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Understanding the Perceptions of Secondary School Youth toward Agricultural Careers in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Nigeria


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Youth are critical participants in the modernization of African agriculture but often their perception of farming is negative. A baseline survey of 1264 students from eight secondary schools in Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo, Kenya and Nigeria was conducted to assess their attitudes toward career pathways to agriculture and agribusiness. KoboToolBox was used to collect data online before compilation and inspection for errors in Microsoft Excel and exportation into STATA for analysis. Findings were presented as summary statistics, frequencies and multiple linear regression. A large majority (86%) of the students attended agricultural courses and 54% identified agriculture as having a place in their future, but often not as their highest career ambition. Livestock, field cropping, small animal production, and horticulture were the most viable enterprises for the youngsters. Nearly half (46%) that were averse to agriculture as a career path based their decision upon excessive labor requirements (30%), difficulties in securing land (25%), and low returns to effort (20%). Disparities from a country, area and gender perspective were recorded. Perceptions and career plans among the sexes differed; with females having less experience with machinery, and were more drawn to horticulture and agro-processing. Despite unfavorable attitudes toward agriculture, the study established that youth from these countries recognize that opportunity exists from adopting modern farming methods and commercial agricultural enterprises. The results of this study suggest several avenues for future Start Them Early Program activities intended to strengthen career pathways toward agriculture in African secondary schools. Keywords: Africa, agricultural education, career pathways, Start Them Early Program, youth
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Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
doi: 10.5191/jiaee.2020.27462
Understanding the Perceptions of Secondary School Youth toward Agricultural Careers in
Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Nigeria
Welissa Mawia Mulei
Bolanle Larinde
Adedayo Adefioye
Prince Bobo
Paul Lester Woomer
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
Youth are critical participants in the modernization of African agriculture but often their
perception of farming is negative. A baseline survey of 1264 students from eight secondary
schools in Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo, Kenya and Nigeria was conducted to assess
their attitudes toward career pathways to agriculture and agribusiness. KoboToolBox was used
to collect data online before compilation and inspection for errors in Microsoft Excel and
exportation into STATA for analysis. Findings were presented as summary statistics, frequencies
and multiple linear regression. A large majority (86%) of the students attended agricultural
courses and 54% identified agriculture as having a place in their future, but often not as their
highest career ambition. Livestock, field cropping, small animal production, and horticulture
were the most viable enterprises for the youngsters. Nearly half (46%) that were averse to
agriculture as a career path based their decision upon excessive labor requirements (30%),
difficulties in securing land (25%), and low returns to effort (20%). Disparities from a country,
area and gender perspective were recorded. Perceptions and career plans among the sexes
differed; with females having less experience with machinery, and were more drawn to
horticulture and agro-processing. Despite unfavorable attitudes toward agriculture, the study
established that youth from these countries recognize that opportunity exists from adopting
modern farming methods and commercial agricultural enterprises. The results of this study
suggest several avenues for future Start Them Early Program activities intended to strengthen
career pathways toward agriculture in African secondary schools
Keywords: Africa, agricultural education, career pathways, Start Them Early Program, youth
Achnowledgements: This study was conducted as a component of the Start Then Early Program
(STEP) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), an activity originally
envisaged by its Director-General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, and supported by grants obtained
from the International Development Research Center (Canada) and the Technical Centre for
Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The instructors and administrators in eight secondary
schools helped with consensual clearance among the minors and assisted in the implementation
of this survey as well. The authors of this report appreciatively acknowledge the contributions of
all these individuals, STEP personnel, IITA Scientists, and partners.
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
The Start Them Early Program (STEP) is a youth empowerment intervention of the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) that is based on the principle that
agriculture is the necessary engine of future economic growth across Africa (Harsch, 2004;
Rodin, 2016) and a next generation of modern farmers is needed to achieve that success.
Agricultural education at the secondary school level is a means to develop enthusiasm and skill
sets needed by young farmers (Okiror et al., 2011). At the same time, the program recognizes
the lack of appeal to careers in agriculture among youth who associate it with poverty and
drudgery (IITA, 2019; Yaboah et al., 2020). As a result, many youth do not prepare themselves
to become modern farmers and agribusiness persons as they aspire for jobs in professional
fields, government and business (White, 2012; Mukembo et al., 2014). Greater opportunities are
perceived to exist in urban areas, sparking migration that deprives rural areas of their brightest
and most ambitious youth (AGRA, 2015).
To better understand the perceptions and attraction of youth to career paths in agriculture,
and the differences among gender groups and socio-economic settings, STEP conducted studies
in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria. The objectives of the study were to form a baseline describing
school and student characteristics and to determine students’ participation in agricultural courses,
their career pathway plans and how they relate to their agricultural studies including participation
in extracurricular young farmer clubs. This paper describes a baseline study conducted in eight
secondary schools in these three countries between October and November 2019 and forms a
basis for comparison as the STEP Program conducts its agricultural education backstopping
activities into the future (Adefioye et al., 2019).
Literature Review
A diverse set of economic and socio-cultural factors influence youths’ aspirations toward
engagement in agriculture and agribusiness (Betcherman & Khan, 2015). The economic factors
include low level of agricultural productivity and earnings, causing the youth to form negative
perceptions about agriculture as a career (Barratt et al., 2012; Sumberg & Okali, 2013; Daum &
Birner, 2017). These perceptions are also influenced by household responsibilities; expectations
of family members, friends, communities; and exposure to both conventional and social media
(Flynn & Sumberg, 2017). At the same time, a large number of young people residing in the
rural areas of Africa are and will inevitably be employed in small-scale farming and related
family-based livelihood activities that are subject to low returns and poor marketing systems
(Chianu et al., 2008; Onakuse, 2012; D’Alessandro et al., 2015). This results in a contradiction
among rural youth seeking to escape agriculture as a lifestyle and the likelihood that they will
depend upon it in the future. The challenge is to alter these negative perceptions of the potential
for agricultural livelihoods in a manner that influences career path decisions by school-age rural
youth (Mukembo et al., 2014), and then to see this potential realized through the transformation
of agriculture and its increased productivity and profitability.
Career development is continuously shaped by various elements that strongly impact
upon life choices and can be influenced and evolve over time. Career choices among school-age
youth are particularly exploratory and influenced through extracurricular engagement but tend to
stabilize as young adults enter the workforce (Super et al., 1996). Within the context of young
Africans and their engagement with agriculture, career choices may be positively reinforced
through membership in young farmer clubs (Adebo, 2009; Mukembo et al., 2015), a factor that
warrants consideration in the design of agricultural curricula on secondary schools.
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
In a study of the perceptions of members of Young Farmers Clubs concerning their intent
to pursue agriculture-related careers after graduating from two Ugandan secondary schools,
Mukembo et al (2015) found that a high percentage (71%) were interested in agriculture-related
fields. This proportion is considerably greater than in an earlier study among the general student
population where animal and crop production were ranked as the 12th and 13th career interests
(Mukembo et al., 2014) with far more students expressing interest in medical, engineering and
business fields. In Nigeria, young farmers clubs were shown to encourage youth to learn about
better farming techniques under the guidance of the agricultural mentors and through learning-
by-doing (Adebo, 2009). In Uganda, it was established that students engaged in supervised
agricultural programs pass useful information on to their families and communities (Okiror et al.,
2011). Clearly, an important element to modernizing agriculture in Africa rests with directing
youth toward profitable career pathways in farming and agribusiness, but at the same time
requires that their skill sets be raised compared to the current farming generation.
Theoretical Framework
Theories relating to social cognitive career choices (Lent et al., 2002) and experiential
learning (Kolb, 1984) underlie this study. Social cognitive career theory addresses how basic
career interests develop and may be shaped through education. Experiential learning theory
focuses upon the role of practical experience in learning and suggests that knowledge results
from the transformation of experience. Ord (2012), based upon earlier work of Dewey (1938),
stressed that knowledge is not merely information passed to students for their direct future
application, but instead provides experiential understandings that are interpretively applied to
better inform new practices. Learners should be able to connect aspects of the new experience to
what they already know, in addition to actively interacting with their environment and further
testing ideas developed through interaction (Grady, 2003). Akella (2010) reflected that educators
themselves should be able to assess individual student’s learning styles, that instructors must also
undergo self-improvement, and that this feature is especially important in non-traditional
learning situations.
These two theories relating to cognitive career choice and depth of experience converge
at the critical point where all factors are considered when the learner makes the decision to
pursue a particular career path and is confident, they possess the necessary starting skill sets to
do so. In this way, agricultural curricula that provide strong elements of practical experience can
nurture the career aspirations in learners and readjust career goals (Lent, 2005). Combining these
theories in Africa within the context of secondary school courses, practicals and extracurricular
activities, and linking these activities to proven agribusiness models suggests that the future
engagement of youth in agriculture can be influenced in a constructive manner.
A baseline study was conducted to generate information on the attitudes of secondary
school students toward agriculture as a candidate career choice. A formal survey was constructed
that described the proportions of youth enrolled in agriculture courses, belong to young farmer
clubs and practice different agricultural enterprises. The survey was developed in conjunction
with the STEP teams in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria (Adefioye et al., 2019) to allow for
comparability of results between countries and school systems.
A multistage sampling method was employed in selecting the sample. The first stage
involved purposive selection of eight secondary schools located in contrasting areas of the three
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
countries using selection criteria developed by a cross-section of STEP program collaborators
(Adefioye et al., 2019). Three schools were selected in both Nigeria and DR Congo and two in
Kenya. The second stage involved use of simple random sampling to select the student
respondents whose parental consent was then obtained through the school administrators.
Comprehension of the informed parental consent was assured using both verbal and written
means. Barriers to language were overcome using both the national and local languages.
The data collection tool contained 75 closed and open-ended queries segmented into five
sections corresponding to the study objectives. These queries were phrased in English, translated
into French and Kiswahili, and then field tested at Institut Weza in South Kivu Province, Eastern
DR Congo; and later refined by STEP officers from all three countries. The structured
questionnaire was loaded into android mobile devices using KoboToolbox software (Harvard
Humanitarian Initiative, 2020). Enumerators were trained in the use of the application, and then
the survey was conducted in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria between October and November
In DR Congo the survey was conducted in three public schools of South Kivu Province in
Eastern DR Congo; Institut Weza, EDAP/ISP, and Institut Mushunguri. In Kenya our intention
was to survey three public schools; Mwiki Secondary School (Nairobi County), Afraha High
School (Nakuru County) and Muongoiya Secondary School (Kiambu County) but Muongoiya’s
examination schedule (and then the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic) conflicted with the
survey so only the first two schools are included. In Nigeria, the survey was conducted in three
schools in the south-western part of the country; Fasola Grammar School, Oluponna High School
and Lead City International School. Data was aggregated in the platform
(Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 2014) and compiled in Microsoft Excel, inspected for errors,
exported to STATA for analysis (StataCorp, 2019), and results prepared as summary statistics,
frequencies and regression models. To better partition and understand attitudes of youth and their
preferences and practices, data was disaggregated by country, gender, and other parameters of
The attitudes of 1264 secondary school youth toward careers in agriculture were assessed
across eight schools in three African countries. The average age of these youth was 16 years old,
and in general the sample was drawn from students in their final three years of school. This age
represents a critical time in determining career pathways following graduation, particularly for
youth not destined for tertiary education. Of the three schools in DR Congo, EDAP/ISP is the
largest (2026 students) and located in a mixed market farming setting, while the other two
schools are in more subsistence farming areas. Weza has a student body of 904 and is the only
institute that is both a primary and secondary school. Mushunguri is the smallest, with only 320
students. Secondary schools in DR Congo introduce agriculture in year two as an optional
subject, in year 3 subject specialization begins and agriculture becomes optional, students may
wish to continue or drop the subject. Agricultural instruction is provided at least three times in a
week and offered over several grades. All the schools have field area for course practicals in
crops but rely on rainfed agriculture and lack irrigation systems. Two schools include practical
training in the rearing of small animals, but marketing and value-addition are underrepresented in
the curriculum. There are few computers in these schools but when available are shared between
teachers and students for agricultural instruction. Extracurricular agricultural clubs have been in
existence for the past two years in Weza and EDAP but are not available in Mushunguri.
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
Of the two schools in Kenya, Afraha Secondary School has a student population of 1202
and is located adjacent to a large commercial farming area within Nakuru and the Great Rift
Valley. It has adequate land and irrigation for field activities with facilities also available for
food processing, operates a computer laboratory but lacks animal enterprise facilities and small-
scale farm equipment. Mwiki Secondary School has 501 students and is located on the outskirts
of Nairobi but is near mixed highland farming systems, has modest field space, water for
irrigation, and ongoing animal enterprises, but lacks a computer laboratory and food processing
facilities. Both schools have neighboring schools that could replicate the STEP approaches and
require assistance with farm inputs, new crop varieties, mechanized tools, and modest
renovation. Secondary schools in Kenya have agriculture as an optional subject in all the four
years. At the end of year 2 subject selection and specialization begins, those already in the
agriculture course may choose to proceed with the subject or drop the same for a preferred
elective course. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted school closure in early-2020 so we had no
opportunity to survey Muongoiya School or to conduct follow up activities as first intended.
Two of the Nigerian schools are in Oyo State (Fasola and Lead City) and have student
bodies of 326 and 274, respectively. Oluponna School is in Ogun State and has 993 students.
Two of these schools (Fasola and Oluponna) have sufficient land for agricultural practice on crop
production and horticulture, while opportunities in value addition are emphasized in Lead City.
Secondary schools in Nigeria have compulsory agricultural training during the junior year, and
then offer it as an elective during the senior year. Fasola School is located close to Fasola Farms,
a government farm settlement operated by the Ministry of Agriculture. Oluponna High School is
adjacent the Offer Agricultural Center that provides farmer training in agriculture.
Sample sizes were similar but not identical across countries. Of the 1264 students
surveyed, 382 were in DR Congo (30%), 451 in Kenya (36%) and 431 in Nigeria (34%). In
terms of gender, 41% of the respondents were female and 59% were male with near parity in
Nigeria (51% female) but only 33% and 38% in DR Congo and Kenya, respectively. In terms of
age, 70% of the students were between 14 and 17 years old with 16% younger and 14% older
(data not presented). A substantial majority (86%) of the students from the eight secondary
schools in the three countries were studying agriculture at the time of the survey although in
some cases that participation is mandatory (Table 1). Half of the schools are based in rural areas,
and the other half evenly distributed between urban and peri-urban areas, although only 30% of
the students identified themselves as originating from farming households.
Table 1
Summary results of a survey among secondary students concerning attitudes toward agricultural
career pathways
Young women
From a farming background?
Future plans for farming
If yes: future plan involves field crops
If yes: future plan involves animals
If yes: future plan involves processing
No future plans for farming
Currently study agriculture in school
Member of young farmer club
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
Currently involved in agriculture
If yes: grow field crops
If yes: raise animals and livestock
If yes: practice horticulture
Not currently involved in agriculture
A slight majority of these students (54%) imagined agriculture playing some role in their
future, with animal enterprise (42% of them), field cropping (30%) and food processing (15%)
being the most attractive options. At the same time, 46% of those surveyed had no attraction to
agriculture for a variety of reasons (Figure 1) including its requirement for excessively hard labor
(30%) while offering reduced returns to effort (20%) and an overall unfavorable image of
farmers (21%). At the same time, 25% of these youth stated that they lack the land or facilities
needed to practice farming and this excluded it as an option in their career planning.
Figure 1
Reasons stated for lack of interest in agriculture
It is important to note that most of these students attended courses in agriculture (86%)
and that in many cases it was a required course. For the most part (81%) these courses included
practicals and field work (data not presented). Very few of these students (6%) expressed a
strong dislike for their agricultural courses. Also, very few of these students (9%) were members
of extracurricular young farmer clubs for a variety of reasons, mostly because schools outside of
DR Congo do not offer such clubs, and where offered many youth did not have time to
participate. Disinterest in these clubs does not mean, however, that students are not presently
engaged in agriculture. Indeed, 69% of those surveyed are involved in farming, mostly as part of
family enterprise with field cropping (58%), animal rearing (37%) and vegetable horticulture
(24%) the most common activities.
Students were also asked what a project such as STEP could do to assist them to
successfully pursue careers in agriculture, and again a wide variety of responses were collected
including help to better access inputs (26%) or new agricultural technologies (22%), finance for
hard labor
Low return
Low status
of farmers
Poor access
to land, and
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
their new enterprises (20%), support for improved instruction (14%) and assistance in securing
access to land or facilities (12%). These results were then disaggregated by country and gender.
Strong trends and differences were expressed between the countries (Table 2). Slightly
younger students were surveyed in Nigeria and fewer girls surveyed in DR Congo and Kenya
(data not presented). Large differences in farm family backgrounds exist with nearly half from
farms in Nigeria and <10% from farms in Kenya. Fewest future plans for agriculture are made in
Nigeria (29%), most in DR Congo (91%). Field cropping is least attractive among students in
DR Congo, maybe due to the area’s steep terrain. Animal enterprise is more appealing than field
crops across all countries. Aquaculture is most attractive in Nigeria (24% of respondents), much
less so in Kenya (2% of respondents). Results related to horticultural ambitions suggest that
Nigerians do not understand horticultural enterprise, and do not distinguish it from field
cropping. Value-added processing was most attractive in DR Congo, suggesting stronger
opportunity for cottage and small-scale processing enterprises but across all countries, youth
appear to under-recognize marketing and agro-industrial career opportunities.
Table 2
Students’ future plans toward agriculture in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria
DR Congo
(± SEM)
(± SEM)
(± SEM)
From a farming background
Future plans involve farming
If yes: future plan involves
field crops
If yes: future plan involves fish
If yes: future plan involves
If yes: future plan involves
No future plans for farming
If not, why: no land or
facilities are available
If not, why: farming offers
poor opportunity
If not, why: unfavorable image
of farmers
Aversion to agriculture appears strongest in Kenya and Nigeria and farming is widely
viewed to involve drudgery across all countries. The potential profitability of farming is
recognized least in Nigeria (9% of respondents) and most in Kenya (26% of respondents).
Availability of land poses a problem to many youth in DR Congo (22%) and Kenya (33%).
Many youth, but not most, have no interest in agriculture, but have difficulty in articulating their
Career ambitions toward agriculture are very low in Kenya (8% of respondents) but
remain high in DR Congo and Nigeria (71% to 80%, respectively). Fewest students in Kenya
attend agricultural courses (62%) where it is handled as an elective against other vocational
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
fields; in contrast to the schools in DR Congo and Nigeria where it is a core course. All courses
involve classroom lectures but slightly fewer courses include field practicals (data not
presented). Very few students in DR Congo and Kenya strongly dislike their course (3% and
10%, respectively, data not presented). Many of these results appear to reflect the level of
agricultural development within the survey area and the presence and strength of alternative
economic sectors within their communities and countries.
Young farmer clubs were in widespread operation only in DR Congo but well attended
there (24% of respondents). Nigerian youth are least familiar with farming equipment (only 8%)
as opposed to Kenya (20%). A large majority of students remain involved in farming enterprises
across all three countries (69%), mostly through home enterprises, but fewest in Kenya (53%). In
Nigeria, animal enterprises were not differentiated between small animal rearing (e.g. poultry)
and livestock. Fish farming is most common in Nigeria (12%), least in Kenya (<1%) suggesting
differences in diets, water resources and available infrastructure. Horticulture appeals to many
youth in DR Congo and Kenya (between 20 to 28% of respondents) but was not understood as a
separate enterprise opportunity in Nigeria. To a large extent, opportunities for food processing
are not widely appreciated among youth in Kenya, likely because of its more advanced food
industry. Youth are seldom involved in marketing (<3%) within home enterprises, suggesting
that these activities are intended for household needs or that older family members assume this
A more nuanced understanding of differences between countries with regard to
agricultural opportunities appears in Table 3. Relatively few students are not currently involved
in some form of agricultural enterprise, with disinterest greatest in Kenya and Nigeria (25% and
32%, respectively). Many of the disinterested youth in Nigeria claim to have no time for outside
enterprise (45%), presumably so that they can concentrate more on their studies, less so in DR
Congo and Kenya (10% and 14%, respectively). Funding poses a smaller obstacle to outside
enterprise than might be expected, but the availability of land and facilities appears to pose a
major barrier in DR Congo and Kenya (72% on average). Relatively few students are forbidden
permission to practice outside farming enterprises by their parents (1% to 13% in different
countries), in part because a majority of them are already doing so (Table 2).
Table 3
Student participation in agriculture in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria
DR Congo
(± SEM)
(± SEM)
(± SEM)
Currently study agriculture in
Member of young farmer club
Use machinery in club (or
Currently involved in agriculture
How can STEP best assist you?
Help to better access inputs
Help to provide finance
Help to provide better training
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
The survey solicited students’ opinions on better advancing career pathways in
agriculture, and some important differences are revealed between countries (Figure 2). When
asked how their instruction can be improved, few students ask for better agricultural training
except in Kenya (27%), suggesting that courses are either adequate or viewed through a less
critical lens in DR Congo and Nigeria. Proportionately greater demand exists for better access to
inputs and new technologies, particularly in DR Congo (42% and 28% of respondents,
respectively). Students fail to distinguish between new technologies and the need for training in
their application in DR Congo and Nigeria, again suggesting a lack of technical sophistication. It
is important that farming clubs provide land and facilities to its members, a need identified by
between 18% and 28% of respondents in different countries. Practicals should include labor-
saving technologies in its approach. Finance concerns must be addressed but are secondary,
although the very low perceived need for investment opportunity in DR Congo (only 4% of
respondents) may actually be related to its reduced level of agricultural commercialization
compared to Kenya and Nigeria (22% and 32% of respondents, respectively). Note that concerns
over food security are reduced among these students across all countries (between <1% in Kenya
to <7% in Nigeria), suggesting that educational efforts should focus upon higher-value and
value-added crops in addition to basic food commodities.
Figure 2
Students’ opinions on better advancing career pathways in agriculture
Of the students surveyed in three countries and eight schools, 41% were girls, allowing
for strong gender comparisons (Table 4). Fewer girls profess to originate from farming
backgrounds (-12%) or to have future plans involving farming (-28%). Both of these factors
imply a gender basis for stigma associated with agricultural careers. Of those girls attracted to
careers in agriculture, fewer are attracted to field cropping (-16%), animal rearing (-31%) and
fish farming (-20%); but girls are far more attracted to opportunities involving food processing
(+36%) and marketing (+46%). More girls than boys are discouraged from farming because it
involves drudgery (+43%), but fewer girls believe that agriculture offers reduced opportunity (-
Help to provide
better training
Help by providing
agricultural inputs
Help by providing
new agricultural
Help to secure
access to land or
Help to provide
finance to project
and enterprise
Kenya DR Congo Nigeria
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
Table 4
Differences in relationship, attitudes and plans for career paths toward agriculture among
secondary school male and female students
Relationship to agriculture
(± SEM)
(± SEM)
Future plans for farming
If yes: future plan involves animals
If yes: future plan involves marketing
If not, farming is too labor intensive
Member of young farmer club
Use machinery in club (or elsewhere)
Currently involved in agricultural enterprise
If not, no time for outside enterprise
If not, lack funds to invest
If not, land or facilities are not available
In general, equal proportions of girls and boys study agriculture and participate in field
practicals (±2%) although slightly more girls strongly dislike agriculture as a subject (+8%).
Girl’s attitudes toward agriculture are further illustrated by their reduced involvement in
extracurricular agricultural clubs (-48%) and experience in the use of small-scale farming
machinery (-78%). However, about equal proportions of girls and boys continue to be engaged in
agriculture (±7%), usually through their family farms and enterprises, but with much fewer girls
involved in animal and fish rearing (average -26%) while remaining far more active in food
processing and marketing (average +78%).
Several other findings reflect upon students’ appreciation of agricultural opportunities. Of
youth engaged in agriculture at home, 58% grew field crops and 37% raised animals, suggesting
that rearing animals warrants attention in the schools as well. At the same time, insufficient
access to land resources may account for the popularity of small animal enterprises (e.g. poultry).
When asked why students were not practicing agriculture, 59% cited lack of facilities, 21% were
simply not interested and very few (5%) lacked parental permission (Figure 2); suggesting that
more students would become involved with experiential learning of agriculture if provided
resources and time to do so. Very few of the students had experience with any type of farm
machinery (15%), likely reinforcing their associations with excessive labor. Results related to
horticultural ambitions suggest that few Nigerians (1%) distinguish it from field cropping while
39% of Kenyan students are specifically attracted to horticultural enterprises; likely the result of
horticulture as a major export industry in Kenya. Value-added processing was most attractive in
DR Congo (26%), suggesting stronger opportunity for cottage and small-scale processing
enterprises within its economy. Across all countries few youth (10%) appear to recognize
marketing and agro-industrial career opportunities; likely because they imagine start-up to be
beyond their economic reach, or do not recognize employment opportunities within that sector
(Fox et al. 2020). Clearly, these students relate to the stage of agricultural development within
their societies, and the best means to make it a more attractive career pathway is to increase
agriculture’s prestige and profitability.
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
When the database across all schools and students was analyzed, a simple three-
component model emerged that identifies students’ attraction to agriculture as a career choice:
Choice = 0.20 + 0.47 Study + 0.20 Engage + 0.07 Background (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.25) where
Study = current enrollment in an agricultural course, Engage = engagement in a current
agricultural enterprise, and Background = originating from a farming background and parents’
primary occupation being agriculture. The intercept value indicates that 20% of youth remain
attracted to agriculture as a career choice regardless of changes in education but then increases in
response to curricular improvement and opportunities for more direct participation in this field.
While this model is relatively simplistic, it provides insight into how agricultural curriculum can
be shaped, and the weight of its coefficients suggests that careers in agriculture are not only for
those from farming households.
This study reinforces many widely held assumptions about African youth concerning
their attitudes and orientation toward career pathways in agriculture (Fox et al., 2020; Mukembo
et al., 2014; Okiror et al., 2011), but also illustrates important differences among these youth
between countries, socio-economic settings and gender. Many unfavorable attitudes toward
agriculture are held by youth (Sumberg & Okali, 2013); including those originating from farming
families, but at the same time these youth recognize that opportunity exists from adopting
modern farming methods and commercial agricultural enterprises (Mukembo et al. 2014; Okiror
et al. 2011). These youth regard agricultural enterprises as much more than just involving field
cropping, but also consider animal enterprises, horticulture and food processing as attractive
options. At the same time, opportunities related to marketing remain under-appreciated and food
processing appears viewed more as a cottage industry than an agro-industrial entry point and
employment opportunity. Less progressive attitudes concerning agricultural opportunities are
held in more subsistence-type settings, particularly in DR Congo. Despite reduced agricultural
intensification involving the strong transition from traditional to commercial farming as is
driving agriculture elsewhere, many youth in DR Congo remain committed to becoming
successful farmers, perhaps for lack of better options.
A large majority of secondary students include agriculture as part of their studies, and
most regard this course in a positive light; even where these courses are handled as an elective
offered against other vocational fields. That agriculture courses are so well attended, and are
generally regarded in good standing, provides an important foundation upon which career
pathways may be reinforced. Field practicals are less appreciated, in part because tasks of land
preparation and weeding may be assigned or perceived as a punishment. Introducing
mechanization as a component of these practicals is an important means to altering these
negative attitudes. So too is the role of introducing Information and Communication
Technologies that are reliant upon both instructional computer workstations and personal mobile
devices as a means to obtain planning information, diagnostics and market intelligence.
Unfortunately, computer studies are too seldom offered within the public secondary schools, and
even fewer of them link computer access to agricultural studies. Indeed, it is very important that
improved agricultural courses include stronger components of both small-scale mechanization
and information technologies within efforts to improve how agriculture is taught and how many
students grow committed toward it.
Too few schools appear to sponsor extracurricular young farmer clubs, but the cause for
this shortcoming was not examined across our study. Nonetheless, designing these clubs and
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
offering incentives for their success emerges as another important task in educational
improvement (Adebo, 2009; Mukembo et al., 2015). At the same time, differences in how girls
and boys aspire to careers in agriculture emerge. Girls are particularly adverse to the excessive
labor required in farming, and this drudgery conditions their unfavorable attitudes to the field as
a whole. This aversion may be well founded in that across rural areas women often bear the brunt
of this hard labor, and may be seen doing so on a daily basis. At the same time, girls appear to be
more aware of the benefits of agricultural intensification, and the need for investment in modern
technologies. This awareness is particularly strong toward horticulture, rearing of small animals
and value-added processing. One concern among girls that tempers their attitude toward farming
is that they will have less access to land and facilities following graduation, and explaining their
tenure rights may be important in many settings (FAO, 2011). While the access to small-scale
farming machines is limited across all schools, a trend emerged that girls have an aversion to
using and learning about these equipment as well. For these reasons, presenting agriculture as a
profitable family business built upon joint decision making and fair allocation of labor
responsibilities (Acosta et al., 2020) must be better presented in agricultural education. Other
elements necessary for career pathway attraction were also identified. Students recognize the
need for new technologies; particularly better understanding and access to production inputs such
as fertilizer and improved seed in less developed settings, and the provision of higher-value and
value-added ones in more developed ones. Also among student needs are greater access to land,
improved facilities and credit; although this situation varies strongly between countries (Figure
The results of this study provide insight into the proportions of students formulating plans
involving agriculture and how their interests can be stimulated and serviced (Figure 3). A large
majority of these students from selected schools in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria are enrolled in
agricultural courses (86%), in large part because it is either a required course or is one of
relatively few elective vocational subjects. A surprisingly large proportion of these students are
currently engaged in an agricultural enterprise (69%), mostly through commitments to family
household wellbeing, as well as by providing realistic commercial perspectives to those 17% of
students who are not actively practicing agriculture activities. Opportunity exists for their
agricultural education to augment the commercial potential of these enterprises, rather than to see
them as a form of involuntary obligation to household wellbeing, as well as by providing realistic
commercial perspectives to those 17% of students who are not actively practicing agriculture.
A large proportion of these students have future plans that involve agriculture (54%)
although most of them aspire for other fields as their main careers (see Table 5). Note that in
Kenya, attraction to the agriculture and veterinary field ranked sixth in popularity behind several
well-known white collar professions, but ahead of education. This broadening of interest presents
opportunity to make more profitable use of family lands, or to practice modern agriculture as a
side business, with either option contributing to incomes and job creation. School can also
provide the perspectives allowing the 15% of students that practice agriculture now, but do not
intend to do so in the future a chance to change their perspective. We also note that many
students who do not originate from farming backgrounds claim to have future plans that include
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
agriculture (46% vs 30%, respectively), suggesting that demand will exist for incentives that
provide services to these 16% of youth entering agriculture for a first time (Figure 3).
Figure 3
Entry points for secondary school students considering careers in agriculture
Table 5
The distribution of student’s career ambitions in Kenya
Career ambition
Preference among students
Science and engineering
Entertainment and media
Travel and hospitality
Business and commerce
Agriculture and veterinary
Other fields
Another benefit of agricultural education exists through participation in extracurricular
young farmer clubs (Mukembo et al., 2014). While participation in such clubs is infrequent (9%),
this is because the clubs are not in place, not that there is no demand for them. Indeed, if club
membership were more widely available, 21% of the students would be in a better position to
take modern farming technologies home to their family farms. In this way we see the
improvement of agricultural courses, particularly through improved field practicals and
Agriculture students
obtain stronger
perspective Enterprise
carries over into
future planning
exposed to
attracted to
Students respond that they …
agriculture in
Are involved in
an agricultural
Future plans
Originate from
a farming
Belong to a
young farmer
Potential beneficiaries
Positive responses
Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education Volume 27, Issue 4
participation in young farmer clubs, as offering a sequence of opportunities through developing
and applying more commercial agricultural perspectives, attracting additional youth to
agricultural enterprises, and applying the skills they develop to their family farming (Okiror et
al., 2011).
The results of this survey shed important light on the way forward for agricultural
education in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria. Career ambitions of the students interviewed in
Kenya appear in Table 5. These choices are expectedly skewed toward more prestigious, white
collar professions as they aspire for better lives away from rural areas. Achieving these careers in
the proportions as specified is unlikely, as with 25% attraction to the field of medicine. While
youth planning careers in agriculture remain in a minority (9%), we note that 49% of those
interviewed in Kenya (data not presented) included agriculture in their future plans (compared to
54% overall, see Table 1). Together these students seeking careers in agriculture as well as those
intending agricultural sidelines are positioned to benefit from better understanding of modern
agriculture and agribusiness through their secondary school education and extracurricular
Modern farming is a primary driver of Africa’s economic growth, and youth can be
readied to adjust to the realities of opportunity by preparing for careers in agriculture, even when
it is not their first choice. At the same time, agribusiness need not be organized by full time
farmers, as those who find success in other professions can then commit savings to invest in
actions by other family members. Indeed, for every youth committed to agriculture as a primary
career path, there are four others who envisage future engagement with agriculture despite their
stated preference for other fields of employment. Furthermore, it is important that agriculture not
be presented to students in rural areas in a fatalistic manner that precludes wider opportunities,
because it is important that youth have dreams and strive to achieve them as reflected in Table 5.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Opportunity exists to improve approaches to agricultural education among secondary
school students in Africa by reinforcing career choices in a manner that meets expectations of
agricultural modernization and rural economic growth, but these improvements must be adjusted
to specific schools and settings. These improvements involve coursework, practicals and
extracurricular activities. Courses must better cast agriculture as an economic frontier and
modern farmers as pioneers rather than forgotten victims of poverty. Greater reliance upon
electronic instructional tools and digital agriculture is required to stimulate students’ interests.
Practicals must be based upon solid agribusiness models with schools offering experiential
learning in proven enterprises. At the same time, this learning must be open-ended and gender-
differentiated in that imparted skill sets can be applied to other related enterprises and assist in
securing decent employment within agribusiness. These skill sets can be further developed
through participation in extracurricular young farmer clubs, and such clubs appear to be offered
too infrequently. Furthermore, the activities of these clubs can also be built upon profitable
enterprises that provide modest incentives to club members and benefits to the farming
households from which they arise. This study casts insight into how these improvements may be
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... It incorporates diverse Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategies in support of client needs for electronic teaching (e-Teaching) by instructors and school systems, and electronic learning (e-Learning) among students and other youth. It is understood that many youths view farming in a negative light (Mulei et al., 2020;Sumberg & Okali, 2013), and STEP seeks to change this perception. ...
... This study was initiated in response to disruption resulting from school closure as a COVID-19 precautionary measure. The STEP project had started a few months earlier in a way that offered school-based activities to reinforce career pathways in several secondary schools (Mulei et al. 2020) and then found itself forced to adjust its approaches in absence of direct student interaction. Initially, the project had provided both computers, internet, projectors, and instructional software to participating schools to backstop electronic instruction but then found that those facilities could no longer be used and sought to understand the new pandemic situation in a more holistic manner. ...
... DR Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria (Adefioye et al., 2019). First, the school system curricula were assembled to relate to agricultural instruction and rapport created with specific schools and instructors (Mulei et al., 2020). STEP The ICT facilities in those schools were then assessed and matched with the program's capacities to make improvements which included the design and installation of instructors' computer workstations described in Table 1. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that has gripped the world, causing governments and development agencies to search for critical measures to protect their people. The situation not only represents a significant health risk but has resulted in school closures that have disrupted agricultural education. This impedes the attainment of Africa's larger food security and rural transformation agendas. Six months before the advent of the pandemic, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture initiated a pilot project, Start Them Early Program (STEP) whose goal is to reinforce pathways to careers in agriculture within secondary schools in DR Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria. The project has now been forced to rethink its approach while embracing information and communication technologies due to the school closures. This paper describes the process involved in that operational pivot, particularly concerning the shift from electronic teaching by instructors towards distance electronic learning by students. Key issues addressed are the consolidation of digital applications, development of a mobile-based toolbox for use by young farmers, and constraints to device ownership. The means of addressing these concerns through working with instructors and their larger school systems are explained. Action points and resources that are recommended include the distribution of upgraded instructor workstations, a listing of relevant software applications, and the design of a mobile-based all-in-one toolkit for agriculture students and young farmers. The latter two developments have wider application in the reform of agricultural extension amongst the tech-savvy youth taking up agribusiness.
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Motivation The Sustainable Development Goals target decent work for all, including youth, by 2030. In sub‐Saharan Africa, however, a ‘youth employment crisis’ is now central to public and policy discourse. Consequently, the idea of ‘investing in youth’ grows in importance, leading to a proliferation of interventions targeted to and specific to youth. Purpose This article interrogates the framing of the problem as a ‘youth employment’ crisis. Approach and Methods The article (1) brings together evidence from a range of sources and disciplines; (2) indicates where the evidence supports the current policy orthodoxy and where it does not; and (3) maps out an alternative framing. Five pillars of the dominant narrative about youth employment are identified: demography, violence and civil unrest, training and skills, rural economy, and urban economy. Three critical dimensions of Africa’s broader employment crisis are highlighted: economic risk, stability, and protection. Findings The dominant narrative about Africa’s youth employment crisis foregrounds young people themselves, and strongly suggests that the crisis is all (and often only) about them. Little about the employment crisis, however, is youth‐specific. The ‘it’s all about the youth’ framing ignores that young people are caught up in a broader ‘missing jobs crisis’ that reflects fundamental structural constraints within African economies. In other words, the problem is with the economy, not the young people. Policy implications The emphasis on youth‐specific targeting and youth‐specific interventions is largely misplaced. Instead of initiatives that only or specifically target youth, priority should be given to broader structural issues which have the potential to deliver better and larger results, for both young people and others. Re‐framing the problem from a youth employment crisis to a missing jobs crisis is a necessary first step. We provide a counter narrative to support this shift.
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An emerging orthodoxy supports the proposition that the rural economy – built around agriculture but encompassing much more – will serve as sweet spot of employment opportunities for many millions of young people into the foreseeable future. However, our understanding of how rural young people in Africa take advantage of processes of rural transformation or engage with the rural economy is limited. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with 117 rural young people in three country contexts (Ghana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania), this paper reports the findings on the steps and pathways through which young people construct livelihoods in hotspots of agricultural commercialisation. Overall what emerges from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and pathways is that the commercialised rural economy within which they operate offer them a variety of income earning opportunities. Family and broader social relations are key in enabling young people to access the needed resources in the form of land, capital, and inputs to begin their ventures. Between family and rental markets, there is little evidence that young people’s engagement with crop production is limited by their inability to access land. We also find evidence of asset accumulation by young people in the form of housing, furniture and savings among others, which reflects the combination of relatively dynamic rural economies, enabling social relations, and hard work. However, for many it is a struggle to stay afloat, requiring effort, persistence, and an ability to navigate setbacks and hazards. Our findings challenge a number of assumptions underlying policy and public discourse around rural young people and employment in Africa. We highlight some key implications for policy seeking to promote youth employment in rural Africa.
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Strategies to empower women in development contexts frequently address their authority to take decisions within their household, including decisions that are taken jointly by couples. Assessing empowerment in joint decision-making has traditionally followed a dichotomous approach: decisions are either joint or not, with the former associated with women’s empowerment. This paper contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the empowerment effects of joint decision-making, based on case study data from Uganda. We present survey data revealing significant gender differences in perception of decision-making over the adoption of agricultural practices and consumption expenses. Women reported joint decision-making more often than men, who presented themselves more as sole decision makers. We supplement the survey data with an in-depth study in Lodi village, where we reconstruct meanings attached to joint decision-making using focus group discussions, a decision-making game and participant observation. Reported joint decision-making included a range of practices from no conversation among partners to conversations where female spouse’s ideas are considered but the man has the final say. The findings suggest that local interpretations of joint decision-making, in at least this case of a dominantly patriarchal context, can limit its potential for assessing women’s empowerment.
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Based on fieldwork in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana, in the paper we provide new evidence that young people's engagement with savings groups in Africa is deeply embedded in networks of family and social relations. Savings group members rely on money that is given to them by partners and family members to make savings contributions to the groups, while they also transfer some of their share-outs and loans to family members and friends. This is particularly true for younger members. As such we argue that the socially embedded nature of young people's engagement with savings group needs to be taken into account. The tension between the primary focus on the individual within youth saving programming, and the socially embedded nature of their engagement, has important implications for programme design, implementation and evaluation.
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After decades of neglect, agricultural mechanisation is back on the development agenda in Africa. Taking the mechanisation efforts of Ghana as an example, this paper analyses the governance challenges involved in government and private sector efforts to promote mechanisation in smallholder-based farming systems. To identify these governance challenges, this paper develops a conceptual framework that combines the agricultural innovation system approach with the concepts of New Institutional Economics. Two qualitative empirical methods were used to apply the framework: the Net-Map technique, which is a participatory mapping tool, and expert / key informant interviews. The results show that next to well-known problems such as market failures concerning access to spare-parts supplies and credit, mechanisation is constrained by missing institutions, particularly those that would be required to ensure adequate skill development of tractor-operators and technicians. In addition, exchange rate fluctuations and impeding customs practices prevent stronger private sector involvement in mechanisation. Governance challenges such as political interest and elite capture were found to limit the effectiveness of government imports of tractors and machinery. The findings suggest that instead of focusing on the supply of subsidised machinery, the government could be more effective by investing in institutional development to strengthen the agricultural innovation system for mechanisation and to support emerging private sector initiatives.
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This study examines the current practice of subsistence agriculture in Uzanu, Edo state, Nigeria, and its contribution to the agricultural development and food security of the rural community now and for the future. All the farmers in the region are dependent on subsistence farming based on shifting cultivation and also practice intercropping to an extent. This farming system serves as a livelihood source, providing food, cash, and income as well as serving other social and cultural functions. Subsistence farmers try to manage farming uncertainties based on local knowledge and implemented through community support systems. This article argues that subsistence agricultural practices should be supported as a new approach to both economic and social protection, as it underpins production as well as consumption in resource-poor communities. This study evaluates the role and development of subsistence agricultural development and its adaptations in Uzanu. The results show that rural subsistence agricultural production could be improved if rural farmers had access to training on subsistence farming systems based on indigenous knowledge and skill sets, targeted to enhance and increase farm output.This study concludes that subsistence agriculture is an important element for growth and development in Nigeria despite the low output and income currently generated from it.
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This paper aims to make a limited contribution to Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory. An evaluation has been made of an empirically based personal narrative of the author's experiences, reflections and problems as an instructor of a management elective course at the undergraduate level. The paper examines the process of reflection, correction and learning from the perspective of the instructor and how the issue of race and origin of the student learners' can stimulate or hinder assimilation of knowledge within a classroom. The study reveals that it is essential for an educator to be critically reflective of his/her culture and that of his/her students to be able to assess their learning styles and adopt suitable and appropriate teaching pedagogies within the classroom. This paper draws attention towards types of teaching pedagogies, non traditional methods and aids and their effectiveness in educating students of diverse backgrounds. It provides insights about diversity within classrooms and its impact on teaching, pedagogies and learning styles of both educators and students, by portraying the journey of an educator and her process of self improvement.
Widespread and increasing rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been of great concern to development community. Compared to other developing regions of the world, low use of inputs by small farmers is one of the factors responsible for the gap between potential and actual yields. Market constraints reduce profitability in use of inputs, increasing production risks. This study interviewed 130 agro-input dealers in Kenya to analyze trends, inputs stocked, distance to markets, services to farmers, and constraints and suggests how to improve input delivery to farmers. Results indicate that although the number of agro-dealers is still small relative to farmer population, there has been a steady annual increase (2–22%, with mean of 16% across inputs) in their number from 2003 to 2005. DAP fertilizer (stocked by 92% of respondents) was most commonly stocked. Others are CAN fertilizer (84%), urea (78%), and NPK (40%). Other services provided by agro-dealers are input information (75% of respondents), credit (13%), bulk breaking (8%), and spraying (4%). Selling price of inputs increased with distance to markets. High transport cost (53%), low demand (30%), lack of market information (21%), lack of storage facilities (13%), and limited business knowledge (12%) were the most important constraints faced by agro-dealers. Policies and institutional frameworks suggested by dealers to streamline agro-input trade were associated, and government was the main institution proposed. The study concludes with suggestions on how to enhance efficiency of agro-dealers in input delivery – timely since SSA governments are presently creating structures to enhance input use.