Digital services can capitalize on the growing market of youth in agriculture through segmentation that takes into account their varying needs, priorities, and potentials.
What do we know about young African farmers today? What support do they need to drive change and growth in African agriculture? AFA interviewed 23 young farmers across 10 villages in two Kenyan counties to more fully understand their financial and agricultural portfolios, needs, and outlooks. What they found were key variations in capacities and aspirations across sub-segments of young farmers – suggesting a need to customize supports and services to fit different youth persona profiles
Who are the youth farmers in Kenya?
The Static Planner
“Rachel” (not her real name) is a 27-year-old married mother of four. Her dream is to have full autonomy over her personal finances and farming activities to support her family. But she lives within conventional rules and ways of farming. Her husband controls the money and makes the decisions. “I can’t afford to do all the things I want to do by myself, and once I ask my husband for help, my voice becomes small, and I no longer have a say,” she says. Generally, female and married at a young age, static planners like Rachel are held back from taking risks or pursuing an education, and they are compelled to put home and family first.
Rachel’s pathways feature solutions to reduce her dependency on her husband, such as participating in strong women’s groups and women-centric support platforms that can be accessed via her basic feature phone. They may leverage existing sources, such as Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), chamas (micro-savings groups), and religious groups in which static planners are already very active. Such groups are well placed to introduce diversified income-generating activities, such as growing crops with higher economic value, or training in other means of income generation.
The static planner also may benefit from learning about new technologies, product approaches, and go-to-market strategies around value chains with high female engagement, such as groundnuts, sorghum, and millet. Finally, simple digital platforms can support good financial planning and behaviors (e.g., budgeting) that will help the static planner to build her financial acumen and identity. The addition of in-person support within the platform can build trust and further advise her on how to incrementally set new and bigger milestones.
The Determined Builder
In contrast, “Walter” at age 29 is a risk-taker and highly confident in his ability to build a better future through hard work and shrewd investments. He has completed secondary school, is digitally savvy, and has been able to invest in new areas of production, such as planting mango groves. He aspires to do larger-scale farming and to become a community focal point for agribusiness matters. Determined builders like Walter accumulate assets, diversify agricultural activities, and experiment with new ideas and technologies.
Walter’s opportunities, needs, and priorities vary considerably from those of Rachel. For Walter, pathways to success include digital channels that can help him find and lease suitable land to expand his agribusiness or obtain larger loans to support new investments and working capital. They tap into social networking, using tech platforms to connect him with other successful farmers and larger agribusinesses for learning and inspiration (e.g., how to employ new agricultural techniques or alternative modes of earning income on the land). They support his long-term planning and capacity-strengthening through digital platforms and community resources to expand his financial literacy, credit management, and business skills.
The Opportunistic Mover
Twenty-four-year-old “Esther” is representative of another persona, the educated, independent “opportunistic mover.” She is an avid PC and smartphone user, with a vocational college degree. She is eager to demonstrate success as a farmer, especially compared to her educated peers who have given up on farming. She is interested in venturing into other types of agribusiness but wants to take calculated risks with the ability to better estimate farm yields, market prices, and returns on investment.
A search for stability in success defines the opportunistic mover’s aspirations, creating demand for products such as crop insurance and asset protection, loans tailored to farm reinvestment, trusted and quality sources of agricultural information, and access to value chains that reduce income volatility. Online platforms are well suited to supporting young farmers like Esther with bundled services around investment opportunities, financial and insurance products, and logical steps to enter new ventures. Like Walter, the determined builder, she would benefit from digital solutions to connect with other successful farmers and access group-oriented savings, financial support, and credit products.
The Rootless Climber
Victor exemplifies the ambitious but “rootless climber.” With only primary school education, he faces limited employment prospects and struggles to realize his aspirations for a stable and consistent living. He uses a feature phone and traditional farming methods. Though he would not seek out new agricultural information, learning, or training, he is willing to try when they are presented to him. The rootless climber is cynical about financial institutions but may adopt digital financial services if introduced to them through trusted influencers and targeted messages countering the idea that they cater to the wealthy only.
Methods to structure savings (e.g., automated deductions or mandatory savings schemes) are particularly relevant to youths like Victor. Other useful supports could include targeted financial literacy and education, training for new value chains and best agricultural practices, and strengthened engagement in informal financial groups to access small loans.
The youth market in agriculture is dynamic and growing, but not homogenous. Through segmentation, digital services can capture the vast array of opportunities this market presents, boosting both active adoption of their products and success rates for the full range of young farmer personas.
Valerie Gwinner; Consultant, Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate
Lucy Kioko; Agricultural Expert Lead, Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate
Andrew Karlyn; Strategy Lead, Monitoring, Evaluation, research and Learning, Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate.