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Poor performance of the short rains in parts of the Southeast is likely to intensify food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • December 2012
Poor performance of the short rains in parts of the Southeast is likely to intensify food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2012
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    WFP
    Key Messages
    • The poor amount and uneven distribution of the October to December short rains may cause increased food insecurity in the marginal mixed farming livelihood zones in Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, and Taita Taveta Districts. Crops have already started wilting due to a prolonged dry spell.

    • Although early maturing vegetables are currently supporting food consumption and above average livestock prices allow continued market access for some households, the limited availability of casual labor opportunities and persistently above average maize prices are limiting household food access in the marginal mixed farming areas. 

    • Despite the poor temporal and spatial distribution of the short rains in the pastoral areas, livestock productivity improved. This has led to continued above average livestock prices and increased milk availability and consumption. As a result, the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition is below average. 


    Current Situation
    • Overall, the performance of October to December short rains has been below average, and temporal and spatial distribution has been uneven in the marginal mixed farming zones in Mwingi, Makueni, Kitui, Kwale, and Taita Taveta Districts. The poor onset resulted in poor germination and dry spells led to the wilting and drying out of the crops. Consequently, the harvests in the affected areas will likely be below average unless there is a return of consistent rains that extend through January. Grazing and water conditions in the marginal mixed farming zones are still poor and as a result, milk availability has not improved significantly as usual during the short rains season. Vegetation conditions are well below average as depicted by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) (Figure 3). 
    • Reduced agricultural activity has lowered the availability of casual labor opportunities in Kwale and Mwingi at a time of year when local casual labor opportunities are usually near their peak. This has lowered households’ ability to purchase food. Although households have resorted to selling livestock and charcoal in order to purchase food and to meet other immediate cash needs, these income sources are not enough to cover the purchase of sufficient quantities of maize, which remains at above-average prices.
    • Compared to October, food consumption has slightly improved in the much of the mixed farming zones in Kitui and Makueni because of the availability of traditional vegetables started in November. However, in the marginal mixed farming zones, traditional vegetables are not yet available, and food consumption has not yet seasonally improved though some vegetables should mature in January. Children under five years of age are consuming three meals a day, but the majority are only consuming one or two types of food, and a substantial portion of the population is skipping meals. Various interventions have prevented a substantial deterioration in observed nutritional outcomes. At least 70 to 80 percent of households in the southeastern marginal mixed farming livelihood zone are classified at the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) level of food insecurity.
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, including in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Ijara, and Tana River Districts, water and grazing conditions, on average, have improved, resulting in improved livestock body conditions, increased milk availability, and an increase in livestock prices. However, pasture and browse conditions remain below average in many areas, and there has been minimal migration of livestock to the wet season grazing areas. November cattle and goat prices prices in Garissa, Ijara, and Tana River Districts were more than 50 percent above their five-year averages and higher than in October. Compared to October, the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition, defined as having a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm) declined in November; it is below average across the pastoral areas. However, food security may deteriorate due to recurrent conflict between farmers and herders. 

    Updated Assumptions

    Several assumptions in November 2012 Food Security Outlook Update (FSOU) and the Food Security Outlook for October 2012 to March 2013 remain unchanged. However, rapidly changing climactic and agricultural conditions make it necessary to update the following assumptions:

    • Casual labor opportunities are likely to continue to be available, but they will be available at a below average level, not at an average level as assumed in November.
    • The short rains maize harvests will likely be below average, not near average as assumed in November.

    In addition to the existing assumptions, one additional assumption has been made:

    • Remittances to the southeastern and coastal lowlands livelihoods are expected to increase through March 2013, primarily from existing labor migrants, not from new migration. However, some new migration will occur.

    Projected Outlook through December 2012

    Overall, many of the expected improvements in food security projected in the Food Security Outlook for October to March 2013 will not occur in the marginal mixed farming livelihood zones, and actual food consumption has been much worse than projected in these areas. Short-cycle legumes and traditional vegetables are expected to support minimally adequate food consumption through December in the higher elevation mixed farming zones. Unlike in a typical year, the food consumption level is likely to deteriorate through January in the marginal mixed farming zones in the southeastern and coastal lowlands while normally these areas would move out of their lean season in December and January. The majority of households in the marginal mixed farming are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least January 2013. Increased demand for cash to pay school fees in January coupled with the increasing likelihood of a poor short rains harvests may limit households’ capacity to purchase food and further reduce food consumption levels in Makueni, Kitui, Mwingi, and Taita Taveta Districts from January through March 2013.

    In the pastoral areas, regenerated pasture and browse are expected to support normal livestock activities. Milk along with income from livestock sales will support food consumption and nutritional improvement through December.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET Kenya

    Current food security outcomes, December 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, December 2012

    Source: FEWS NET Kenya

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, December 11-20, 2012

    Figure 3

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, December 11-20, 2012

    Source: Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET Note: Marginal mixed farming li…

    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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