Rural development generally refers to the process of improving the quality of life and economic wellbeing of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. Rural development has traditionally centered on the exploitation of land-intensive natural resources such as agriculture and forestry. However, changes in global production networks and increased urbanization have changed the character of rural areas. Increasingly tourism, niche manufacturers, and recreation have replaced resource extraction and agriculture as dominant economic drivers. The need for rural communities to approach development from a wider perspective has created more focus on a broad range of development goals rather than merely creating incentive for agricultural or resource based businesses. Education, entrepreneurship, physical infrastructure, and social infrastructure all play an important role in developing rural regions. Rural development is also characterized by its emphasis on locally produced economic development strategies. In contrast to urban regions, which have many similarities, rural areas are highly distinctive from one another. For this reason there are a large variety of rural development approaches used globally.
Development actions 
Rural development programs are usually top-down from the local or regional authorities, regional development agencies, NGOs, national governments or international development organizations. But then, local populations can also bring about endogenous initiatives for development. The term is not limited to the issues for developing countries. In fact many of the developed countries have very active rural development programs.The main aim of the rural government policy is to develop the undeveloped villages.
Rural development aims at finding the ways to improve the rural lives with participation of the rural people themselves so as to meet the required need of the rural area. The outsider may not understand the setting, culture, language and other things prevalent in the local area. As such, general people themselves have to participate in their sustainable rural development. In developing countries like Nepal, India, integrated development approaches are being followed up. In the context of many approaches and ideas have been developed and followed up, for instance, bottom-up approach, PRA- Participatory Rural Appraisal, RRA- Rapid Rural Appraisal etc.
Rural development agencies 
- Aga Khan Rural Development Programmes
- Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) Agricultural and rural information provider
- USDA Rural Development, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture
- European Network for Rural Development
- Rural Development Council (RDC) of Northern Ireland
- England Rural Development Programme by DEFRA
- Rural Development programmes in Pakistan
- The George Foundation, India
- Agricultural Development & Training Society, India
- Village Earth: The Consortium for Sustainable Village-based Development
- Tipperary Institute, Ireland
- AsgiSA Eastern Cape, a South African rural development agency
- Azerbaijan Rural Investment Project in Azerbaijan
- The Norwegian University College for Agriculture and Rural Development
Jindal Prize 
Sitaram Jindal Foundation, India has instituted an award Jindal Prize in which Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation is one of the category out of five categories. Prize will be awarded to those individuals or organisations rendering significant service to rural development and poverty alleviation without any profit motive. Prizes of Rs. one crore in each category will be awarded annually.
See also 
- Comilla Project, the first comprehensive rural development project in developing countries.
- District Rural Development Agencies (India)
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- Regional development
- RIGA Project
- Moseley, Malcolm J. (2003). Rural development : principles and practice (1. publ. ed.). London [u.a.]: SAGE. p. 5. ISBN 0-7619-4766-3.
- Ward, Neil; Brown, David L. (1 December 2009). "Placing the Rural in Regional Development". Regional Studies 43 (10): 1237–1244. doi:10.1080/00343400903234696.
- Rural development research : a foundation for policy (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press. 1996. ISBN 0-313-29726-6.
- Moseley, Malcolm J. (2003). Rural development : principles and practice (1. publ. ed.). London [u.a.]: SAGE. p. 7. ISBN 0-7619-4766-3.
- Chigbu, U.E. (2012). Village Renewal as an Instrument of Rural Development: Evidence from Weyarn, Germany. Community Development, Vol. 43 (2), pp. 209-224. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15575330.2011.575231#preview
- Transforming the Rural Nonfarm Economy: Opportunities and Threats in the Developing World Edited by Steven Haggblade, Peter B. R. Hazell, and Thomas Reardon (2007), Johns Hopkins University Press
- CNN - For Rural Women, Land Means Hope, The George Foundation
- Research on Agriculture and Rural Development from the Overseas Development Institute
- European Network for Rural Development