“Taking Towns to People” Vs “Taking Towns to Villages”

By Dr. James Okuk, PhD

January 1, 2013 (SSNA) — Happy new year to us all. We hope our dear South Sudan will be a happy country in near future compared to the unhappy situation it has been put under now. Let our hope for the best wishes remains the fuel of our optimism despite many pessimistic signs surrounding us.

To diagnose briefly the phrases "Taking Towns to People" Vs "Taking Towns to Villages".

"Taking" means moving something from its original point of stature. In our case of discussion it is the "town" that is perceived for "taking" it to "the people" or to "the village".


According to Wikipedia, "people" is a plurality of persons considered as a whole, as in an ethnic group or nation. For example in politics, various republics govern, or claim to govern, in the name of the people. Thus, "the people" identifies the entire body of the citizens of a jurisdiction invested with political power or gathered for political purposes.

2 – TOWN

Also according to Wikipedia, the German word "Zaun" comes closest to the original meaning of the word "Town"; a fence of any material.

Comparatively from a common sense, a town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. Nonetheless, the size definition for what constitutes a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many "small towns" in the United States would be regarded as villages in the United Kingdom, while many British "small towns" would qualify as cities in the United States. 

The modern phenomenon of extensive suburban growth, satellite urban development, and migration of some city-dwellers to villages have further complicated the definition of "towns". For example, some forms of non-rural settlement, such as temporary mining locations, may be clearly non-rural, but have at best a questionable claim to be called a town.

In general, today towns can be differentiated from villages or hamlets on the basis of their advanced economic, political, social, cultural and infrastructural character. Most of a town’s population will tend to derive their living from manufacturing industrycommerce, and public service rather than primary industry such as agriculture or related activities. Hence, towns often exist as distinct governmental units, with legally defined and planned borders on larger scale.

Australian geographer, Thomas Griffith Taylor,  proposed a classification of towns based on their age and pattern of land use. He identified five types of town:

  • Infantile towns, with no clear zoning.
  • Juvenile towns, which have developed an area of shops.
  • Adolescent towns, where factories have started to appear.
  • Early mature towns, with a separate area of high-class housing.
  • Mature towns, with defined industrialcommercial, services, goods and various types of residential areas as well as public administrative areas.


Further and according to Wikipedia, "village" is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand (sometimes tens of thousands). Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the East Village in Manhattan, the Saifi Village in Beirut, Mamba Village in Mombassa, Hampstead Village in the London conurbation, Peace Village in Central Equatoria State of South Sudan, etc.

Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings; however, transient villages can occur in the examples of nomads and the displaced people. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over planned landscape. Also villages are a usual form of community for societies that practise subsistence agriculture, aquaculture as well as non-agricultural practices. 

It is said that the Industrial Revolution attracted people in larger numbers to work in mills and factories. Concentration of people and their settlements organization caused many villages to grow into towns and cities. This also enabled specialization of labor and crafts, and development of many trades. The trend ofurbanization continues, though not always in connection with industrialization, and with eclipsing of importance of villages as indigenous units of human society and settlement.

According to UK standards, a village is distinguished from a town in that:

In Nigeria, every Hausa village was reigned by Magaji (Village head) who was answerable to his Hakimi (mayor) at town level. The Magaji also had his cabinet who assisted him rule his village efficiently, among whom was Mai-Unguwa (Ward Head). They lived in ‘clusters of huts belonging to the patrilineage’. However, with the creation of Native Authority in Nigerian provinces, the autocratic power of village heads along with all other traditional rulers was subdued, hence they ruled ‘under the guidance of colonial officials’. 

A typical Nigerian large village might have a few thousand persons who shared the same market, meeting place and courts for settlement of disputes and other problems. These villages were originally made of mud houses with grassy thatched roofing, though zinc roofing and some concrete walling is becoming a common sight now. People used not to have access to portable water, so they fetched it from ponds and streams. Others are lucky to have wells within a walking distance. Women rush in the morning to fetch water in their clay pots from wells, boreholes and streams. However, government is now trying to provide them with water bore holes and feeder roads. Also electricity and GSM network are reaching more and more villages.


a) Factually and empirically, a "town" is different from a "village" as described and defined above in headings 2 & 3. Thus, taking a town to a village becomes destructive to existence of village, though nominally a small village could co-exist within a town or a city. A village could also co-exist around a town but with semi-impossibility of surviving for longer periods. Usually, towns expansion eliminate the suburb villages. Some Bari villages that were around Juba town but got eliminated later could be authentic examples here.

b) Analogically and rationally, a "town" could mean availability of services and other basic amenities that facilitate the attainment of standard and better living conditions in a particular geographical location. If such services and amenities are extended to villages then the living standards of the people settling there could get improved and standardised; similar to that found in towns. But in most cases, taking services and other standardised goods to villages tends to be a very difficult and expensive endeavour due to scatterness of villages. Even when these are done, sustaining them pose other challenges compared to compacted, densitified and planned towns. Hence, the tendency of developers to neglect villages and expand towns.

c) Taking towns to the people does not make an amusing sense because it is triviality phrase out of tautology if we understand the meaning of "people". That is, "people" are found everywhere in a state; "the people" is one of the fundamental elements that defines a state. The totality of "persons" living in towns are referred to as "people". Therefore, when you say analogically that you want to take towns to the people, it suggests that "people" are elsewhere (in rural areas) and not in towns (urban areas); a naive analogical phraseology indeed!

d) In conclusion, let the talks about the vision of our development in South Sudan, be taking the necessary basic services and goods to rural areas (our villages) and not to the people, so to speak. "Taking towns to the villages" in terms of similarity of services and other life living amenities is also too much a burden and unsustainable endeavour. A capacity of a town can never be equated with that of a village. Let’s be straight forward and avoid too much idealogizing and propagandising. Development of the people by the people and for the people should be the way to go. I love Mualimu Julius Nyerere!

Dr. Okuk,James
Lecturer, Juba University
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