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Food security deteriorating fast in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • February 2014
Food security deteriorating fast in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2014
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Despite the below average short rains harvest in February, food security is still Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in much of the country. The long rains are likely to be near normal to below normal, helping increase food access from March, especially in the pastoral livelihood zones.
    • From the meagre short rains harvest along with limited income from casual labor income and remittances, households in the marginal agricultural livelihood zones and the coastal strip are able to afford and access minimal but slightly diversified diets right now in the post-harvest period.
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, conflict has constrained market access while pasture depletion led to earlier than normal livestock migration, reducing milk availability and related income. As a result, poor households entered Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in localized pockets of Marsabit and Turkana Counties.

    Current situation
    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, households are harvesting and selling legumes including green grams (mung beans) and cowpeas along with some small amounts of maize and fruit. Although the cereal harvest was below average, both legumes and fruit were harvested at near average levels. The price of a kilogram (kg) of green grams being sold by farmers ranged between KES 70 to 100 against that of maize being bought between KES 30 and 43 in January. Harvesting of legumes provided some casual labor in January and February, around two days a week per worker with daily wages ranging between KES 170 to 270. These are mostly normal rates and availability at this time of the year. As a result, households depending on the market for food are at least able to purchase between four to six kilograms of maize from one day’s casual labor income and almost two kg for every kg of green grams sold.
    • Stable access to food and fruit in much of the southeastern marginal agricultural livelihood zone maintained malnutrition status below the five-year average with only a marginal increase in the proportion of children with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm) in Makueni and Tharaka Counties. Households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in much of the marginal agricultural livelihood zones.
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, the availability of pasture, browse, and water for livestock declined between December and January due to higher than normal temperatures. Pastoralists reacted by organizing earlier than normal livestock migration to the dry season grazing areas in Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Isiolo, and Turkana Counties. However, the migration of livestock resulted in a decline in milk availability for household members left behind at homesteads and permanent, year-round villages. Milk prices increased, constraining household access and consumption to a below normal level between December and January. Whereas food and livestock prices remained fairly stable, conflicts in parts of Marsabit and Turkana have constrained livestock sales and access to markets, thus constraining household food access between December and January. Goat to cereal terms of trade declined slightly in Isiolo, Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, Tana River, and Garissa Counties but remained above average. Above-average terms of trade indicate that households still had a favorable access to food, but in January, it was slightly less than in December 2013.
    • Declining availability of food at the household level, increased food prices, and relatively constant livestock prices have reduced food access in pastoral areas, resulting in a marginal increase in malnutrition. In Marsabit, the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition (MUAC less than 135 mm) increased from 26 percent in December to 29 percent in January. However, food security remains Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in much of the pastoral livelihood zones.
    • In the central parts of Turkana and western parts of Marsabit, earlier than normal livestock migration due to rangeland deterioration during the high temperatures and inter-clan conflicts have constrained households access to markets and some income and food sources. Food security has deteriorated to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Updated assumptions

    Most assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for January to June 2014 remain unchanged except for the agroclimatic assumption, which due to newer forecasts has been changed to:

    • In January, it was assumed that the March to May long rains were expected to be normal to below normal in terms of total rainfall. More recent forecasts indicate that the March to May long rains are likely to be near normal to somewhat below normal but with some variation across the country. However, they will likely start on time.

    Projected outlook through June 2014

    Through March, land surface temperatures will remain abnormally high, up to two degrees above normal. Moreover, the March to May rains will start on time, but these are fairly unreliable in their distribution in the Southeast and many of the pastoral livelihood zones. Households in the Southeast will continue selling their short rains legume harvest, generating income which will enable household food access through April. The March to May long rains trigger a minimal level of agricultural activities in this area, and while nothing seasonally unusual is expected with agricultural labor markets, these have many fewer casual labor opportunities than are associated with the short rains crops. In the meantime, the price for maize is expected to gradually increase from April through June. Gradually increasing food prices, gradually increasing market dependence, and gradually declining short rains household food stocks will slowly reduce food access through June. Household access to food will see a slight increase when the short-cycle, long rains legumes become available in May, but otherwise April to June will be a period of declining access. Food security will decline but remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with households able to meet just enough expenditure for their minimally adequate food consumption without engaging in irreversible coping strategies. The higher phases of food insecurity may not become apparent in localized areas until the August to November 2014 lean season.

    In the pastoral livelihood zones, abnormally high land surface temperatures will accelerate the decrease of pasture, browse, and water availability through March. However, available pasture and browse in the dry grazing areas is likely to last through the March to May long rains season. The long rains will lead to regeneration of pasture and browse and also recharge water points to support kidding, lambing, and calving. Livestock will likely be returned to wet season grazing areas. Livestock body conditions, milk availability, and livestock prices will most likely track the availability of pasture and browse, decrease through March and increasing from April through June. Household food access will follow livestock prices, decreasing through April and increasing from May through June. For those household in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), food security will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as households again become able to access milk, livestock body conditions recover, and income increases as prices respond to improved livestock health. In other areas, households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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