (0.77) shows that there is a positive and direct relationship
between them. In fact, the increase in the level of sustainability is accompanied by
an increase in the diversity of economic activities. This shows that the sustainability
of rural residences is deeply affected by the diversity of economic activities in an
area. Therefore, the answer to the second research question is clear: more diversity
in economic activities results in more sustainability in rural residences.
The results of the survey and theoretical investigations done in the present study
show that the diversity of economic activities in rural areas meaningfully contributes
to the sustainability of these areas. The results of the present study are consistent
with those of the studies conducted in South Asia (Feldman, 1999), West Africa
(Ackah & Medvedev, 2010), and China (Liu et al., 2003). It can be argued that a
Rural Research Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer 2014
society with a diverse economy is more likely to become stable and sustainable. This
issue has been considered by international organizations, developed countries, and
some of the developing countries (China, India, Malaysia); and it is necessary to
include this in the formulation of policies which are developed for rural areas in the
country because simply continuing the current trend without any reforms and
without paying attention to diversification will certainly result in the increase of
unsustainability in rural residences.