The RIGA project created an internationally comparable database of rural household income sources from existing household living standards surveys. Most of the surveys used by the RIGA project were developed by national statistical offices in conjunction the World Bank as part of its Living Standards Measurement Study. The data are available to the general public (database details page).
In its first phase the project focused on creating household level variables. This work was then expanded to also add individual level variables to the dataset, focusing in particular on those related to rural wage employment.
At the same time, a number of empirical studies based on the RIGA database have been completed, and more are under way. These studies aim at enhancing our understanding of the rural non-farm economy and its relations and synergies with agriculture. The goal is to help inform, promote and implement effective public policies and rural development strategies that include the non-farm economy as an important component.
As part of their survival strategies, poor rural households work not only in agriculture, but also in a myriad of manufacturing, commerce and service activities. As such, the Rural Non-Farm (RNF) economy is an important source of income for rural families. Early studies (SOFA 1998) have shown that the relative importance of this sector in the rural economy (approximately 20 to 60% of rural income) actually increases with development. It is therefore useful, when thinking about rural development, to consider the full range of Rural Income Generating Activities (RIGA) carried out by rural households.
However, measures to enhance the rural non-farm economy have been mostly absent from the policy realm. On one hand, there is an institutional vacuum in dealing with the RNF sector. Governments do not usually have a "rural" ministry, and a sector that cuts horizontally across different ministries generally gets supported by none.
The other handicap constraining the promotion of the RNF sector is that, despite much recent work, there are still significant knowledge gaps. Differences in methodologies and definitions make cross-country comparisons virtually impossible, as the RNF sector is defined and measured in many different ways. Furthermore, as meaningful comparisons are not possible, a mature theory regarding the sector has still not been established.
Key questions addressed by the RIGA project include:
What are the relationships between the various Rural Income Generating Activities (RIGAs)?
What types of RIGAs are associated with poverty reduction?
What is the relationship between various RNF activities and agriculture?
What is the link between RIGAs and food security?
This systematic study of the sources of rural household income intends to fill some of the gaps in our understanding of the RNF economy. The RIGA project analyzes, with a consistent methodology, sources of rural household income in over 25 household surveys covering more than 15 countries. The project aims at helping the development community build rigorous and empirically based generalizations about the RNF economy and identify policy instruments that can be used to promote RNF activities alongside agriculture in a manner that facilitates rural poverty alleviation.