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Type: Thesis
Title: Engagement of Youth in Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Laos
Author: Thephavanh, Manithaythip
Issue Date: 2023
School/Discipline: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Abstract: Despite the potential for the agricultural sector to serve as a source of livelihood opportunities, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural youth in developing countries remain limited. The lack of appealing livelihood opportunities is a contributing factor to a reduction of youth involvement in agriculture that poses a major concern for the sustainability of production systems worldwide. The integration of entrepreneurship in agricultural sectors (agripreneurship) in the developing world has been advocated as a powerful tool for promoting the socioeconomic integration of young people and is a key to avoiding rural depopulation. Obtaining the benefits of youth agripreneurship requires a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances that cause youth to choose this career pathway, the environments that facilitate or hinder this development, and extent of youth agripreneurial career engagement. However, there are insufficient data available to assess these requirements. Although there is increasing interest in the agricultural sector’s potential to provide income generating opportunities for rural youth in developing countries, scientific literature on agripreneurship in developing countries has largely been neglected by the mainstream research on entrepreneurship, with the majority of agripreneurial research focussed on developed countries. Research into characteristics and circumstances that drive young people to engage in agripreneurship in developing economies, and the constraints and opportunities that young farmers face remains scarce, and there is a specific need for research that sheds light on the perspective of the young farmers themselves. This thesis therefore aims to identify demographic, personal and enabling environment factors that encourage or discourage youth engagement in agripreneurship, using Laos as a case study, as it is a developing country in Asia with a highly rural and young population that is transitioning to commercial agriculture, agribusiness and agripreneurship. A review of the literature identified that behavioural sciences has been applied to understand entrepreneurial career decisions, and the motivational antecedents of the intention to choose entrepreneurial careers. By consolidating the dominant frameworks for career decision making in the literature, a novel framework, the AgriPreneurial Career Framework (APCF) was developed to guide this research. Meanwhile, the scientific study of entrepreneurship has emerged as a distinct field that is characterised by research into the establishment and performance of entrepreneurial ventures, including studies that have sought to identify the reasons and goals that motivate individuals to create businesses. Entrepreneurship research may be used to provide meaning from the lived experiences of practicing youth agripreneurs in Laos. In particular, research can identify the phenomena that motivate youth to become agripreneurs. This thesis therefore applies quantitative and qualitative research methods from both approaches to address the following research questions: RQ1. Which demographic factors influence motivational antecedents of intention regarding agripreneurship amongst Lao youth? RQ2. To what extent are perceptions about agripreneurship and the enabling environment motivational antecedents that influence intentions to be an agripreneur? RQ3. What factors previously motivated currently-practicing young agripreneurs in Laos to enter a career as an agripreneur? RQ4. Is there an enabling institutional and support environment for young agripreneurs in Laos? RQ5. Do motivational antecedents that influence intention to become an agripreneur amongst Lao youth who have yet to embark on a career reflect the motivations of practicing youth agripreneurs? RQ6. Do the experiences with the enabling environment of practicing youth agripreneurs reflect the perceptions of the enabling environment amongst Lao youth who have yet to embark on a career? Demographic factors that influence motivational antecedents of intention towards agripreneurship amongst Lao youth (RQ1) were explored by statistical comparison in 298 undergraduate students in Laos. University students are a group of young Laotians who have not yet embarked upon a career, however they have certain characteristics that may differ from youth generally. The demographic factors found to influence intention towards agripreneurship amongst Lao youth were family backgrounds, area of studies and university of enrolment, whilst motivational antecedents of intention, namely Attitudes, Subjective Norms and Perceived Behavioural Control, were also variously influenced by demographic variables. Although commercial agriculture/agribusiness family occupational backgrounds contributed to greater intention to practice agripreneurship, subsistence farming backgrounds did not. Commercialisation of agriculture in Laos therefore requires better engagement of youth from subsistence farming households, as this group predominates in Laos, and is at the greatest risk of missing the benefits of modernisation. This result also provides new insight into demographic origins of perceptions and intentions according to the Theory of Planned Behaviour. The extent that perceptions about agripreneurship and the enabling environment are motivational antecedents that influence intentions to be an agripreneur (RQ2) was examined by applying a structured equation model, developed according to the APCF, to data obtained from a survey 298 undergraduate students in Laos. Factors that significantly influenced students’ intention strength included perceived feasibility arising from agriculture and business knowledge, access to resources, attitudes towards the outcomes of having a career as an agripreneur, perceived capability in performing a career as an agripreneur, perception of support from government policy, and the importance placed on educational support. The consolidated framework contributes new insights into the determinants of intention towards agripreneurship. These insights can enable decision makers in Laos to target certain beliefs and enabling environment factors for intervention and may provide a point of reference for other emerging economies faced with the need for transitioning to entrepreneurial modes of agriculture. As a theoretical contribution, these results demonstrated that the Theory of Planned Behaviour, the Entrepreneurial Event Model and the “Careership” theoretical frameworks all include factors that significantly influence intention towards agripreneurship amongst Lao youth, but also omit some significant determinants and include non-significant indicators. A qualitative approach combining content analysis with narrative inquiry techniques was applied to factors that previously motivated currently practicing young agripreneurs in Laos to enter a career as an agripreneur (RQ3). The accounts of 74 young Laotian agripreneurs regarding their entry into agripreneurship showed that despite the characteristics that set agripreneurship in Laos apart from entrepreneurship in general, commonly identified typologies of entrepreneurial motivation, particularly income, extrinsic benefits, and emotional paradigms also motivate Lao youth to become agripreneurs. The application of narrative inquiry has revealed the emphasis that some practicing agripreneurs in Laos place on the attainability of their career that resulted in its practice by both opportunity-driven and necessity-driven entrepreneurs, with implications for the sustainable development in other countries that are in transition to commercial agriculture. Furthermore, conducting this investigation with practicing agripreneurs enabled the research to build on the survey work by investigating if the motivational antecedents that influence intention to become an agripreneur amongst the students reflects the motivational antecedents of practicing young agripreneurs. The motivational antecedents that influence intention to become an agripreneur amongst the students have significant overlap with the motivational antecedents of practicing youth agripreneurs (RQ5); notably, the most influential consideration of students was perceived feasibility, which was frequently reflected by currently practicing entrepreneurs. The same practicing agripreneurs provided insight into the enabling environment, consisting of institutions, and supporting functions, through a semi-structured interview process (RQ4). Agripreneur perspectives indicated improvements to the enabling environment in Laos that increase their capacity for agripreneurship compared with earlier in their careers. Factors such as infrastructure, and new, digitalised, online-offline platforms for information sharing, banking, marketing, delivery, and logistics were identified as specific areas of improvement. Commercial agricultural policy has resulted in increased food production, income generation and opportunities for technical advice, financial access, market linkages, product development, and farmers’ group/organisation establishment from public, private and (I)NGOs. However, young agripreneurs identified areas in which institutions and supporting functions limited the growth and sustainability of agripreneurship. Limitations included service obstacles, quality of extension staff, coordination, effectiveness of policies for implementation and monitoring, unclear administrative/tax fees, poorly defined research, school values, curriculum design and learning-teaching methods. The investigation demonstrates that institutions and supporting functions have a vital function in enabling agripreneurship by young agripreneurs. However, administrative obstacles and poor implementation of policies carry the risk of having the opposite effect. By comparing the experiences of practicing agripreneurs to the perceptions of Lao youth who have yet to choose their career, it was possible to identify key areas of the enabling environment that are underperforming and subsequently discouraging future agripreneurs from embarking on these careers (RQ6). This thesis applied both quantitative and qualitative social research methodologies to identify factors that influence youth to be agripreneurs. The various analyses presented in this thesis, guided by the APCF, have identified factors regarding individuals, their beliefs and the enabling environments that significantly determine motivational antecedents/factors influencing undergraduate students and young agripreneur engagement in agripreneurial careers in Laos. The commonality of these results across analysis methods and participants, combined with support from the available literature, demonstrates the applicability of the APCF framework for investigating youth perception and intention to engage in small and medium scale agripreneurship in Laos, and potentially other countries in agrarian transition. This research contributes knowledge regarding youth and agripreneurship that is relevant to Laos and other developing countries. This improved understanding of the constraints and opportunities that young farmers face can facilitate the development of an enabling environment for transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture. The findings from this research also assist the promotion of agripreneurship in Laos through these following recommendations (1) Adopt a people-centred approach that recognises the varying influence of demographic characteristics on agripreneurial intention and motivational antecedents, (2) Reduce barriers to finance for subsistence farmers to enable commercialisation, (3) Raise awareness of the benefits and values of agripreneurship, integrate agripreneurship knowledge and address institutional biases in the educational sector, (4) Emphasise the role of motivations and personal capacities rather than resource endowments when promoting agripreneurship, (5) Increase the certainty of interactions with formal institutions by increasing transparency and accessibility of information relating to registration and fees, and (6) Improve the effectiveness of policy support for youth agripreneurship.
Advisor: Denton, Matthew
Philp, Joshua
Nuberg, Ian
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, 2023
Keywords: Agriculture; Agricultural products; Agripreneurship; Commercial services; Commodity markets; Community behaviour; Developing countries; Enabling environment; Food security; Institutions and suppport functions; Laos; Motivation; Narrative analysis; Rural economies; Rural livelihoods; Small to medium-sized enterprises; Sustainable develoment; Young agricultural entrepreneurs; Youth
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