A study in Kenya sought to understand where rural women and men see their opportunities and what role farming plays in their aspired future.
Looking into the aspirations of rural people provides insights into how they earn, invest, make decisions within the household, hold government accountable, make technology choices, and engage in other future-oriented behaviors.
While aspirations-based theories in economics have largely focused on people’s ‘capacity to aspire’, or rather their level of ambition relative to those around them, we use the term ‘aspiration’ to refer to what people aspire to do, with specific attention to the livelihood activities with which they wish to engage. Gender and age play an important role in aspiration formation. While aspirations of young people in agriculture have been studied, desires and ambitions of rural women have largely been overlooked. Yet, the topic is becoming even more important as many men migrate in search of more lucrative employment opportunities outside their rural homes, and many women assume the role of primary farmer.
One region where this is happening at scale is the eastern drylands of Kenya. In our recent study there, we interviewed 88 women and 50 men of all ages to understand where they see their future opportunities and what role farming plays in their aspired future.
“Imagine your life in 10 years”
We started interviews with intentionally general opening question: “Imagine your life in 10 years’ time. Tell a story about how you got to that point from this present day.” (Figure 1). People were free to share stories related to farming or anything else.