In Kenya, youth aged 15-24 years represent 20% of the population of which about 84% live in rural areas. Consequently, rural areas are in need of numerous programs to enhance the empowerment of youth residing in these locales. Whereas the governments of Kenya and non-governmental agencies have made efforts to mitigate these challenges, there is very little literature on how and whether previous and current youth policy interventions have successfully and specifically addressed these challenges. This study aimed at exploring the challenges and hardships facing rural youth and young adults and how development stakeholders can alleviate those hardships in Kenya. The major findings included a growing population of unemployed but educated youth; lack of capital or income-generating activities; a strong cycle of poverty from parents to children; dismal participation in groups or organizations; inadequate media coverage of rural issues; and inadequate awareness youth interventions. Key recommendations include a) a diversified educational approach with emphasis on entrepreneurship programs, income-generating and other entrepreneurship skills; c) investing in appropriate programs that could be used as a recruitment tool for young people’s involvement in such activities; and d) ensuring that youth have unbridled access to information that is relevant to the socio-economic situation in rural areas. Such nascent efforts are needed to strengthen national policies like Kenya’s Vision 2030 as well as global efforts such as the Sustainable Development Goals that are premised on human capital development through the empowerment of youth, young adults, and other groups that are marginalized.
Keywords: Rural Youth, Empowerment, Quality of Life, Youth Policy, Kenya, Rural Development