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What’s the Story on Agriculture? Using Narratives to Understand Farming Households’ Aspirations in Meru, Kenya

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In the limited research on farming aspirations, little attention has been paid to the narratives which frame and shape them, and the ways in which the aspirations of those who farm intersect with the goals of extension services. Drawing on multimethod research conducted in Meru County, Kenya, we demonstrate how aspirations are not only situated within a consideration of personal circumstances, but are shaped in crucial ways by networks of relations and by the perceived possibilities afforded by material and cultural resources. We further highlight the accounts of state extension agents that link a lack of engagement with the desires and needs of those who farm to the failure of agricultural development initiatives. We argue that an engagement with aspirations opens up a route to understanding the obstacles and potentialities that matter to those who farm and, as such, might enable more responsive development initiatives centred on the perceptions and desires of those who farm.

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