Striving for dignity : insights of young people in Rwanda on youth engagement in agriculture and urban migration of rural youth

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: In the global development discourse, it is argued that concerns of youth unemployment and slow agricultural development in Africa can be solved through investing in youth engagement in agriculture. However, little attention is paid to whether young people aspire to engage in agriculture, or what it would take to otherwise change that. Research shows indeed that many young people prefer to migrate to urban areas than staying in rural areas where agriculture is the dominant livelihood activity. Particularly in Rwanda, urbanisation is dominated by youth and has more than doubled in the past two decades. It is in this regard that this study has been designed. Taking particular cases in Northern Rwanda and Kigali city, this thesis explored different habituses of young people in order to understand how they perceive agriculture and the factors that make them consider to engage in agriculture or migrate to cities to look for non-agricultural opportunities. The data emanate from field observations, 13 semi-structured interviews and 4 focus group discussions of a balanced number of young men and women from both rural areas of Northern Rwanda and urban areas of Kigali city. Using concepts of doxa, symbolic capital, social norms and aspirations has generated a theoretical framework that led to discussion arguments in this thesis. This study shows that a negative image borne by subsistence farming in society has negatively influenced young people’s aspirations to engage in agriculture whereas agricultural activities beyond farming appeared attractive to Rwandan youth. This image of agriculture in rural society was identified as the most important factor pushing rural youth to migrate to cities, although the lure of modernity was a strong pull factor. This thesis suggests policymakers to influence change in perceptions of agriculture in order to persuade young people to engage in agricultural activities, farming in particular.

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