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 populations feed billions of consumers around the world, yet they can be challenging to analyze due to data gaps. To gain insights into the metropolitan Nairobi food system, 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. Insights will support data-driven policy engagement, improve business decisions, and further research on the role of fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV) in reducing nutritional deficiencies in low-income populations.

Low-income populations in Nairobi have decreased access to FFV, which plays a key role in determining nutritional status; they disproportionately face iron and vitamin A deficiencies, and most households cite availability and cost as the main constraints to FFV consumption.

Because the food systems that feed low-income, urban populations in Nairobi contain multiple actors from fork to farm, both formal and informal, only partial or, in some cases, even contradictory information exists about the availability of products, consumption patterns, and price dynamics.

To close this data gap and improve access to affordable FFV, the project proposes to analyze five years of commercial fruit and vegetable crop data collected from the more than 20,000 farmers and 12,000 retailers in the Nairobi metropolitan food system by Twiga Foods, a Nairobi based start-up.

Founded in 2014, Twiga Foods offers market-based solutions through an innovative business-to-business model. Using mobile technology, Twiga Foods has captured five years of market demand data for 17 fruit and vegetable crops from more than 20,000 farmers and 12,000 small-scale vendors.

The data-driven insights generated by this project will help identify inefficiencies in FFV production and distribution, assist policy makers in identifying sustainable solutions to providing healthy, safe, and affordable food to a growing urban population in Nairobi and beyond.


The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT coordinates the project’s research activities, leads in designing consumer data capture tools, and conducts data analysis and modelling for private sector decision-making and policy action. 

Twiga Foods leads in developing the applications for data collection at the wholesale and retail levels. The applications will be deployed to more than 12,000 retailers currently working with Twiga Foods.

Step by step

October 2019

US$100K grant

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

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!

Project News and Resources

Big data helping low-income consumers in Nairobi better access fresh fruit and vegetables

Big data helping low-income consumers in Nairobi better access fresh fruit and vegetables

Underused data, big data analytics, and ICT survey tools promise to reveal new and useful insights into the complex, multi-actor ...