Ethiopian Journal of Development Research

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Rural Youth Transitions to Farming in Ethiopia: Processes and Challenges

Getnet Tadele, Asrat Ayalew


There exists a significant body of literature documenting the unfavourable
attitudes many young people hold towards a future in agriculture. In
addition to their unfavourable attitudes to farming, rural youth encounter a
number of insurmountable challenges on the road to becoming a farmer
even when they are willing to be one. Drawing from two different
qualitative studies of rural youth in three farming communities in Ethiopia,
this paper explores the processes through which rural youth transit to
farmerhood and the challenges and opportunities they come across in the
process. We argue that being educated not only reduces the desirability of a future in farming for rural youth but also considerably complicates late entry into farming. Gender is also an important factor in that the choice of
becoming a farmer is not the same for young women and men. Not only
that, women and men take different routes to becoming farmers and live out different lives as farmers. We conclude that education and the predominance of the urban, non-agrarian way of life in the imagined futures of rural youth, as well as the many obstacles most rural youth face on the way to becoming a farmer, are making the transition into adulthood and farming a lengthy and complicated process. However, at the same time, young people are not in a passive state of waithood as is often argued in much of the existing literature. Instead, they try to make the best of a bad situation by entering into farming in circumstances they perceive as far from ideal while still maintaining their hopes of achieving their long-term aspirations.

Keywords: rural youth, farming, agriculture, youth transitions, gender,

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