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Lean season progresses with an expected October peak

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • August 2015
Lean season progresses with an expected October peak

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through December 2015
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Food security will continue to deteriorate, seasonally, in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas through October, as the lean season reaches its peak. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). After the start of the forecast above-average short rains in October, food security will improve. Many households are expected to move into None (IPC Phase 1) by December. 

    • In pastoral areas, food security is expected to seasonally deteriorate through October, and the majority of households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, northern Isiolo and western Wajir, with worse, drier conditions for livestock production, low water availability, and low milk availability, are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). After the start of the short rains in October, food security will improve. However, most areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but a few areas may improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) by December. 

    Current Situation

    In the southeastern marginal agricultural areas, the temporal distribution of the March to May long rains was very uneven. This caused less growth and below-average production of maize, cowpeas, and green grams (mung beans). The 2015 Long Rains Assessment by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) estimated production of maize, cowpeas, and green grams from the long rains harvest in July and August to be  52, 41, and 35 percent below their five-year averages, respectively, using data provided by county Ministry of Agriculture officers. In the coastal marginal mixed farming areas, the maize and cassava production were estimated to be 38 and 48 percent above their five-year averages, respectively. Cowpea production was estimated to be six percent below the five-year average. Households are consuming long rains crops, but they continue to purchase food from markets. The availability of casual labor opportunities is below average, but casual labor remains the primary source of income. The county-average retail maize prices remained atypically stable between June and July, due to increasing availability of substitutes like millet and rice in markets and some reduction in demand as households consumed recently harvested short-cycle legumes like beans, cowpeas, green grams, and pigeon peas. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In pastoral areas, livestock body conditions were good to fair in July. Pasture and browse conditions ranged from fair to poor across most areas, though they have seasonally deteriorated since the dry season started in June. As a result of deteriorating rangeland conditions and the low number of lactating females, milk production is below average. County-average livestock prices rose six to seven percent in Samburu, Kajiado, and Garissa Counties due to good livestock body conditions and continued effective demand between June and July. In Narok, Mandera, Isiolo, Tana River, West Pokot, and Baringo, county-average livestock prices decreased five to 17 percent, as livestock body conditions had started deteriorating. County-average livestock prices were below their five-year averages. County-average livestock prices remained fairly stable in Turkana, Marsabit, and Wajir, and they were six to 50 percent above their five-year averages. The livestock-to-maize terms of trade were mostly above average, being five to 38 percent above their five-year averages. However, poorer livestock body conditions meant that livestock-to-maize TOT were below average in Isiolo County. Most pastoral areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, pastoral areas that received significantly below-average cumulative rainfall during both the October to December 2014 short rains and the March to May 2015 long rains and have completely depleted rangeland resources and currently have very low livestock productivity. These areas, including northern Isiolo and western Wajir, remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Updated Assumptions

    Most assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for July to December 2015 remain unchanged. 

    Projected Outlook Through December 2015

    Food security is expected to decline through October in the marginal agricultural areas. Staple food prices are expected to gradually increase, and households do not have stocks. They will need to purchase from markets during the entirety of the extended July to November lean season. There are few income-earning opportunities at this time of year. Milk production and consumption will continue to decrease due to the low number of lactating animals. With less milk and less food access from markets, nutritional status will decline. Nutrition interventions though are likely to maintain some stability in the prevalence of acute malnutrition. As shallow wells and water pans dry out and boreholes produce less water, water consumption is likely to decline. Increased sales of livestock are expected at the end of September/early October to finance land preparation and meet other cash needs. After the start of the October to December short rains, which are forecast to be above average in amount, food security will start to improve. Improvements will be substantial by November as households will have more income from labor, prices decline as the harvest from western Kenya enters markets, water availability increases, and livestock body conditions recovered. Most households are expected to move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December, though some areas would still be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In pastoral areas, rangeland conditions are expected to deteriorate further through October. Livestock migration to dry-season grazing areas is expected to continue. As an increasing number of livestock numbers are congregated in areas with limited pasture and water, there may be conflict over these resources. Livestock prices will decrease due to deteriorating livestock body conditions and increased supply to markets as households sell more livestock to purchase food. Water availability is likely to decline through October as water is used and some sources dry out, but in a few places, like Funa Qumbi in Moyale, where high amounts of March to May rainfall fully recharged water sources, they may remain. About 80 percent of surface water sources like pans and dams have already been depleted. Low milk production and consumption and limited dietary diversity during the lean season may lead to increasing acute malnutrition. Households will be most food insecure between now and October. However, following the start of the expected above-average rainfall in October, food security is likely to improve. By November, pasture and browse will regenerate, improving livestock body conditions. Later, livestock prices will increase. Increased milk production and consumption will lead to improved nutrition. Though majority of households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through December, including those currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), a significant number of households are also expected to move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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