In sharp contrast to traditional approaches to rural development, where rural people are treated as the object of development, the visionary approach treats rural people as the subject of development. It recognizes that rural people are a repository of valuable knowledge and information that can be used to improve their livelihoods. In this approach, not only do people remain in touch with what truly matters to them or that which they want to create, their vision, but the knowledge and skills learned remain resident with the people, thus enabling them to
become functionally literate in a variety of domains including water management, rural technologies, human rights, gender, environment, education and household income.
For development to take root in the communities there must be a structural shift. To effect such a shift, the best leverage points in the system must be identified. In social economic systems, the key leverage points are individuals. Through their aspirations and conscious choices, they can shift their own life orientations from one where they merely react or adapt to the events as they occur (problem solving), to one in which they themselves are the creators of the events in their lives. In the reactive or responsive orientation, typically referred to as problem solving, people react or adapt to circumstances. Often the levels of emotions determine action. People are mobilized, in a marriage of convenience, to get rid of what they do not want, the “common enemy”’. Once the problem is perceived to be over, they relapse and wait for another problem to stimulate action. In the creative approach, the vision or what one truly wants/aspires to is the motivating force behind change. For each result achieved toward the attainment of that vision, people ask, “what next?” This is the core of sustainability. This is a radical departure from a mere “change of attitude” to a structural shift in the very consciousness of individuals leading to lasting change in themselves, their communities and the nation.
It enables rural people to become fully involved in the process as they realize their deep felt but often suppressed aspirations for well-being.
African Rural University focuses on the development of rural young women’s visionary leadership in recognition that that is the cornerstone for the transformation of rural communities and the realization of their full potential. Besides developing the human resource, emphasis is on using locally available resources and technologies first, as an example of what is possible for community and national development.