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Below normal March to May rains likely to slow recovery in pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • March 2014
Below normal March to May rains likely to slow recovery in pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2014
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The acutely food insecure population increased from 0.85 million in August 2013 to 1.3 million in February 2014 according to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG) short rains assessment. Acutely food insecure households were concentrated in northeastern pastoral areas in Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Tana River, and Wajir Counties.
    • In northern areas, the March to May long rains are forecast to start two to three weeks late, be erratic in their distribution, and have normal to below normal total rainfall. This will slow recovery from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Turkana and Marsabit.
    • While the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone is likely to receive normal to below normal March to May total rainfall, many households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to rising prices and low stocks from the short rains. Food access will likely further deteriorate starting in June.

    Current situation
    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, food security remained stable but Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between January and February. However, there was a slight deterioration in food security due to the cumulative effects of a gradual decline in food access as households quickly consumed short rains stocks. Harvesting of legumes continued into February, providing some casual labor opportunities. Daily casual wage rate ranged from KES 140 to 200, slightly lower than KES 170 to 270 for January. With this wage, a day of work can earn enough money to buy at least four kilograms (kg) of maize, almost two kilograms less than in January. Households continued to sell legumes and mangoes, boosting access to food, but it was not more than typical.
    • Nutrition remained mostly stable. The proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) less than 135 millimeters (mm) only increased marginally in Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, and Kwale Counties. However, the proportion of children with MUAC of less than 135 millimeters (mm) remained above the five-year average in Tharaka Nithi County, driven primarily by the cumulative effects of gradually increasing maize prices since March 2013, below average milk production and consumption since October 2013, and sustained above average distances to water points since September 2013, all consistent with the below average long rains in May and well below average October to December short rains in 2013 in Tharaka Nithi (Figure 1).
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, rangeland conditions continued to deteriorate from January to February, owing primarily to above normal temperatures. Livestock body conditions deteriorated in line with worsening rangeland conditions leading to a decline in livestock prices across pastoral livelihood zones. Livestock to maize terms of trade (ToT) declined, further constraining household food access. Similarly, milk prices increased in response to below normal supply between January and February. Increased milk prices along with declining livestock to cereal terms of trade in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, and Marsabit contributed to a decline in household food access which contributed to an increase in the proportion of children with MUAC of less than 135 millimeters (mm). Compared to a five-year average of 21 percent, more than 34 percent of children under the age of five were ‘at risk’ of malnutrition in parts of Turkana including Napusmoru and Nanam Locations and Lopur and Kokuro Sub-locations. Food security remained Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in much of the pastoral livelihood zones. Exceptions that are still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and have been since February include parts of central Turkana such as Kaaling, Turkwel, and Loima Sub-counties and western parts of Marsabit including Loiyangalani and North Horr Sub–counties.

    Updated assumptions

    Most assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for January to June 2014 remain unchanged except for the agroclimatic assumption. While this was modified in the February Food Security Outlook Update more recent forecasts suggest it should be changed to:

    • In February, it was assumed that the March to May long rains were expected to be normal to below normal in total amounts rainfall and were likely have a timely onset. More recent forecasts suggest that the rains will be normal to below normal in terms of total amount. However, they are likely to be erratic in their distribution over much of the pastoral and southeastern marginal agricultural livelihood zones and to be interrupted by dry spells. The onset, which is often in the first week of March, will be delayed by two to three weeks in most areas.
    • Unlike January forecast that indicated warmer than normal temperatures through March, warmer than normal temperatures will likely persist through May.

    Projected outlook through June 2014

    Through May, warmer than normal temperatures, up to one degree above normal will persist. At the same time, the March to May long rains will likely start later in March/April than normal, delaying the start of agricultural activities. Households in the Southeast will continue to sell their short rains legumes, generating income which will enable household food access through April. In May, despite a likely somewhat erratic rainfall distribution, short-cycle legumes will reach maturity, supporting consumption and sales through June. Household access to food and dietary diversity will slightly improve in May with the short-cycle legume harvest, but these will decline by June. However, at the same time there will likely be a gradual increase in maize prices at the same time as households increasingly purchase food from markets. Food security will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with households able to meet just enough expenditure for minimally adequate food consumption without engaging in irreversible coping strategies. The higher phases of food insecurity may not become apparent in localized areas where the short rains harvest was especially below average until the August to November 2014 lean season.

    In the pastoral livelihood zones, abnormally high land surface temperatures and the delayed onset of the March to May long rains will accelerate the decrease of pasture, browse, and water availability and lengthen the short lean season, possibly through May. However, available pasture and browse in the dry grazing areas is likely to last through the March to May long rains season. Although delayed, the long rains will lead to regeneration of pasture, browse, and recharge water points to support kidding, lambing, and calving. Livestock will likely be returned to wet season grazing areas even if later than planned. Livestock body conditions, milk availability, and livestock prices will most likely track the availability of pasture and browse, decreasing through April and increasing in May/June. However, in Mandera, Wajir, and much of Marsabit Counties, the long rains will be delayed and depressed to compound the effects of the poor short rains season and the minor lean season may persist 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 slowly, due to delayed and depressed long rains, 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.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. May to February cumulative rainfall in millimeters (mm), Tharaka Nithi County

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. May to February cumulative rainfall in millimeters (mm), Tharaka Nithi County

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