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Unusually high temperatures to slow recovery in pastoral, southeastern, and coastal areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • February 2013
Unusually high temperatures to slow recovery in pastoral, southeastern, and coastal areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The short rains harvest is ongoing in southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones. The national short rains maize harvest is expected to be near average, but production in the marginal mixed farming livelihood zone in Makueni, Taita Taveta, and Kwale Districts may still be poor enough to limit food availability and access. 

    • Food consumption improved in January 2013 compared to December 2012 due to early harvests and favorable grazing conditions along with recent livestock births, which also favored milk production. As a result, the proportion of children at ‘at risk’ of malnutrition in January remained below average and lower than December. 

    • Although grazing conditions are favorable, abnormally high temperatures during the short dry season from January to March 2013 are likely to cause a rapid decline of water and grazing resources in pastoral livelihood zones. This will limit milk production. Consequently, limited access to milk may impact negatively on household nutrition.

    Current Situation
    • The February to March harvesting of short rains crops is ongoing in the southeastern and coastal mixed farming and parts of the marginal agricultural livelihood zones. These crops are currently preventing gaps in food availability at the household level.
    • The increased availability of green maize and legumes is exerting downward pressure on food prices as households reduce market purchases and consume food from their own production. As a result, maize prices declined by over five percent in Makueni and Tharaka from December 2012 to January 2013, and they remained stable in the rest of the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural zones.
    • The continuing January to March dry season has been characterized by unusually high temperatures, which have hastened the deterioration of grazing conditions in parts of the southeastern and coastal lowlands. Livestock prices declined from December to January, with the exception of Kitui where they increased. The decline in livestock prices is attributed to increased supply of livestock in the market as households seek to raise school fees that are due in January and February. Nevertheless, livestock prices are above average.
    • Food consumption has improved due to the availability of green maize and legumes, and the lower prices have enhanced access to food from markets. As a result, the level of nutrition improved in January compared to December. The proportion of children less than five years of age ‘at risk’ of malnutrition measured using mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) less than 135 millimeters declined by 20 percent in both Kitui and Mwingi Districts and seven and eight percent in Taita Taveta and Lamu Districts, respectively. The food security situation has improved from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 
    • In much of the pastoral livelihood zones, the food security situation is deteriorating seasonally due to the January to March short dry season, which is also the minor lean season. So far, unusually high temperatures have prevailed in parts of Garissa, Ijara, Mandera, northern Isiolo, and West Pokot Districts (Figure 3). The pasture and browse conditions are generally poor compared to average (Figure 4) because of the poor distribution and amount of the October to December short rains in these areas. Despite the January to March dry season and relatively poor pasture and browse availability, livestock body conditions remain good. However, with the exception of Moyale, livestock prices have declined because of increased supply to the markets as households raise money for school fees and other immediate household financial demands.
    • Compared to December, distances to water and grazing points increased in Ijara, Mandera, and West Pokot in January. There is unusually early livestock migration from the northern parts to the southern parts of Isiolo and into Moyale from Ethiopia and neighboring Wajir and Marsabit Districts. Often, this migration would not occur until the longer dry season in June or July.
    • With the exception of West Pokot and Ijara Districts, food consumption improved in much of the pastoral livelihood zones because of improved milk production and consumption, following births in January and late 2012 and improved, although below average, pasture conditions. Declines in maize prices from December to January also increased food access. However, the proportion of children under five years of age ‘at risk’ of malnutrition increased by more than 25 percent in Ijara and West Pokot, indicating worse consumption in these areas. Coping strategies in West Pokot include reduced meal sizes and a shift to cheaper food items due to maize prices increases between December and January. There is not food security-related mortality reported from the pastoral livelihood zones. As a result, the pastoral livelihood zones are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions made in the Kenya Food Security Outlook for January to June 2013 remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook through June 2013
    • The ongoing February to March harvest is likely to be near average in southern and coastal marginal agriculture livelihood zones, enhancing food availability and likely resulting in a gradual decline in food prices and enhanced household food access through March. But a near total crop failure is likely to occur in the marginal mixed farming zones in Taita Taveta and Kwale Districts because maize planted mid-December started wilting before cob and kernel development. However, in these areas, short-cycle legumes are available and likely to serve as a primary source of food for the next two months. Although the March to May long rains are likely to be average to below average, they will support improvement in grazing conditions from March through June. Food consumption will be supported by the availability of income from casual labor once the season starts and available food stocks from the short rains season.
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, unusually high temperatures are likely to result in more rapid than usual deterioration of grazing conditions through March. However, food security is expected to remain Stressed (Phase 2). From March through June, grazing conditions will improve due to the arrival of the long rains. Improved grazing conditions will support livestock body conditions and keep livestock prices elevated. High livestock income will enable access to food in the market and sustain food consumption. Conflicts are likely to restrict market access resulting in falling of livestock prices and hence compromising household food access in localized areas within the pastoral livelihood zones. Across all the pastoral livelihood zones, food security is expected to remains Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Land surface temperature, Z-score compared to climatology, January 21 to 31, 2013

    Figure 2

    Land surface temperature, Z-score compared to climatology, January 21 to 31, 2013

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), January 21 to 31, 2013

    Figure 3

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), January 21 to 31, 2013

    Source: USGS/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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