There is a saying in Kenya: ‘An empty pot makes the loudest noise’. With a population of 6.5 million, Nairobi has the largest city population in East Africa and is home to one of the world’s biggest slums. Those are a lot of mouths to feed. In the meantime, not enough nutritious and affordable food is reaching the people who need it. This prompts the Clean Energy Challenge for Nairobi: ‘How can we make the journey from farm to fork greener and fairer in Nairobi?’

The journey food takes down the supply chain in Kenya is inefficient, a lot of food and energy is lost along the way. Although globally Kenya is a small carbon emitter, it’s the country’s agricultural sector which causes the majority of its greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, cities in the county, with Nairobi in the front row, need to rethink how they source, store and transport food so they can feed themselves in an affordable, nutritious and sustainable way.

‘There can be no sustainable food systems when 30% of food produced using limited production resources is lost or wasted along the supply chains,’ says Jane Ambuko, Senior Lecturer and Head of Horticulture at Department of Plant, Science and Crop Protection, University of Nairobi.

Possible design approaches

Preventing food waste would save energy across the food supply chain. This can be addressed with more efficient refrigeration, transport networks and better connections between producers and consumers. Designs in different areas can make a difference to improve the supply chain. For example, by creating a system or service to better deal with irregular crop production. Or by furthering developments in urban agriculture, reviving traditional preservation methods or encouraging city-dwellers to (re-)discover alternative sources of nutrients. More sustainable cook stoves and cooking spaces will help save energy too. Reimagining food markets to become more efficient can be another approach.

Simple graphic explains the benefit of FreshBox

Examples of interventions

In response to the food insecurity in Nairobi, the government started promoting urban farming in the city’s largest slum. The locals there are encouraged to grow nutritious rich, affordable and easy to grow vegetables such as kale, spinach and arrowroot. Meanwhile, start-ups are coming up with innovative solutions for the supply chain. FreshBox is a system for urban vendors to refrigerate food for 21 days. This is a big step up from the normal two-day threshold. Greenchar, a company that planned to sell affordable, safe and eco-friendly charcoal briquettes from agricultural waste, unfortunately seems to have stopped. The examples show that optimizing resource use in food production, distribution, storage and consumption has the potential to reduce energy impact, while also providing healthy and affordable food across all income levels.

To read the full brief and know more about entering the challenge, go to