With agriculture considered key to generate jobs for Africa’s growing population, several studies have explored youth aspirations towards farming. While many factors explaining aspirations have been well studied, little is known about the actors shaping aspirations. We follow a unique “whole-family” approach, which builds on mixed-methods data from 348 parents and corresponding adolescents (boys and girls) in rural Zambia. The study finds that parents strongly shape youth aspirations – they are much more influential than siblings, peers, church, and media. Male youth are more likely to envision farming (full or part-time) than female youth. This reflects their parent’s aspirations and is reinforced by the patriarchal system of land inheritance. Parent’s farm characteristics such as degree of mechanization are also associated with aspirations. We recommend a “whole-family” approach, which acknowledges the powerful role of parents, for policies and programs on rural youth, and a stronger focus on gender aspects.
Published as Hohenheim Working Papers on Social and Institutional Change in Agricultural Development Nr. 009-2021.