Food Security Outlook Update

Poor crop and livestock production and COVID-19 restrictions drive food insecurity

August 2021

August - September 2021

October 2021 - January 2022

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) 2021 Long Rains Assessment (LRA), the poor 2021 March to May long rains resulted in below-average crop production in marginal agricultural areas, reducing casual labor opportunities and household food availability, driving area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In the pastoral areas, below-average rangeland regeneration has negatively impacted livestock production, resulting in below-average milk production and consumption and high staple food prices, driving area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. The national COVID-19 restrictions have continued to primarily impact the urban poor by restricting income-earning opportunities and driving many urban poor households to engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

  • Following the July National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) bulletins, a drought alert for arid and semi-arid areas was declared for most pastoral and marginal agricultural areas across Kenya following the poor March-May long rains. According to the 2021 KFSSG Long Rains Assessment, the population in need of humanitarian assistance in the arid and semi-arid areas increased by 47 percent since the Short Rains Assessment in February 2021 due to the compounding effects of consecutive below-average rainfall seasons on crop and livestock production, coupled with the protracted effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

  • As of August 30, 2021, Kenya has confirmed 235,298 COVID-19 cases with a daily test positivity rate of 9.7 percent despite ongoing vaccination efforts. On August 18, the government extended the 10 pm to 4 am curfew for 60 days and extended the ban on political rallies, meetings, and gatherings following a sharp rise in national COVID-19 cases. However, public service vehicles have resumed carrying passengers at full capacity, likely reducing transportation costs. In urban areas, particularly the informal settlements, at least one in five poor households are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as income-earning opportunities remain limited due to the economic effects of the pandemic and protracted COVID-19 control measures. 

  • In July, wholesale maize prices in the urban reference markets were within the five-year average in Kisumu and 7-16 below average in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Eldoret, supported by cross-border supplies. In the marginal agricultural areas, maize prices are 7-17 percent below the five-year average supported by the ongoing long rains harvests. In the pastoral areas, maize prices were 14 percent below average in Turkana due to supplies from Trans Nzoia County and Uganda but were 6-32 percent above average across the rest of the pastoral markets due to sustained high demand for human and livestock consumption. In the pastoral markets, goat prices were average in Marsabit, 9-13 percent above average in Isiolo and Garissa due to fair body conditions, and 7-11 percent below average in Wajir and Turkana due to below-average livestock body conditions and oversupply to the market as households sell livestock for income. 

CURRENT SITUATION

Rainfall performance: Across Kenya, rainfall following the poor average 2021 March to May long rains has been mixed (Figure 1). In western and coastal Kenya, rainfall from June through August has been average to 100 mm below average, with the largest rainfall deficits in southern Turkana, West Pokot, and Baringo counties. In eastern and northern pastoral Kenya and marginal agricultural areas, the dry season is ongoing, with many areas receiving little to no rainfall. Overall, cumulative rainfall across Kenya remains largely below normal, ranging from <55-95 percent of normal (Figure 2).

Crop Production: Despite average to above-average cumulative March to May long rains in the high and medium rainfall areas, field observations and proxy satellite data indicate that maize production is likely to be cumulatively below average. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the long rains production in high and medium rainfall areas is likely to be around 2.9 million metric tons, a 15-20 percent decrease compared to the 2020 long rains production and 5-10 percent below the five-year average due to the late onset of rain and dry spells during the critical stages of growth. However, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the national maize balance sheet will have a surplus of around 18.2 million 90-kg bags attributed to carryover stocks, cross-border imports, and the upcoming long rains harvests. 

Due to the poor 2021 March to May long rains, crop production has been below-average to significantly below-average. In June and July, short cycle legumes such as beans, green grams, and cowpeas were harvested, while the maize and sorghum harvest is ongoing. According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) 2021 long rains food security assessment, maize production is likely to range between 33-77 percent of average in most marginal agricultural areas, except in Kitui, Kilifi, and Nyeri, where production is projected to be 12-18 percent of average. Bean production is expected to be within average in Meru (Meru North) but ranges between 15-50 percent of average in Embu and Nyeri. However, green gram production was 22-66 percent of average in most areas except in Kwale and Kilifi, where production was 5-6 percent of average due to poor rainfall that resulted in the wilting and drying of planted crops. The production of cowpeas was 67-86 percent of average, while production was 20-31 percent of average in Lamu and Kitui. In Kwale and Kilifi, cowpea production was negligible due to the poor rains during the season.

Following the below-average long rains production, household access to food and income remains constrained by below-average food stocks and below-average incomes from crop sales and agricultural waged labor opportunities during harvesting. Based on the KFSSG 2021 long rains assessment findings, household maize stocks are 31-54 percent below the five-year average in most marginal agricultural areas, while food stocks are 71-72 percent below-average in Tharaka Nithi and Lamu. In most marginal agricultural areas, maize stocks are projected to last one to two months compared to three to four months normally, while food stocks are likely to last one month in Lamu and Tharaka Nithi.

Livestock Production: According to the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), vegetation greenness in the northwestern, northeastern, and southern parts of the country are largely above average, while across the rest of Kenya, vegetation greenness is 70-90 percent of average, with localized areas along the coast, and central and northwest Kenya showing less than 70 percent of median greenness (Figure 3). The below-average pasture conditions across most pastoral areas has resulted in increased migration as herders seek better access to pasture, browse, and water for their herds. In July, livestock return trekking distances across most pastoral areas were 6-16 km compared to 5-9 km normally. In Wajir, trekking distances were 15-20 km, around three to four times the normal distance of 5 km, and in Marsabit, trekking distances were exceptionally high at 25-30 km compared to 15-20 km normally due to reduced availability of water as water pans dry up and boreholes breakdown.

Across all counties, there is intra-and inter-county migration to areas with better forage and water resources. In some cases, cross-border migration to Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda has resulted in conflicts over resources. The most significant incidences of conflict were along the border of Wajir and Isiolo. However, in Turkana and Marsabit separate incidences of conflict since March and June, respectively, has displaced over 6,000 households, destroyed 73 homes, closed schools and health facilities (80 percent of facilities have reopened), and resulted in over 100 fatalities. There have also been reports of cattle rustling and banditry across pastoral areas, while inter-clan conflicts led to six fatalities in Mandera.  

As the dry season continues, livestock body conditions have continued to deteriorate. For grazers (sheep), body conditions are mostly ‘fair to poor’ except Mandera and Turkana, where body conditions are ‘fair’, and in Marsabit, where body conditions are ‘good to fair’ supported by some forage growth following late rains. For browsers (goats), the livestock body conditions were ‘good’ in Mandera, Garissa, and Turkana counties, ‘fair’ in Isiolo and Wajir, ‘good to fair’ in Marsabit, and ‘fair to poor’ in Tana River. Ground data suggests that households are selling half the milk produced for income and consuming the rest. Milk production ranged from 0.25-3 liters per household per day compared to the normal 2-6 liters per household per day. Daily household milk consumption ranges from 0.25-1.6 liters compared to the average 1-3 liters per household per day, likely due to the intensified migration leaving only a few milking animals near homesteads. However, in Mandera, milk consumption was normal at two liters per day, likely due to normal livestock body conditions.    

Desert Locusts: According to FAO, there are no reports of desert locust sightings in northern and central counties with no imminent threat of locusts migrating from Ethiopia or Somalia.

Domestic water availability: Household water availability remains constrained following the low recharge of most open water sources such as rivers, water pans, and dams. Many open water sources have dried up across pastoral and marginal agricultural livelihood zones, with remaining open water sources at 20-40 percent of capacity. Household trekking distances to watering points are above average at 2-6 km compared to the five-year average of 1-5 km. In Meru, household trekking distances are 10 km compared to the five-year average of 8 km. In the pastoral areas, surface water sources have dried up, with groundwater sources and rivers currently the only available sources for households. Trekking distances to water sources for domestic use are mostly average to below average across pastoral areas due to water sources being set aside for domestic use, particularly groundwater sources like shallow wells and boreholes. However, in Garissa and Isiolo, household water trekking distances ranged from 5-15 km compared to 5-10 km normally due to poor recharge from the below-average March-May long rains. 

COVID-19: As of August 30, 2021, Kenya has confirmed 235,298 COVID-19 cases since March 2020, with a daily positivity rate of 9.7 percent. On August 18, following an exponential rise in infection rates across 18 counties since early July, the government extended the 10 pm to 4 am curfew for 60 days, along with the ban on political rallies, meetings, and gatherings. Funerals, social gatherings, worship services, bars and restaurants will continue to operate under the current control measures. Since the start of vaccinations six months ago, the Nairobi County Department of Health reported that around 10 percent of the population in Nairobi County are vaccinated compared to an average of 2 percent across the rest of the country. Kenya has continued its vaccination drive, with a seven-day rolling average of 48,580 doses administered per day by August 30. Although COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed to help increase economic activity, such as the return of full capacity in public transport vehicles, urban poor households continue to earn below-normal incomes, reducing their purchasing power and impacting household access to food and non-food needs.  

Markets and trade: In July, staple food prices remained below average, driven by improved availability following the long rains harvests and increased cross-border imports from Uganda and Tanzania. The current national maize balance sheet projection expects the national maize surplus to last through September and will be updated monthly to capture the upcoming long rains harvests in medium and high potential areas. In July, wholesale maize prices in the urban reference markets of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret were within the five-year averages in Kisumu and 7-16 below average in the rest of the markets. Dry bean prices in Eldoret are within average due to available harvests and cross-border imports. Across the rest of the urban reference markets, bean prices were 17-41 percent above average due to consecutive below-average production seasons across the region. In the marginal agricultural areas, maize prices are 7-17 percent below the five-year average supported by the long rains harvest and cross-border imports. However, bean prices are average in Kitui and Taita Taveta and 8-18 percent above average in the rest of the marginal agricultural markets following three consecutive below-average production seasons. In the pastoral areas, maize prices were 14 percent below the five-year average in Turkana due to adequate supplies from Trans Nzoia counties and cross-border imports from Uganda. Across the rest of the pastoral markets, prices are 6-32 percent above average, following increased demand for human and livestock consumption and below-average production in source areas.

Goat prices were average in Marsabit, 9-13 percent above average in Isiolo and Garissa due to favorable body conditions, and 7-11 percent below average in Wajir and Turkana due to below-average body conditions and oversupply to the market as households sell livestock for income to purchase food and non-food needs. The goat-to-maize terms of trade are within the five-year averages in Turkana and Mandera, 7 percent above average in Isiolo, but 8-29 percent below average across the rest of the pastoral markets due to above-average staple food prices and below-average goat prices. The below-average goat-to-maize terms-of-trade across most pastoral areas is providing 40-43 kg of maize to households in Garissa and Turkana, 50-58 kg of maize in Isiolo, Wajir, and Mandera, and 71 kg of maize in Marsabit. Based on Kenya’s annual maize consumption per capita estimate of around 98 kg, current goat-to-maize terms-of-trade would support a family of six for one to one and a half months.    

Urban area outcomes: Poor urban households, particularly in the informal settlements, continue to face constrained income-earning opportunities despite efforts by the government to open the economy for increased business activity. The transport sector has been boosted following the August 9 directive allowing public service vehicles to operate at full capacity. This directive will likely increase COVID-19 infection rates but also reduce transportation costs and improve household access to income-earning opportunities, particularly those employed in labor-intensive sectors. The protracted COVID-19 pandemic and resulting control measures have significantly affected business owners and casual workers, reducing income opportunities and earnings over the last year and a half. Urban poor households continue to experience low purchasing power and are applying consumption-based and livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with the most affected urban poor households employing coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) such as engaging in illegal activities.

Marginal agricultural areas outcomes: Although the long rains harvest is below-average, it is providing short-term improvements to household food availability. However, household access to market purchases of food and non-food needs remains constrained by below-average incomes from crop sales and agricultural waged labor opportunities despite average to below-average staple food prices. According to July NDMA sentinel site data, 1-17 percent of poor households in most marginal agricultural areas reported borderline Food Consumption Scores (FCS), with 26-67 percent of poor households in Kitui, Meru, Nyeri, and Lamu reporting a borderline FCS due to below-average long rains production and depleted carryover stocks from the short rains season. However, 9-29 percent of households in Meru, Kwale, and Lamu reported a poor FCS in July, a slight decline compared to previous months likely driven by the long rains harvest. According to NDMA July sentinel site data, 4-13 percent of poor households are adopting coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as measured by the Reduced Coping Strategy Index (rCSI), except in Tharaka Nithi, Embu, and Taita Taveta where households are employing minimal to no coping strategies. According to July NDMA sentinel site data, the proportion of children under five years of age with acute malnutrition as measured by the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC < 135mm) was 53-87 percent below the five-year average, except in Nyeri where acute malnutrition (MUAC <135mm) was 25 percent above average but still Acceptable (GAM MUAC <5 percent). However, in Tharaka Nithi, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, and Embu, where NDMA sentinel site data analyzed 480 households, no children were recorded facing acute malnutrition as measured by MUAC; however, it should be noted there could be children at risk of malnutrition in areas not sampled. With below-average household food stocks and constrained incomes from crop sales and agricultural waged labor opportunities, poor households in the marginal agricultural areas are expected to have minimally adequate food consumption through September but unable to afford non-food expenditures without engaging in coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Pastoral outcomes: Steady deterioration in forage and water resources negatively impacts livestock production, reducing livestock prices, and milk availability and consumption for households. Reduced income from milk and livestock sales and reduced food and milk consumption, combined with the impact of atypical migration and a rise in conflict incidents, is resulting in food consumption gaps and a reliance on negative livelihood coping strategies to meet household minimum food needs. Outcome indicator data collected from NDMA sentinel sites in July 2021, considered with contributing factors, indicate Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, and parts of Baringo and Laikipia counties. Across all pastoral counties, 12–47 percent of pastoral households reported a borderline FCS, with 3-31 percent reporting a poor FCS driven by lower food access and low milk availability as livestock migrate further from homesteads due to deteriorating forage and water resources. Since June, the percentage of households facing borderline and poor FCS reduced in Marsabit, likely due to increased coping, remained stable in Isiolo, Tana River, and Wajir, and increased across the rest of the pastoral areas. As measured by the reduced coping strategy index (rCSI), around 9-45 percent of households are applying consumption-based coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to below-average milk production and low terms-of-trade. Overall, the percentage of pastoral households engaged in consumption coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) remained stable or slightly reduced compared to June except in Marsabit, where the percentage of households engaging in coping strategies increased. The percentage of households applying livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) such as withdrawing children from school, consumption of seed stock, and reducing expenses on health care range from none in Garissa and 12-48 percent across the rest of the pastoral areas. At least one emergency livelihood coping strategy has been employed by 5-24 percent of pastoral households, except in Garissa, Samburu, and Turkana, where less than 1 percent of households are engaging in emergency livelihood coping strategies.

Low food and milk consumption, high morbidity, limited access to health and nutrition services, and poor childcare practices – coupled and underlying chronic issues such as poverty, high illiteracy, and poor infrastructure – have resulted in atypically high acute malnutrition prevalence across pastoral areas. As a result, the nutrition situation has deteriorated across pastoral areas compared to the prior IPC Acute Malnutrition Analysis in February 2021. In July, acute malnutrition was at typical levels of Critical (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu, Turkana, North Horr, and Laisamis sub-counties in Marsabit County and Tiaty in Baringo County. 

UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Kenya Food Security Outlook for June 2021 to January 2022 remain unchanged. 

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2022

In the urban areas, below-average incomes among poor urban households are likely to persist as COVID-19 restrictions maintain low labor demand and income-earning opportunities in formal and informal sectors. As a result, food access will remain constrained for the urban poor households despite below-average staple food prices. Poor households are expected to continue relying on credit facilities to bridge income and food gaps and employ livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while some of the worse-off households are expected to employ coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). As the COVID-19 vaccination drive continues, economic activity will likely increase, improving income-earning opportunities in both formal and informal sectors. With staple food prices projected to remain below average through the scenario period, it is likely that most poor households will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as household access to income increases, but at least one in five poor households will be unable to obtain their minimum food needs without engaging in unsustainable coping strategies and will likely continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

In marginal agricultural areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist through September driven by declining household food availability from own production and constrained access to food due to below-average incomes from crop sales and agricultural waged labor opportunities. Forage and water resources are expected to continue declining through late October, driving declines in livestock body conditions and productivity. Between October and late November, household food availability is expected to decline significantly as the below-average long rains food stocks deplete, driving household reliance on market supplies to atypically high levels. However, household access to food will be supported by near-average incomes from agricultural waged labor opportunities during land preparation, planting, and weeding for the short rains cropping season. In addition, harvests from the unimodal high and medium production areas are likely to sustain average to below-average staple food prices beginning in November. Meanwhile, the forecast below-average October to December short rains will drive improvements in forage and water availability, improving livestock body conditions and household milk availability in the short term. With near-average household food access, most poor households are expected to meet their minimum food needs but will be unable to afford non-food needs due to reduced incomes, driving area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, it is likely that some poor households will be unable to recover from asset stripping and liquidation and will continue facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

In pastoral areas, rangeland resources are expected to continue deteriorating rapidly and will be depleted by September across most pastoral areas. Migration to dry-season grazing areas and other atypical routes is expected to intensify as herders seek water and pasture. Livestock disease outbreaks and resource-based conflicts are also expected to intensify, significantly impacting and constraining livelihood activities and resulting in the destruction of property. Livestock productivity is expected to continue to decline, further reducing milk production and milk sales for households. Households are expected to intensify consumption-based and livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse to bridge both income and food gaps. The below-average October to December short rains are likely to start late, resulting in an extended period of dryness which will further impact livestock health and productivity, extend the time livestock are away from the homesteads, and result in some livestock deaths due to a lack of water/pasture in the most affected areas. Although the below-average short rains will provide some short-lived improvements to rangeland resources from early to mid-November, only a portion of the livestock that migrated is expected to return to the wet-season grazing areas, with most herds remaining in the dry-season grazing areas limiting household milk availability. The anticipated early cessation of rainfall is expected to drive livestock near homesteads to migrate earlier than normal to dry-season grazing areas, further limiting household food and income from livestock due to declining body conditions and increased distance from the homestead. Households are expected to expand their access to income from non-livestock-related sources but will likely be limited by high competition for income-earning opportunities from casual labor and petty trade and lingering economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Household food availability and consumption is expected to below average, and households will likely intensify the application of consumption and livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to fill food gaps. Reduced food and milk consumption will likely increase acute malnutrition rates in Turkana, Samburu, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, and Marsabit (North Horr and Laisamis) but acute malnutrition will likely remain Critical (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent). Overall, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist across pastoral areas with parts of Laikipia, Samburu deteriorating from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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