• Mapenzie Tauzie

Student thesis: Phd


Development and inequality studies have focused on agriculture as a sector with potential to address the challenge of youth unemployment, particularly in the rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural livelihoods have been idealised for rural youth who, though less educated, already have experience in agriculture and access to land through inheritance. However, as a result, such narratives neglect how highly educated, sometimes urban-based youth with limited access and use to inherited land might find a way back to agricultural livelihoods. This is despite the shortage of formal employment opportunities and a corresponding un(der)employment among urban youth and the additional challenge of a perceived antipathy among young people towards agrarian livelihoods. This research arose from an awareness of social media use on agricultural topics among young people in Malawi. It sought to understand the dynamics of agricultural livelihoods mediated through the current context of rising mobile phone, internet and social media use and high demand for land. The research set out to explore three research questions. Firstly, what are the experiences of these young farmers? Secondly, considering the high demand for land in as yet undeveloped land markets, how do these young people access agricultural land? Lastly, What questions does this research raise about the structure of Malawi’s agriculture? The thesis reports life stories of 12 individual farmers to identify livelihood trajectories. It applies the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) to organise data into farming livelihood types and to identify the roles different capital assets play in livelihood diversification strategies. The study shows that young people – the new achikumbe elite– are engaging in agriculture by adapting their existing employment circumstances and taking advantage of access to Information Communication Technology and informal land markets. These urban-based weekend farmers are reinvesting in agrarian livelihoods, while rural youth are diversifying outside agriculture to reduce the risks they associate with agrarian livelihoods. Secondly, the case studies illustrate that in the context of rural-urban migration, young people’s access to land ceases to be dominated by the inheritance of distant plots in villages and becomes more dependent on their ability to buy or rent through the functional informal land markets. This study’s original contribution to knowledge is the introduction of the new achikumbe elite through a detailed analysis of their characteristics and their navigation of challenges and opportunities associated with agriculture and being ‘youthful’. The research contributes an alternative narrative in which urban-based educated youth are seen as an important resource for innovation and investment in agriculture to supply growing urban markets.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPhilip Woodhouse (Supervisor) & Admos Chimhowu (Supervisor)


  • Agrarian Livelihoods
  • Youth
  • Land
  • Malawi
  • Achikumbe
  • Customary Land
  • Agriculture
  • Mobile Phones
  • urban youth
  • Rural areas

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