Why you have never heard of chapati revolution

In the history of humans, wheat, the primary ingredient in chapati, is known to build civilizations. Wheat is also has the potential to bring civilizations down when its price moves out of reach of masses.

In Africa, this has rarely held true outside the ancient Egypt with most communities relying on other staples like Maize, green bananas, yams, cassava.

Wheat was rare on the continent’s dominantly rural populations. I remember when we were young, and how the cooking of chapati would turn a normal day extraordinary. I would come back from the playing field and brag to my friends that “leo tumepika Chapo na sitaki kuwaona karibu kwetu.”

Chapati and other wheat-based products

But as societies become increasingly urbanized, the consumption of wheat on the continent has been rising sharply. Bread, pasta and various forms of oil fried wheat-based foods are main foods.

The need for a quick breakfast, a snack or variations for a midday meal has seen the emergence of roadside chapatis. Nowadays when you walk in most centers it’s obvious you’ll come across a small tented spot with a jiko and a table with a guy rolling Chapati. It’s hard to walk for a long distance without tracing these smoky chapati spots.

Chapati is common in roadside Vibandas, a preferred eatery spot for ordinary Kenyans. They tend to form a great meal called “chapo dondo” basically a blend of chapati and beans.

Working class people are popular in these vibandas. Every mornings and evenings, they queue on the roadside, waiting for the chapatis hot out of the pan before chipping into work or retiring home.

Personally, I’m a great fan of “Smocha”, a combination of Chapati and Smokie. I used to take this at times even as  lunch at the famous’  ‘Clabu’’ along Mamlaka road. But today honestly I’m getting very concerned by the thinning size of Chapatis. I can hardly get satisfied with one anymore.

Walking to my workplace, I have noticed a new trend. People are dropping chapati for “maandazi” for breakfast. Despite being wheat-based just like chapati, maandazi has a satisfying allure as it is inflated with a baking powder.

Read also: Tiny pricey onions making consumers cry

Kenya reliant on imports

The cost of wheat products have been going up in Kenya and across Africa. This is because the continent is heavily reliant on imports to meet this growing demand for wheat. Available data shows only a handful of African countries have favorable conditions to grow wheat. Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Uganda grow various varieties of wheat.

As a result, the ongoing geopolitical crisis sparked by Russia-Ukraine war is seriously disrupting supplies, pushing up prices that could cause unrests in African capitals. Initially, Russia agreed to allow wheat from Ukraine to gain market access through Turkiye under the black Sea deal. Ukraine is the biggest exporter of wheat grain to Kenya.

But, Russia President Vladimir Putin recently cancelled the deal setting stage increase in prices. Currently, the retail price of 2kg  Ajab wheat flour is Kes199 while that of a 2kg Exe wheat flour is Kes185. The rising cost of wheat flours adds to an already inflated shopping basket of other commodities such as sugar and milk.

The already rising cost of living is likely to ignite a new increase in the cost of living. This will finally set a bar higher to the extent the normal Mwananchi will cope and this will bring a national disaster.

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