The factors influencing youth participation in agricultural co-operatives: evidence from the semi-rural areas of eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal.
Mdluli, Siphephelo Freedom Siyabonga.
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Co-operatives, as microeconomic community economic development (CED) strategies, have demonstrated to have the ability to create jobs and alleviate poverty. Agricultural co-operatives, in particular, stand a better chance of transforming the economic status quo by providing black rural small-scale farmers with an opportunity to participate in the mainstream agriculture economy. Co-operatives also contribute to community socio-economic development and the empowerment of vulnerable groups such as women and the youth. Hence, young people in rural and semi-rural areas have employed the co-operative strategy to sustain their livelihoods and improve their quality of life. However, agricultural co-operatives established by the youth often face internal and structural challenges, leading to their ultimate demise. This study aims to determine the factors influencing youth participation in agricultural co-operatives located in rural and semi-rural areas of eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. As in the rest of South Africa, the province of KwaZulu-Natal faces a socio-economic crisis of youth unemployment. The focus on youth participation is of particular importance as it allows the study to gain insight into how these impoverished and unemployed young black people deal with the adversities of the agricultural co-operative sector which is monopolised by elite white commercial farmers who control both the markets and arable land. By focusing on the youth, the study will be looking at the individual level of analysis, that is the choices and perceptions of young people who have formed agricultural co-operatives. To achieve this, the study has employed the capability approach as the main theoretical framework to be applied in analysing the co-operative members’ participation. The research methodology employed by this study is qualitative, which is framed by the constructivist paradigm with a narrative approach. This study has employed a purposive sampling strategy to select information rich respondents. Ten (10) respondents from seven (7) agricultural co-operatives were interviewed. Data has been analysed thematically, and the themes that emerged from the coding procedure have informed the findings of this research. The study found that there were factors encouraging youth participation in agricultural co-operatives, such as having a passion for agriculture, working together, being unemployed, and the desire of being self-employed. While factors hindering youth participation in agricultural co-operatives included insecure land tenure, lack of infrastructure and equipment, lack of essential services such as water, access to information, markets. These emerging factors continue to affect the participation of young people in agricultural co-operatives; thus, affecting the development and sustainability of co-operatives.