2019 Winner

Hungry cities: Inclusive food markets in Africa


The Inspire Challenge is an initiative to challenge partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale. We look for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.

This proposal was selected as a 2019 winner, with the team receiving 100,000 USD to put their ideas into practice. 

Food systems serving low-income urban consumers are notoriously hard to analyze. Nonetheless, these systems feed billions of consumers. To gain insight, the project proposes to analyze five years of commercial data on 17 fruit and vegetable crops from more than 20,000 farmers and 12,000 retailers and wholesale markets in metro Nairobi. Insights will support data-driven policy engagement, improved business decisions and further research on the role of fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV) in ameliorating nutrient deficiencies for low-income consumers.

Food systems serving low-income urban consumers contain multiple actors from fork to farm, commingle formal and traditional activities and generate partial or even contradictory data. Despite these limitations, these systems feed billions of low-income consumers. The diet poor urban consumers access, can afford and consume directly impacts their capacity to achieve their potential or fall victim to various forms of malnutrition and illness.

Metropolitan Nairobi, with 6.5 million inhabitants, provides a case in point. Low income residents face major iron and vitamin A deficiency in their diets. Most households cite availability and cost as the main constraints to FFV consumption. Improved access and affordability to nutritious fruits and vegetables could therefore play a role in reducing these deficiencies.

Twiga Foods, a Nairobi based start-up founded in 2014, offers a market-based solution through its innovative business-to-business (B2B) model. Twiga connects 20,836 farmers and 12,084 small-scale vendors using mobile technology to capture demand for 17 fruits and vegetables. In 2018, Twiga distributed a total of 16,787 tons of fruits and vegetables for a total turn-over of nearly US$6 million.

All all of Twiga’s transactions since 2014 have been captured using ICT tools, including production, distribution and sales data as well as reports on daily prices and volumes for the commodities they trade. The project proposes to use Twiga Foods data to assess how the Nairobi metropolitan area food system provides FFV to low-income consumers, identify inefficiencies in production and distribution and assist policy-makers to identify sustainable ways to provide healthy, safe and accessible food to growing urban populations in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.



Step by step

October 2019

US$100K grant

The project was one of five winners of the Inspire Challenge 2019 and was awarded US$100K at the third annual convention of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, during 16-18 of October.

January 2020

App and survey development

The Twiga team began developing the data collection app, and the CIAT team started to develop the surveys that will be given to market wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.


March 2020

Consumer surveys

The team will begin surveying consumers in the field. The survey will be given in person with the aim of surveying between 300 and 500 people. Consumers will be asked questions regarding their perceptions of commodities and reasons for purchasing certain foods.

Phto: A. Vezina / Bioversity International. Dessert bananas on display at a fruit and vegetable market in Nairobi, Kenya.

Additionally, development of the app, through which retailers and wholesalers will be surveyed, will be completed.

April 2020

Wholesaler and retail surveys

App-based surveying of wholesalers and retailers will take place. The survey seeks information on what products are sold and to who.

May - October 2020

5Q follow-up surveys

Every two months, a sub-sample of the consumers surveyed in March will be given a follow-up survey via the 5Q methodology: five questions based on changes in knowledge, attitude, and skills.

The data from these follow-up surveys will also be analyzed during this time.

October 2020

Paper publication

A manuscript is to be published on achievements in terms of streamlining wholesale and retail data and what changes can be seen after the streamlining.

Stay tuned for more updates!