Decent Rural Employment

Social determinants of youth participation in local agrifood systems in Kenya


Despite agriculture employs more than 70 percent of Kenyan rural people, there is a general trend of youth moving away from agriculture and rural areas (FAO, 2019). Although not backed by age-disaggregated data, the low levels of youth participation in agricultural activities in Kenya have been a matter of great concern.

To fill this data gap, FAO’s Integrated Country Approach (ICA) for boosting decent jobs for youth in agrifood systems analysed youth participation in local agriculture and food systems in the counties of Siaya and Kakamega, looking at individual, family and community drivers and barriers as well as the youth social capital and access to services, including digital technologies.

The study was conducted in 2021 in partnership with Maseno University, integrating in the research team 36 local youth trained as research assistants and equipped with data collection skills.Questionnaires and focus groupswith a stratified sample of 1000 rural youth (14-35 y.o.) from all 18 sub-counties were complemented by interviews with non-youth key informants, in order to collect insights on community expectations, gender roles and social norms.


Employment status. The study provided evidence of widespread youth underemployment, especially lack of opportunities for permanent work, and youth venturing into entrepreneurship as an avenue for self-employment.

Engagement in agriculture. Majority of the youth are already engaged in the agricultural sector, which emerges also as the most preferred sector of employment for those who are still unemployed – contrary to what most adult key informants believe. More women than men are engaged in farming and in trading of agricultural products, while across age groups only the younger youth (14-17) in Siaya seem less focused on agriculture/agribusiness and equally attracted by work in education, health or social services. In both counties, horticulture is the preferred value chain, followed by poultry.

Attitudes towards agriculture. Youth choice to engage in agriculture was mostly influenced by structural factors such as favourable climate/soil quality, availability of water and land. Females were more influenced by good profit margins and more likely to engage in agriculture as part of a family-owned business. This can also be attributed to a profit-oriented mindset as more females than men were involved in agricultural retail trade. Lack of capital and lack of relevant skills are considered the biggest constraints to engage in agriculture/agribusiness, followed by lack of productive assets such as land, which is largely owned by parents, and unrelated education background.

Attitudes towards entrepreneurship. While most youth see entrepreneurship as an opportunity and are not afraid of taking risks, they feel constrained by lack of knowledge and skills needed to start a business.

Social capital. Youth civic engagement varies according to the kind of organization: active participation (either as board or members) is higher in youth councils (48%) than in youth in agribusiness or farmer organizations (25% and 20% respectively). More youth belong to saving groups in Siaya (57%) compared to Kakamega (29%).The extent of youth participation in county-level consultations on agriculture is reportedly limited though key informants see the situation as positively changing.

Access to agricultural extension. Over 50 percent of the youth had not received extension services in the 6 months prior to the data collection and those who did were mostly males between 25-35, suggesting that extension services sporadically target and reach young people.

Access to agriculture-related training. Two in 3 youth (majority 25-35 years old, more males in Kakamega and more females in Siaya) received training, primarily on crop management followed by use of certified seeds and keeping farm records. Investment preparedness, digital communication/marketing, soft skills and agroecology/green jobs are the least offered.

Access to agribusiness and financial support. On average 4 every 10 youths received support, again most in the 25-35 age set, but were not fully satisfied with the services received. Financial services (primarily savings, loans and credits, marginally insurance, investments or financial training) seem to be more accessible for youth in Siaya (73%) than in Kakamega (55%).

Digital access. Over 80% of youth above 18 years use mobile phones, but more men (57%) than women (44%) own smartphones, with significantly more women reporting connectivity issues. About 1/3 of the youth had never accessed internet while only 1 in 3 looks for online content on agriculture/agribusiness. About 20 percent of the youth received training on digital skills, which are commonly considered key for employability, while the majority acquired digital skills through self-exploration or peer learning.

More information on ICA work in Kenya are available here