Fuel availability in Kenya has for years been generally consistent and sufficient. However, recent events have altered this trend, with Kenya experiencing a fuel shortage for almost three weeks. The crisis hit significant towns in Kenya, bringing the transport industry to a sudden standstill as motorists made long queues for fuel which, in most cases, would run out. The scarcity brought about significant impacts on the general Kenyan economy and essentially continues to do so. Food supply is among the sectors severely hit by the fuel shortage in Kenya.

The food supply and distribution section of food systems is pretty complex. According to FAO, different aspects ensure a smooth supply and distribution of food. These activities include production, handling, storage section, transporting, processing, and packaging. The mentioned processes complement each other and undermining one unit compromises the entire system. Fuel shortage in Kenya has massively affected the transport sector hence lowering food supply, as discussed in detail in the succeeding texts.

How Does Urban Food Distribution Work?

Food Market

Do you ever go grocery shopping sometimes and wonder how the fresh produce reached your town or city? The abundant, bright, brimming, opulent produce couldn’t have possibly been grown in the city. (Well, at least not all of it).

So how exactly do the urban sectors maintain a consistent supply of food?

Food supply and distribution in towns and cities involve a range of intra-connected activities that ensure all the social classes get equal access to food. All urban areas would typically have spaces for wholesale markets where vendors from the inner-city source their goods to sell to the formal-informal retailers. Transport is the backbone of food distribution in towns and cities regarding this model.

Additionally, the fast-growing population in the Kenyan urban sectors has resulted in a significant increase in food demand in the regions. Suppliers have thus opted to use heavy-fuel-consuming modes of transport like lorries and other large trucks to deliver goods and meet the growing demand. The fuel shortage in Kenya was a massive blow to the actors in this supply system. Food supply from farms was either delayed or halted, resulting in utter food loss given their perishability and zero supply in extreme cases. The result then was a cut in the food supply in towns across the country and a subsequent hike in food prices.

Fuel is Essential in the Food Production Process Too!

A significant amount of field operations require diesel fuel to operate. Most large-scale farms require heavy machinery for processes such as fertilization (bulk cart), tillage (moldboard plow, disk-chisel plow, etc.), planting (Till-planter, Grain drill, air-drill, etc.), weed control (Sprayer, row-crop cultivator, etc.) and harvesting (Mower, baler, combined harvester, etc.). A report by the Lowa State University reveals that all these farm equipment require fuel for the field operations and travel to and from the farm.

The fuel crisis interfered with most field operations on large-scale farms. Delayed farm operations cause detrimental effects on the overall food system. This outcome is because holding back the production process due to fuel shortage hinders the country’s general food availability and supply.

Proposed Mitigation Strategies

Grow and Supply Your Food

Vertical Garden

Urban farming is a concept that is fast growing in popularity and adaptation. The idea that you can grow your food to feed your family is quite intriguing. But did you know that you can not only grow your food, but you can also sell it? Urban spaces may be small, but adapting farming systems that require less space and soil, like vertical farming with hydroponics, could result in abundant harvests.

You might be wondering how selling can be possible, especially if that was not your primary goal. While that is a pretty valid concern, it pleases me to announce that there exist multiple startups that seek to solve that problem. Kilimogram, for instance, is an online marketplace that aims to connect sellers of agricultural produce and services with buyers. And so, if you would like to sell your surplus harvest, you can register as a vendor and easily get connected to your customers. Easy, right?

Growing and supplying food through urban farming reduces the distance covered in the food supply and distribution process hence lowering fuel demands.

Make Room for Innovation

As stated before, most farm power and machinery use diesel fuel to function. However, thanks to technological advancement and innovation, several inventions lean towards sustainable farming systems that are safe for both the people and the planet. One particularly intriguing invention is the hand tractor, a manually operated tractor tilling machine capable of cultivating a vast piece of land. The device uses very little fuel since it is hand propelled; hence would easily survive any possibility of fuel shortage in Kenya.

Furthermore, electric vehicles (EVs) are a thing now. This means that most farm machinery could be powered by electricity. While this could be a costly venture, we could start gradually by making all food transporting vehicles electric. Point is, it can be done.

This is thus a humble call for the government and all willing philanthropists to invest in sustainable agricultural innovations. Colleges and universities should also tap into their students’ creative and innovative skills through science fares and other healthy competitions with rewards. This will motivate the learners to constantly think of new ideas to improve our food systems.

 To sum up

Fuel is primarily vital for food distribution and supply. Today, with most people moving to the urban sectors, there is a growing demand for food in the urbanized region. We have also established that most food production processes are done outside towns and cities. Big tracks are thus currently in use to transport food from the rural areas to the wholesale markets in towns and cities. Fuel shortage in Kenya significantly interfered with this food supply and distribution model, resulting in reduced food availability, hence the hiked prices.

However, there is hope. No longer should we stay fixated on outdated and failing farming systems. Embracing innovation will transform our food system and build our resilience to any possible fuel shortage now or in the future.

Read more posts on trending topics in Agriculture today here.

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