This study analysed changes in demographic, gender, basic service access and agricultural production patterns in the rural black Eastern Cape Province between 1993 and 2002 in order to offer advice for future poverty alleviation strategies. It used secondary data from national surveys and the 2001 census and stratified the Eastern Cape districts into former Transkei, former Ciskei and commercial farming district sub-regions, in accordance with the pre-1994 developmental scenarios. The results showed that the demographic and basic service access changes were positive, but that pre-existing sub-regional differences had been reinforced, indicating that the populous former Transkei was being marginalised. There has been little development for rural women, agricultural production is almost negligible and employment in commercial farming has declined. Geographically targeted interventions seem to be warranted for the demographic, gender development and basic service accessibility aspects of Eastern Cape rural poverty, but improving rural production appears to be the major challenge.