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Food security typically deteriorates as lean season continues

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • August 2016
Food security typically deteriorates as lean season continues

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  • Key Messages
  • Partners
    Kenya - NDMA
    Key Messages
    • The average to below-average performance of the 2016 long rains in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, along with other issues such as crop pests and livestock diseases, has led to an increase in the number of food insecure people. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) joint assessment conducted in July  estimated 1.2 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of immediate food assistance, up from about 700,000 in February 2016. 

    • In pastoral areas of Garissa, Tana River, and Isiolo that had substantial rainfall deficits, poor recovery of rangeland resources and livestock productivity, some households are likely to move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the peak of the lean season in September. More households in the pastoral northwest and northeast areas are likely to move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by January 2017, if the La Niña effects result in significantly below-normal October to December short rains.  

    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, households face lower food stocks from the below-average long rains maize harvest and reduced income opportunities to support market purchases during the lean season. As a result, some households are likely to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by September. The expected poor short rains are likely to push even more into Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with the likelihood of higher phases of acute food insecurity by January 2017. 


    The recently concluded long rains assessment by KFSSG established that an estimated 1.2 million people are acutely food insecure and require immediate food assistance. This is an increase of 500,000 more people in need compared to estimates from the February 2016  short rains assessment  and indicates funding requirements for the next six months. In pastoral areas, especially in the northeast, the poor performance of the long rains resulted in below-average recovery of rangeland resources. Pasture, browse, and water availability across most of these northeast pastoral areas is below normal, and fair to poor in quality, while the most-affected areas are in Garissa, Isiolo, and Tana River. Households are typically moving their  livestock to dry season grazing areas, but in Bura in Tana River, Dadaab in Garissa, and in parts of Isiolo North, migration happened earlier than normal and in higher numbers. For instance in Garissa, households migrated approximately 20 percent of camels, 30 percent of goats and sheep, and 50 percent of cattle; while in Tana River, the figures were even higher with about 80 percent of cattle, sheep, and goats, and 90 percent of camels moved far from homesteads. Mass livestock outmigration has adversely affected milk availability at the household level, as only a few lactating livestock have been left behind to provide milk for households. Milk production and consumption in these areas ranges from 0.5 to one liter per household per day compared to a normal of two to three liters per household per day. Conflict over rangeland resources has also been reported between communities in Isiolo, Garissa, and Tana River counties, hindering access to pasture and water in some places. Northwest pastoral areas including Turkana, Marsabit and Samburu, are, however, reporting good to fair rangeland conditions and livestock productivity, though typically deteriorating as the lean season progresses. Most pastoral areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as they currently are only able to meet basic food needs but not essential non-food needs.

    In the coastal and southeast marginal agricultural areas, the long rains were largely average to below average The rains were also poorly distributed in space and time. As a result, in many areas, the long rains crop production is likely to be 20 to 40 percent below average for maize, cowpeas, and green grams. However, cassava, a drought-resistant crop is likely to be about 30 percent above-average. Carryover food stocks from the previous season’s above-average harvest and some of the current season’s harvested crops continue to support household food consumption, coupled with availability of some labor earning opportunities, though at below-normal levels. Furthermore, stable staple food prices due to adequate supplies in the markets from carryover stocks and imports continue to boost household food access. A majority of the households are in None (IPC Phase 1). However, parts of the southeast (southern Kitui and eastern Makueni) and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones have recently moved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Due to poor rains over the last two seasons, and in some instances total crop failure, coupled with reduced labor opportunities, poor households have had to rely on markets for food purchase for most of the year with significantly lower incomes. Only through increased coping mechanisms are households able to meet their minimum food needs. 


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Kenya Food Security Outlook for June 2016 to January 201remain unchanged.   


    In the pastoral areas, acute food security is expected to continue declining seasonally as the lean season gets underway, between August and October. As rangeland resources (pasture, browse, and water) deteriorate in quality and quantity, livestock body conditions are expected to follow this deterioration, reducing milk production and consumption at the household level. Further, due to households migrating their livestock to dry season grazing areas, this will limit milk availability and lower income from  the sale of livestock and its associated products. Livestock prices are also expected to track body conditions, falling through November. With the expected typical increase in cereal prices, household purchasing power is likely to be further eroded through November. The prevalence of malnutrition is expected to remain elevated and rise through the lean season as household food consumption deteriorates. However, due to the many ongoing nutrition interventions, malnutrition is unlikely to worsen to emergency thresholds. To bridge the income and food gaps, households are expected to intensify various livelihood and consumption-based coping mechanisms. While the majority are to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through November, localized areas of Garissa, Tana River, and Isiolo, which reported worse rangeland conditions and livestock productivity, are likely to move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by September. With the October to December short rains season likely to be below average, recovery of rangeland resources and livestock productivity is likely to be at below-normal levels. As a result, the modest improvements are unlikely to result in substantial changes in household acute food security. Households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are unlikely to move to lower phases, while additional households in other pastoral areas are likely to also move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by January 2017.

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, household food consumption is expected to typically decline with the lean season, as households continue to have atypically low incomes due to the recent below-average agricultural season. In the near-term, the availability of some harvest from the long rains crop, though at below-normal levels, will marginally boost some households’ food availability. However, with household food stocks declining or depleted in most instances, dependence on markets for food access is expected to increase by September. The low household incomes and typical increase in food prices will constrain market access through October. As a result, most households are expected to intensify coping mechanisms and search for labor opportunities in other non-farm sectors like construction, sand-harvesting, and other forms of wage-earning opportunities where available to support food purchase. While more households, especially in marginal mixed farming areas of Kitui South, eastern Makueni, Kilifi and Kwale counties, are expected to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in September, the majority of households will remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through November. Since the short rains are the primary production season in these areas, its expected poor performance is likely to exacerbate household acute food insecurity with more households becoming Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by January 2017, while some will likely move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 


    Figure 1


    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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