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Marginal harvests provide temporary reprieve as conditions worsen in pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • August 2017
Marginal harvests provide temporary reprieve as conditions worsen in pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Partners
    Kenya - NDMA
    Key Messages
    • Food insecurity continues to worsen in the pastoral areas as livestock productivity and prices continue to decline, constraining income and food availability. Low milk production and poor dietary diversity are exacerbating already high malnutrition outcomes. The majority of poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but some of the most vulnerable households in Turkana, Marsabit, and Isiolo are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes between August and September.

    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, the long rains harvest has temporarily improved household food availability and income, though at below-average levels. As food stocks atypically decline at the end of August, the majority of poor households are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but additional households in Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta will likely move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  

    • Despite availability of marginal harvests and international and cross-border imports, maize availability remains low at the household and market level across the country. Staple food prices remain 33 – 65 percent above average across urban markets and 18 – 47 percent higher in rural retail markets due to reduced supply against sustained demand. Elevated prices continue to constrain food access for most poor households. 


    Nationally, there has been a slight increase in staple food availability across markets as the marginal harvests became available in July, but it remains atypically low due to below-average long rains crop production. According to the findings of the July 2017 Long Rains Assessment carried out by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG), 800,000 people are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and 2.6 million are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. KFSSG indicated that the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) population is likely to move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) over the next few months. 

    Due to reduced crop production and maize export restrictions, imports from Tanzania have fallen by 54 percent compared to the four-year average, reducing the availability in local markets. International imports from South Africa, Zambia, and Mexico have atypically increased and are expected to increase local maize availability as part of the Government of Kenya’s maize flour subsidy program. The State Department of Agriculture (SDA) reports also indicate availability of other staple foods like beans, wheat, and rice through September, taking into consideration ongoing harvests, imports, and crops in the field. Wholesale maize prices in the main consumption markets across the country are following seasonal trends, but in July remained 37 – 53 percent above five-year averages due to the relatively low volumes available from imports from Uganda and local harvests. Following the mostly peaceful August 8 general elections, business and humanitarian activities still remain slow, affecting livelihood activities and food access, but are gradually resuming.

    In the marginal farming zones, there was a below-average harvest in July, with some regional variations. Production was lowest in southeastern areas where maize, green grams, and cowpeas were 29, 49, and 40 percent of five-year averages. Due to late season rainfall in coastal areas, maize, cowpeas, and cassava production was better at 69, 91, and 38 percent of average. The below-average harvests have not allowed for typical agricultural wage labor opportunities, consequently impacting household income, constraining purchasing power. Staple food prices between June and July were relatively stable, particularly in Kwale, Kilifi, and Kitui, but remained 18 – 65 above five-year averages. Maize prices had the largest monthly increase in Taita Taveta, up by seven percent. Dry bean prices remained largely stable across marginal areas between June and July due to available substitutes like green grams and cowpeas but remained 7 – 41 percent above three-year averages. The long rains harvest continues to provide a modest boost in household food availability, but consumption remains at below-average levels since household food stocks as of the end of July were less than 30 percent of average. The majority of poor households are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with some households in parts of Kilifi (Kaloleni, Ganze, and Magarini), Taita Taveta (Voi and Mwatate), and in Kwale (Lunga Lunga) facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Across these areas, humanitarian assistance in the form of food and non-food interventions is ongoing by various partners and both county and national governments.

    In pastoral areas, pasture and browse conditions remain fair to poor but are completely depleted in some areas of Isiolo since rainfall deficits were highest here. Browse, however, in Saku and Moyale sub-counties of Marsabit remains in good condition.  Since as early as July, regular dry season grazing areas can no longer support livestock, and this has resulted in atypical migration and conflicts over forage and water between other livestock herders and farming communities in Marsabit (Illeret) and portions of Isiolo. Livestock return trekking distances from grazing fields to watering points range from 14 – 24 kilometers compared to a normal of 11 – 16 as forage and water resources dwindle further, driven by high temperatures and concentrated livestock populations. Livestock body conditions remain fair to poor for cattle and fair for goats, except in parts of Marsabit where they are fair, and in Turkana and portions of Wajir where they are good due to better browse conditions. According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) July 2017 Drought Bulletins, retail maize prices between June and July in Marsabit, Wajir, and Mandera remained relatively stable due to imports from Ethiopia and household preferences for substitutes like pasta, rice, posho, and wheat flour. In Turkana, maize prices between June and July dropped by nine percent but remained 22 percent above average. Livestock prices in July were unseasonably above five-year averages by 24 percent in Turkana as July offseason rains improved browse and body conditions, but across other pastoral areas were 10 – 28 percent below average due to poor livestock body conditions. On average, milk production in July in pastoral areas was 9 – 16 percent below the five-year average, including in Isiolo, but the lowest levels were 53 and 96 percent below average in Garissa and Turkana counties, respectively. According to the KFSSG 2017 long rains assessment, nutrition surveys showed that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) outcomes for children under five years of age is “Extremely Critical” (GAM weight-for-height z-score measurement, WHZ ≥ 30%) in Turkana (Turkana South, Turkana North, Turkana Central), Marsabit (North Horr); “Critical” (GAM WHZ 15.0 – 29.9 percent) in Baringo (East Pokot), Garissa, Mandera, Turkana (Turkana West), Samburu, West Pokot, Marsabit (Laisamis), and Wajir; “Serious” (GAM WHZ 10.0 – 14.9 percent) in Laikipia; “Alert” (GAM WHZ ≥ 5 – 9.9 percent) in Marsabit (Moyale and Saku); and Acceptable (GAM WHZ < 5 percent) in Kajiado, Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, and Narok. This assessment determined that the main drivers of acute malnutrition are low household purchasing power, reduced milk production, low household food stocks, and high staple food prices. Other contributing factors include common illnesses, disease outbreaks, and poor hygiene and childcare practices. Humanitarian assistance is ongoing, including water trucking, livestock feed supplements, emergency cash transfers, food distribution, food subsidies, integrated health and nutrition interventions, livestock offtake, and supplementary feeding. The majority of poor households across pastoral areas are currently not able to meet their minimum dietary requirements and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Kenya Food Security Outlook for June 2017 to January 2018 remain unchanged except the following assumptions:

    • The end of seasonal (February to August) rainfall over western, unimodal Kenya is likely to extend into September, with mostly average to slightly above-average cumulative rainfall in many areas, which may affect maize harvesting and drying activities, resulting in post-harvest losses of the crop in some high and medium-producing areas.
    • Based on the August IRI/CPC forecast, the most likely scenario is for ENSO neutral conditions through early 2018 and a weakly positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) developing during August/September through December 2017. As a result, the short rains season (October to December) over eastern/central regions of Kenya is expected to be average in terms of total cumulative rainfall. However, initial rainfall for October and November is projected to be below average, and then rainfall is expected to intensify in December. In western areas of the country, above-average cumulative rainfall is forecast for the season.
    • Following the July long rains assessment, FEWS NET has determined that the humanitarian assistance, which is planned and funded through the end of September in Turkana Central (Kerio Delta) and Loima (Loima, Lokiriama, and Turkwel), is substantially less than initial reports indicated and does not meet the criteria to be incorporated into FEWS NET’s analysis. As a result, while humanitarian assistance is helping to mitigate the severity of outcomes, these areas are now classified as in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as opposed to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2) in the presence of humanitarian assistance as was listed in the June Outlook. 
    • The importation of maize and beans from Uganda and northern Ethiopia is likely to increase to atypical levels from August through the end of the scenario period to meet the high local demand, following the below-normal long rains crop harvest in both bimodal and unimodal areas. Due to Tanzania maize export restrictions, imports are expected to seasonally increase but remain below average. 


    In the marginal agricultural areas, food security will deteriorate from the end of August as the below-average harvest is depleted, reducing food availability and consumption at the household level. In addition, the lower production levels are expected to reduce typical agricultural wage labor opportunities and staple crop sales that would normally continue through August, decreasing household income and purchasing power. Beginning in September, with above-average staple food prices, which are on a seasonal escalating trend, poor households will likely rely entirely on non-agricultural labor, charcoal sales, remittances, and petty trade in order to meet essential food needs through market purchases. Dwindling milk consumption through October is likely to increase malnutrition outcomes. Conflict between livestock herders and farmers and humans and wildlife will likely intensify over forage and water, disrupting livelihood activities during the dry period. Land preparation and planting, in anticipation of the short rains, will improve household incomes and food access but at reduced levels. The forecasted average to below-average October to December short rains will slightly improve forage and livestock productivity, modestly increasing milk production and consumption. In December, expected below-average short cycle crops will slightly improve dietary diversity and household level food availability through January 2018. Food security is expected to improve from December in the coastal areas where rainfall is expected to be average, and poor households are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Those in portions of Kilifi (Ganze, Kaloleni, and Magarini), Taita Taveta (Voi and Mwatate), and Kwale (Lunga Lunga), previously experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with minimally adequate food consumption but unable to afford essential non-food expenditures. In the southeastern areas that are projected to receive below-average rains, some poor households are expected to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through January 2018.

    In the pastoral areas, food insecurity is projected to increase as poorly regenerated rangeland resources continue to deteriorate through at least mid-October. Persistently high staple food prices and low income from reduced livestock and milk sales will likely further reduce food access and consumption at the household level. Poor households are expected to increase their reliance on stress coping strategies, such as petty trade, charcoal sales, sale of productive assets, and begging. Increased atypical livestock migration will limit food and income availability at the household level as pastoralists move their livestock further away from homesteads in search of forage and water, increasing malnutrition levels through the end of October, particularly for children under five and pregnant and lactating women. Food insecurity is expected to peak in September with additional areas in Wajir, Baringo, Tana River, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta moving into Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while some households  in Turkana (Turkana East, Turkana South, Kibish and Turkana North), Marsabit (North Horr and Laisamis), and Isiolo (Sericho, Oldonyiro and Merti) are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes due to poor rangeland conditions, water scarcity, high food and water prices, increased trekking distances, livestock mortalities, unfavorable terms of trade, high malnutrition, conflict and insecurity, and poor food consumption. In October, the forecasted below-average short rains onset is expected to drive modest improvements of rangeland resources, improving livestock body conditions, milk production, and livestock sales, temporarily stabilizing household food security through December. As a result, there will likely be a short-term improvement in the nutrition status with the increased availability of milk in the household. Food security will improve through mid-January, after which rangeland resources are expected to deteriorate earlier than usual due to the previous level of degradation, reducing livestock productivity, and food consumption. With the expected rainfall and subsequent improvements, some households are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) while others remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity.  


    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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