Too old for Tik Tok? Not these elderly farmers

Farmer Solomon Njoroge rehearsing before recording his farming activities of the day for his social media audience. [Rosa Agutu, Standard]

Social media usage has come a long way, from the ancient day when the elderly believed it was meant to mislead young people, to religious leaders chiming in by saying is a tool for evil, to now where sermons are done via social media.

And with that change has come the new 'creature' called social media influencer. In simple terms influencers are used by brands to lure consumers into buying their products hence being influenced.

Apart from using known influencers, different sectors have come up with ways of empowering their staff with tools that can make them influencers in their own right. Interestingly, farmers from young to old are slowly embracing social media.

Case in point is 70-year-old Patrick Kipaty an organic farmer, who says for a long time he believed social media platforms were not for him.

"I used to think that social media was just for abusive language but now I have learnt that you can use social media to inspire and change people. Now I sell my own produce and even teach people how to farm on social media," he says.

The Smart Harvest team met Kipaty during a graduation ceremony in Thika where the elderly farmer was graduating having undergone five months of Social Media training by Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and WOWZI Technologies.

The 35 farmers trained were from Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Machakos and Murang'a counties from December 2022 to March this year.

"The social media training has been rough especially for old people, but I have learnt many things, I have learned to create my own farming videos. Whatever I do on my farm is now documented. I take short videos, edit them and post on my pages," says Kipaty.

Kipaty says before the training majority of his clients were from around but now his clientele has grown because he has a wider reach.

Another beneficiary of the project 58-year-old, Ruth Syokau from Machakos, says she gained useful skills on digital marketing which has enabled her secure more clients.

Initially Syokau believed that social media was just for playing politics but after the training she saw an opportunity to market and grow her customer base.

"When I was harvesting my mangoes, I posted them on social media and it worked wonders. In two hours' time I got seven customers making orders," she says.

In addition to social media use, the graduands also learnt about the importance of organic farming and how to make money from it.

Though young people are adept at use of social media, they also learnt how to make money from it.

Branding on social media

Solomon Njoroge, a 24-year-old upcoming farmer, says before the training he was just using social media to connect with his friends and socialise.

"Before, I was just posting for fun, but after the training, I learnt how to use social media strategically. Now I not only use it to socialise but also to sell my farm produce and look for customers. I learnt how to make good videos and posting relevant content on social media. I also learnt importance of the use of hashtags to expand my market reach," Njoroge says.

Charles Mungai, also known as Chao Mkulima a vegetable and fruits farmer says before the training he was a regular farmer but now he is a digital farmer building a solid brand using social media.

"The training has helped us in knowing our target audience, how to take quality videos and pictures, as well as editing them," he says.

One of the social media influencers who was trainer, Rollier Karen Kamwari, says as an established content creator, she was honoured to share her digital marketing skills with young and old farmers.

"We are trying to change how content creation is perceived especially among the elderly population. I was impressed to see how the elderly people are eager and willing to learn how to use social media," she says

Kamwari says the training started with the basics, downloading the social media Apps then how to shoot quality videos and pictures and editing them.

"Most of them only had WhatsApp, so we taught them how to use social media platforms like tiktok, Facebook and Instagram to sell their produce," she says. Uptake of digital technology is linked to internet penetration. According to Kepios, a data firm, there were 17.86 million internet users in Kenya in January 2023. Kenya's internet penetration rate stood at 32.7 percent of the total population at the start of 2023. In Kenya, it's estimated that only 20 to 30 per cent of farmers use a digital agricultural solution.

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