As the separation and distinctions between urban and rural are increasingly difficult to make, the urban-rural continuum is a term used to emphasize that there are no distinct breaking points between urban and rural. By definition, a continuum is “a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees.” Thus, the urban-rural continuum supposes a gradation between cities and rural communities, with many varieties of community sizes, lifestyles, cultures and settlements in between. This term has become increasingly important in international forums as policy makers, development agencies, organizations and civil society strive to address spatial, social and economic realities to achieve complimentary development between rural and urban rural areas and social integration.
In this sense, it is important this the rural-urban continuum is not conceptualized as a linear construction, or as a simple gradation or fading from megapolis to rural farm, for example. In reality, human settlements are complex with traditional elements of “urban” and “rural” intermixing and constantly interacting. In reclaiming this term, civil society and proponents of integrated development insist that the rural-urban continuum should denote the relationships between and among city-regions, urban centers, agricultural zones, and all other forms of human habitat, and to emphasize the need to approach regions in their actual complexity, entirety, rather conveying the sense of rural-urban symbiosis, than paring out artificial and unsustainable divisions.