Seeding Kenya’s Agricultural Future Through Youth Insights

Developing youth archetypes to create impactful career pathways in agriculture for a rising generation

Agriculture is a fundamental pillar of Kenya’s economy, accounting for 30% of the GDP and employing over 40% of the country’s workforce. Despite its critical role, young people are increasingly seeking opportunities outside the sector, deterred by obstacles in land ownership, climate instability, and unpredictable markets. Given the aging workforce, there is a pressing need to identify career opportunities within the sector that resonate with the aspirations of a rising generation.

In 2023, Tupande by One Acre Fund partnered with IDEO​.org to shift young people’s views on agriculture by identifying opportunities for evolution within the sector. Through the development of youth archetypes, targeted campaign strategies, and a gender assessment, we were able to advise Tupande on adapting existing program elements to increase participation amongst young people across Kenya. Together, we seek to cultivate a more inclusive and sustainable agricultural future that provides dignified livelihoods.

Designing for Youth Engagement

Our team met with young people, their families, and influencers from peri-urban and rural communities across Kenya. When designing these research sessions, we optimized for two principles: authentic engagement and empowerment. Young people are more than capable of sharing their valuable insights and perspectives, but it’s critical to create conditions that reduce the power imbalance between researcher and participant, or young person and adult, and encourage open and honest dialogue. 

By opening the sessions with creative tensions, card sorting, and storytelling activities, we were able to ease participants into the subject matter. These engaging, group-oriented activities fostered an open environment for candor, two-way communication, and lightheartedness. By the time we sat down with our young participants for one-on-one interviews, they were well-prepared and enthusiastic to engage in longer conversations. 

Quickly, we learned that the widespread belief of youth disinterest in agriculture was a misconception. The majority of the young people we spoke with were open to and excited by potential careers in the sector, but the challenge of land acquisition and start-up capital loomed large. In many West Kenyan communities we worked with, land inheritance practices favored the eldest male sibling, leaving younger brothers and women with minimal opportunity to pursue a future in agriculture. These challenges varied across regions and were influenced by several societal factors, but crucially, not rooted in a lack of interest.

Co-Designing a Gender Assessment

Prioritizing a gendered lens to this work, we formed a council of women to strengthen our female youth archetypes and pinpoint ways Tupande could more effectively engage young female farmers. Comprised of active Tupande program participants, non-Tupande farmers, and non-farmers, the council acted as our go-to advisors while researching and compiling the assessment. With the support of research fellows from our Billion Girls CoLab program, we led group sessions to examine Tupande’s product offering and service delivery points through a gendered lens. The diversity of the council allowed us to engage with a variety of viewpoints around structural barriers and pain points preventing women from engaging in agriculture. They played an instrumental role in providing gender-sensitive improvements to Tupande’s offerings—from rethinking the application process of a Tupande farming loan to the logistics of participating in a training program

Developing Youth Archetypes

In our research, we saw nuances in perspectives across gender lines, regions, and education levels. In Mount Kenya, for instance, young people perceived agriculture as an avenue for launching innovative businesses and exploring different segments of the value chain. Conversely, in Nyanza and Western Kenya, young people saw farming as a pathway for a modest income and sustenance. 

When crafting a set of youth archetypes for Tupande, we attempted to capture trending attitudes and aspirations that reflected the diversity of these views. For each character, we outlined their motivations, ambitions, pain points, and potential opportunities for outreach. Collectively, the archetypes mapped out the entire journey of pursuing a career in agriculture, from the initial exploration phase to achieving success and growth in their chosen paths.

Visuals by Nakhanu Wafalu

The creation of archetypes guided the development of tailored campaigns and program adjustments, addressing the unique needs of each demographic. By incorporating a deeper understanding of young people’s needs and aspirations, we endeavored to evolve Tupande’s offerings with a renewed focus on a youth-forward agricultural community that enables innovation, inclusivity, and dignified livelihoods.