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Lean season to start early in some pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • June 2015
Lean season to start early in some pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through September 2015
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    WFP
    Key Messages
    • The March to May long rains have ceased in most of pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. However, in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas and localized parts of the coastal strip, rains continue through August and are likely to be average to above average in cumulative amount. 

    • The cumulative March to May long rains were mostly near average in amount, but below-average rainfall fell in localized areas in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. 

    • Following the March to May long rains, food access has marginally increased for a significant proportion of pastoral and marginal agricultural households, but the majority remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, parts of Isiolo and Wajir Counties had well below average rainfall that was poorly distributed. Some households in these areas remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Current Situation

    The March to May long rains ceased during the first two weeks of May in most pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. However, they have continued in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas in the western and southwestern parts of the country and in some areas of the coastal strip, as is seasonally typical.

    While March to May cumulative rainfall was near average in most areas (Figure 1), the spatial distribution was highly uneven, and the temporal distribution was erratic in both pastoral and agropastoral areas. Improved rangeland conditions resulted in increased milk production and consumption, and subsequently, improved nutrition for pastoral households. Milk production increased between 20 and 60 percent between April and May. The proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition, defined as having a mid-upper arm circumference of less than 135 millimeters (mm), declined by up to 30 percent between April and May across pastoral areas. Average distances between water sources and grazing areas has declined, and in May, county averages were between one and five kilometers. Livestock body conditions are currently fair to good. However areas of northern Isiolo, eastern Marsabit, eastern Samburu, and western Wajir only received 50 to 80 percent of 1981-to-2010 mean rainfall. Rangeland conditions in these areas improved moderately during the season. 

    Goat prices increased five to 22 percent from April to May in pastoral areas of Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, and agropastoral areas of Baringo, Narok, and West Pokot, as livestock body conditions improved. Livestock prices remained stable from April to May due to stable livestock body conditions in pastoral areas of Samburu, Garissa, Isiolo, and Tana River Counties, and agropastoral areas of Kajiado County. May county-average livestock prices were up to 40 percent above their five-year averages, except in Kajiado, Garissa, and Isiolo counties where current livestock prices are up to 16 percent lower than their five-year averages. On the other hand, county-average maize prices, increased five to 22 percent from April to May in Kajiado, Tana River, Baringo, and West Pokot Counties, as supplies were drawn down and demand remained constant. Maize prices decreased five to 10 percent from April to May in Narok, Mandera, and Garissa Counties, as maize supplies from outside these counties arrived on markets, but maize prices remained stable in Samburu, Marsabit, Wajir, and Isiolo Counties. These May maize prices were near the five-year averages in most counties, except for Samburu, Garissa, Isiolo, and West Pokot where prices were up to 40 percent above the five-year average. Livestock-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT) were 12 to 50 percent above their five-year averages in pastoral and agropastoral areas. However, in Samburu, Isiolo, and Garissa Counties, county-average livestock-to-cereal ToTs were below average. Income from livestock sales has maintained household food access. Most areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The driest areas in Isiolo and Wajir remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In the southeastern and coastal, marginal, agricultural areas, weeding was still occurring in parts of Kilifi and Kwale where crops were washed away by floods in May, then replanted. Cereal crops such as maize, millet, and sorghum are growing and at various stages of development. Maize is knee high in Nyeri, silking in Makueni, and at the grain-formation stage in Embu, Kitui, and Tharaka Nithi, but it is showing some signs of water stress. Legumes like beans, green grams, and cowpeas have reached maturity and are ready for harvesting or being harvested. Harvesting of legumes and cassava is ongoing in Kitui, Makueni, and parts of Embu. Pests including aphids, weevils, and caterpillars have been reported to have infested some of the crops in Kitui. County-average maize prices remained relatively stable from April to May in Makueni, Taita Taveta, and Kwale Counties, and Meru North and Mbeere Sub-counties due to adequate supplies in markets. Prices increased six to 12 percent in Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri, and Lamu Counties likely due to the seasonal pattern as supplies from last year’s harvest are drawn down. May prices were up to 30 percent above their five-year averages in Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Meru North, and Mbeere, but they were near their five-year averages in the other counties. The rains have resulted in a significant increase in water availability for households with mostly normal access to water in late May and early June. The proportion of children at risk of malnutrition, defined as a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of 135 mm or less, declined from April to May, and remained stable in Kwale and Lamu, likely due in part to increased food availability and increased dietary diversity. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 


    Updated Assumptions

    Most assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for April to September 2015 remain unchanged. 


    Projected Outlook Through September 2015

    In pastoral and agropastoral areas, rangeland resources are currently in normal condition for the end of the long rains, but they are expected to deteriorate faster than usual during the July to October dry season. Livestock are expected to be migrated to dry-season grazing areas, away from homesteads. Such migrations are expected to occur earlier than usual, especially in parts of Isiolo, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, and Mandera that received less March to May rainfall and are already very dry. With limited pasture, browse, and water availability, livestock productivity will decline, resulting in poor livestock body conditions and reduced milk availability. Poor livestock body conditions will lead to a decline in livestock prices, and this will subsequently reduce household incomes. At a time when staple food prices are expected to seasonally increase, households will have less purchasing power. Household food consumption will be constrained. In areas where earlier than usual migration is expected, the lean season is expected to start earlier than usual, due to limited income from livestock sales. Though the majority of households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September, localized areas in Wajir and Isiolo will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least September.

    In the southeastern and coastal, marginal, agricultural areas, a below-average and delayed long rains maize harvest is expected in August. With previous successive seasons of below-average crop production, the majority of households exhausted their stocks earlier than usual by May instead of July. Short-cycle crops, primarily legumes, in June/July will provide some food but only for a short period of time, probably for less than a month for most poor households. With the below-average production of the last two season, more households, even some of the better off will be making more purchases from markets through September. With few income-earning opportunities being available at this time of year, households will be constrained in their ability to make purchases during the early start to the lean season, expected to start in July instead of August and continue through October. Households will likely increase their use of coping mechanisms to buy or acquire food. Though food prices are expected to gradually increase through August, households would still be able to maintain some food access and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. March 1 to May 30, 2015 rainfall anomaly in millimeters (mm) from 2000-2013 mean, using Climate Hazards Group Infra

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. March 1 to May 30, 2015 rainfall anomaly in millimeters (mm) from 2000-2013 mean, using Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) data

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

    Figure 3

    Source:

    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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