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Above-average long rains improving forage and cropping but causing flooding

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • April 2018
Above-average long rains improving forage and cropping but causing flooding

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  • Key Messages
  • Partners
    Kenya - NDMA
    Key Messages
    • The significantly above-average March – May long rains have driven substantial improvements in forage in pastoral areas and raised crop production prospects in marginal agricultural areas. However, the rains have caused widespread flooding, which has led to displacement and crop losses, particularly in Tana River and Garissa counties. Currently, the highest areas of food insecurity are in parts of Isiolo, Tana River, Garissa, Kajiado, and Turkana.

    • In pastoral areas, livestock body conditions have markedly improved, increasing meat and milk availability and household income through higher livestock prices. As pastoralists moved their livestock close to homesteads in April, food and milk access have increased. By June, further improvements in terms of trade, milk consumption, and nutrition are expected to improve area outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or even some to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, some poor households are still likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • Despite those affected by flooding, crops are in good conditions in the marginal agricultural areas and at various stages of growth. Cropping activities range from planting to weeding and are providing wage labor opportunities and increasing household incomes. The majority of poor households currently lack household food stocks and are market dependent. With the expected near-average harvest in June, these areas are expected to move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).


    National: The below-normal crop performance across the country from the 2017 long and short rains has led domestic supplies to be below average, but there is food availability in the markets due to regional imports. The ongoing rains are driving average crop production activities in the unimodal areas where the maize crop is in good condition and is mostly at the weeding stage.

    Seasonal Progress: The March – May long rains mostly began on time across the country, with some areas one to three dekads early, but some parts up to three dekads late. The rainfall amounts received in March and April were quite significant, potentially hitting record highs, in Isiolo, northern Tana River and Garissa; southern Marsabit, Wajir and Turkana, which were over 200 percent of total seasonal average amounts (see Figure 1). Rainfall was still above average, but slightly less, in coastal and southwestern areas, which received less than 70 percent of season totals by April 20. Widespread flooding has been experienced since the onset of the rains in March, most seriously in late April, causing about 70 deaths. According to the Kenya Red Cross, approximately 200,000 people have been affected, and the flooding has caused property damage, crop losses, livestock deaths (Marsabit over 3,000), and displacement. The most significant effect has been that flooding has damaged roads and bridges, cutting off access to settlements, markets, and health facilities. Tana River and Garissa counties have been particularly hard hit as the River Tana overflowed from the combination of heavy rains and the release of a dam overflow upstream, destroying settlements and cropland.

    Markets and Trade: Staple food commodity prices remain mostly within five-year averages and below 2017 prices, moderated by increased cross-border imports from Tanzania and Uganda, which experienced better crop production. Wholesale maize prices remained within average in Nairobi and Kisumu and were 10 – 14 percent below averages in Mombasa and Eldoret. Dry bean prices ranged from 10 – 13 percent above average in Kisumu and Nairobi due to limited supplies from the below-average harvests but were stable in Eldoret and 13 percent below average in Mombasa, boosted by local harvests and cross-border imports.

    Pastoral areas: Due to the above-average rainfall in March and April, there has been a significant regeneration to good levels for both pasture and browse resources. One exception is parts of Mandera, where pasture is fair since it was previously depleted and regeneration has been slower. Across all pastoral areas, livestock body conditions continue to improve with the better rangeland resources and are mostly good for all species, except in Mandera, where they are fair but improving. Water sources have been significantly recharged, and coupled with the improving forage, have reduced livestock trekking distances across most areas, with slightly higher levels in Isiolo and Garissa but highest in Mandera. Currently, the only migration being witnessed is typical intra-county migration. Most pastoralists, except some in Tana River, have returned their livestock to wet season grazing areas close to homesteads, increasing access to milk and income. Conception rates are currently normal as livestock continue to recover from the recent drought and the January – February 2018 dry spell.

    March National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) data showed that retail maize prices in Wajir and Mandera remained within averages due to low overall demand but were 6 – 36 percent above average across the rest of the pastoral markets due to high demand and low market supplies. Goat prices were average in Wajir as conditions improved but were 11 and 31 percent below average in Isiolo and Mandera, respectively, due to improving but still below-average livestock body conditions. Across the rest of the markets, goat prices were 11 – 58 percent above average as the rains improved forage and livestock body conditions, which also caused scarcity in the markets as owners aimed to restock. In March, the proportion of children under five years of age at risk of malnutrition, measured by a Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) <135mm, was stable in Turkana and Garissa but generally decreased due to improving milk access and consumption across Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, and Wajir, ranging from 17 – 26 percent. However, in Tana River, it rose from 13 to 18 percent over a month, indicating a deterioration in nutrition status of children under five years of age due to a decrease in milk availability and access.

    Overall, even in areas with relatively less rainfall that did not equal or surpass the cumulative seasonal totals by early April, there have been improvements in livestock productivity, raising income and food availability. As a result, a majority of poor households have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) across the pastoral areas. However, across parts of Isiolo, Tana River, Garissa, Turkana, and Kajiado, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes still persist because the improvements have not been sufficient yet to reduce the level of acute food insecurity. Poor households’ below-average food and incomes are not adequate to meet their minimum food requirements.

    Marginal agricultural areas: Since the long rains season is not the main crop production season for southeastern marginal areas (it is for coastal areas), and the Kenya Meteorological Department forecast near-normal to below-normal rainfall in eastern parts of the country, many households were not expecting the timely onset and level of rainfall. However, they have taken advantage of the rains and are engaging in crop production activities at above average levels, ranging from land preparation to weeding for maize, cow peas, pigeon peas, green grams, beans, millet, and sorghum. Across the zone, while some have been affected by flooding, crops are at different stages, from germination to the weeding stage in areas where dry and late planting took place, like Kitui, Makueni, and Taita Taveta. Increased agricultural production activities continue to provide household income and improve purchasing power for needed market food purchases as the majority of households have depleted food stocks from the previous significantly below-average harvest. Between February and March, retail maize prices were mixed within the marginal areas, with some remaining within averages, such as Taita Taveta due to cross-border imports, but were 24 percent below average in Kwale due to good short rains harvests. In Nyeri and Kilifi, prices remained seven and 16 percent above average, respectively, due to depleted household stocks. Dry bean prices remained stable in Kilifi, Taita Taveta, and Nyeri due to cross-border imports and available harvests but were 9 – 21 percent above average across the zone due to poor short rains harvests and depleted household stocks. In addition to agricultural activities, there are casual labor opportunities that are providing additional income. The majority of poor households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as they are able to meet their minimum food needs but have to forgo essential non-food needs.


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Kenya Food Security Outlook for February to September 2018 remain unchanged except the following assumptions:

    • The 2018 March – May long rains in eastern Kenya are expected to be above average through the remainder of April, including in Tana River and Isiolo counties, but slightly below average in May. Given already above-average rainfall since the start of the season through mid-April, total seasonal rainfall will be above average.
    • After above average rains of up to 200 percent of the season’s average from March to date in Isiolo and Tana River counties, the previously atypically below-average pasture and water resources are expected to regenerate fully during the March – May long rains season and remain above average through September.
    • Through the end of May 2018, moderate to severe flooding is expected across widespread areas of Kenya, particularly in the Lake Victoria region, the Rift Valley, and Tana River, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, and Wajir counties. Flood water is likely to endanger human and animal life and lead to displacement. In May and June, displaced households, particularly the poor and very poor, may need urgent humanitarian assistance, including food aid, shelter, health and sanitation care, due to the anticipated impact on infrastructure, market access, and food prices.
    • Based on an April analysis of current prices and drivers, FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in the urban reference market of Nairobi show that wholesale maize prices are now likely to remain within five-year average levels for the entire scenario period, with the lowest prices expected in April. Beans prices are expected to rise gradually and peak in May as stocks deplete, and then seasonally decline from June through September as early harvests become available. Bean prices will fluctuate but are expected to be lower than earlier anticipated and remain 9 – 13 percent above average throughout the scenario period.
    • Based on an April analysis of current prices and drivers, FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in the reference market of Hola in Tana River County show that maize prices are expected to follow seasonal trends at elevated levels and oscillate between KES 52 – 64 per kilogram. Prices are expected to remain 22 – 27 percent above average, gradually rising through June, and then gradually decreasing from July through September as the long rains harvest becomes available. Further declines in September are likely, following inflows from western Kenya and Uganda.
    • FEWS NET projects that goat prices in Hola in Tana River County are expected to remain generally close to seasonal averages through August driven by the long rains that will slightly improve livestock body conditions, but the range is slightly higher at KES 3,100 – 3,900. In September, prices are expected to increase to about nine percent above average as livestock owners aim to restock their herds.
    • Based on an April analysis of current prices and drivers, FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in the reference market of Isiolo show that maize prices will likely vary but at a slightly higher amount between KES 56 – 60, ranging between 12 – 19 percent above average through September.
    • FEWS NET projects that on average goat prices in Isiolo will likely fluctuate at a higher range than initially expected, from KES 2,400 – 2,600. However, this is still about 9 – 15 percent below average due to the effects of the drought that have affected rangeland resources and body conditions.
    • In Tana River County, while the negative impact of the previous poor seasons remains, the ongoing above-average long rains are expected to drive increases in income, milk, and food availability ahead of the July dry season, contributing to improvements of acute malnutrition to now typical Serious (GAM 10-14.9 percent) levels through September.


    In pastoral areas, following the well-distributed, above-average long rains received to date, and the forecasted rains to come, it is likely that there will be continued significant improvements in forage and water availability, to above-average levels. As a result, pastoralists are expected to maintain their livestock in the wet season grazing areas near homesteads through at least the end of August. The presence of livestock in the wet season grazing areas signals an improvement in milk production and availability from April, improving consumption at the household level and reducing malnutrition for children under five years of age. Livestock prices are expected to continue to increase to above-average levels as their improved body conditions increase their value and as owners hold them for restocking and fattening, reducing the market supply at the same time as staple food prices are expected to decline from the June harvest in cropping areas. Income from sources, such as livestock and non-livestock related casual labor opportunities, petty trade, and charcoal and firewood sales are expected to be available at average levels and will boost household income throughout the scenario period. This is expected to further improve pastoralists’ terms of trade and household purchasing power. With above-average purchasing power, increased milk and meat availability, from April onwards, there is likely to be a significant reduction in consumption-based and livelihood coping strategies as food access and consumption increases. (Even as forage and water resources are expected to seasonally decline from June onwards during the dry season, they will likely remain above season averages through September.) As a result of average conception rates during the March – May long rains, average kidding and lambing is expected from early August, improving milk availability and increasing herd sizes. This will further improve household income and nutrition status of children under five as the milk is sold and consumed, respectively. These improvements are expected to translate to a change in outcomes beginning in early June, as areas that were previously in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Isiolo, Tana River, Garissa, and parts of Kajiado and Turkana, improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). With food commodity price drops due to harvesting in the neighboring cropping areas, food access and consumption levels are expected to improve. In areas that were previously in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), the improvements in income levels are expected to be significant to move these areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, it is important to note that there is still a possibility that vulnerable poor households could experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September, which may include some flood-affected populations.

    In the marginal areas, from April, the availability of above-average casual agricultural labor opportunities due to above-average weeding and late planting in some areas, as households seek to increase their food availability, is set to improve household income and food access. Staple food prices are expected to decline from May, as households harvest likely above-average amounts of short cycle crops, increasing household food availability and consumption, reducing demand for market purchases. Milk production will likely peak in May and June, improving milk access and consumption and reducing malnutrition for children under five years of age. By June, with higher food availability from the now expected near-average long rains harvests, this is expected to restore household-level food stocks and support adequate food consumption through the end of September. The likely increased harvesting activities in June, with additional agricultural casual labor opportunities, will improve household income and food access. Prices of staple food commodities are expected to drop even further, to below-average levels, from July through August, facilitating food purchases. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected across the marginal agricultural areas beginning in early June, as the harvests become available. In September, as household food stocks begin to dwindle for poor households, agricultural crop production activities, such as land preparation, will provide needed income for food and non-food needs. There is the possibility though during this period that poor households could experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, including some flood-affected populations.

    Figures The map shows than over large areas of Kenya, rainfall from March 1 through April 20 exceeeded total seasonal average amounts

    Figure 1

    March 1-April 20, 2018, CHIRPS Percent of Total Season Rainfall (March-May 2018)

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Western and Rift Valley of Kenya: Long rains are from mid-February until mid-August. Planting is from April until July. Long

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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