Skip to main content

Near average to below average March to May long rains to slow recovery

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • March 2015
Near average to below average March to May long rains to slow recovery

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through June 2014
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The March to May long rains are expected to be near average to below average in amount in both pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, but they are likely to be near average to above average in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas. 

    • In pastoral areas, below-average rainfall would likely to lead to slower and less than usual regeneration of rangeland resources. Household food security would improve slower than usual. Through June, the majority of pastoral households will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the areas with even fewer resources in Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Turkana, and Marsabit, households currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least June. 

    • For the southeastern marginal agricultural areas, below-average March to May rainfall would likely lead to low crop and livestock production. However, some labor opportunities and some short-cycle crops harvested around May/June will temporarily improve food consumption. Many households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least June.

    Current Situation

    In pastoral areas, the October to December short rains ended early and were well below average in many areas. Food security continues to deteriorate in these areas, where rangeland resources are less available than usual, and livestock productivity is low. Having had below-average rainfall over several seasons, and warmer than typical temperatures this dry season, rangeland resources have been depleted faster than usual. Even where there was more rain like in the Northwestern Pastoral livelihood zone, warmer than typical temperatures have led to faster depletion of rangeland resources than normal. Distances to water sources have increased. Trekking distances to water for livestock are currently between 15 and 40 kilometers (km) in Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit, Wajir, parts of Mandera, Tana River, and Samburu Counties. Normally, distances this time of year would be five to 15 km in these counties. Consequently, livestock productivity has declined. Milk production is currently only 40 to 60 percent of normal, with production per head of cattle at 0.5 to 1.5 liters per day, while averages are for two to six liters per head per day. Between January and February, livestock prices, mainly for goats, seasonally declined five to 10 percent in Garissa, Mandera, and Marsabit Counties, primarily due to poor livestock body conditions. Livestock prices remained fairly stable in Samburu and Isiolo Counties. Livestock prices increased up to 10 percent in Turkana and Wajir Counties between January and February. Low supply to these markets may have caused the increase. Maize prices seasonally increased up to 11 percent in Wajir, Isiolo, and Marsabit in markets that are relatively distant from supplies, but maize prices were stable in the other counties, supported by ample supplies from other parts of the country. Consequently, livestock-to-cereal terms of trade have either stagnated or declined, resulting in reduced food consumption and limited dietary diversity. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but the areas that were the driest and where resources have been most exhausted in parts of Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, and Marsabit, poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In the southeastern, marginal, agricultural areas, food security continued to decline between January and March. Due to the below-average October to December short rains that ended early, most households did not harvest substantial amounts of food. Many households currently have no food stocks. As a result, households are needing to purchase all their food from markets at a time of seasonally low household incomes. Though households have little income this time of year, food prices have been mostly stable, preserving some household purchasing power. Maize prices remained fairly stable from January to February in Kitui, Makueni, Nyeri, and Embu Counties due to adequate supply from imports and some of the short rains harvest entering the market. The county average maize prices even fell 12 percent in Meru North. However, prices seasonally increased up to 11 percent in Tharaka Nithi and Kilifi Counties. County average maize prices were five to 11 percent below their five-year averages in Kitui, Makueni, and Kwale Counties, but they were 12 to 30 percent above their averages in the other counties, mainly attributed to low local production. Water availability is less than usual in Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, and Meru Counties, where average distances to water for domestic use have increased from the typical 0.5 to three km to four to nine km. Through various coping mechanisms, households are still able to purchase adequate quantities of food and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).  

    Updated Assumptions

    Most of the assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for January to June 2015 remain unchanged, but there is one important revision:

    • Earlier, it was assumed that the March to May long rains would start on time and have near average cumulative amounts of rainfall with a typical spatial and temporal distribution. However, the latest forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and others indicates that the long rains will start late, likely as late as the last week of March or first week of April, have an erratic distribution, and that cumulative rainfall will be average to below average in most of the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas.

    Projected Outlook Through June 2014

    In pastoral areas, with warmer than normal temperatures likely to continue through April, rangeland resources will further deteriorate. With most rangeland resources already depleted or in poor condition, livestock productivity will continue to decline through April. Nutrition and household food consumption will decline through April, as livestock prices decrease and cereal prices marginally increase, lowering households’ purchasing power. The delayed start of the long rains would extend the minor lean season. However, the start of the long rains, while likely not having as much rain as normal, will likely result in some improvements in household food security. Pasture, browse, and water availability is expected to increase by May, supporting kidding, lambing, and calving, albeit at below normal levels. Livestock productivity is likely to increase in tandem with these resources, with milk production and livestock prices expected to increase starting in May. However, for households, these improvements are expected to be short-lived, as the regenerated rangeland resources will be depleted faster than normal as fewer resources will be fully regenerated, so livestock will quickly consume these resources. Through June, the majority of households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but in the areas that were the driest and where resources have been most exhausted including parts of Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, and Marsabit, poor households are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In the southeastern marginal agricultural areas, the vast majority of crop production typically takes place during the October to December short rains, not the March to May long rains. However, to compensate for very low short rains production, households are likely to plant more for the coming long rains. With the long rains forecast to have average to below-average amounts of rain, maize production is likely to be below average. With limited or no food stocks, households will need to continue to primarily purchase food from markets through June. Household incomes from agricultural labor are unlikely to be particularly high with the expected level of production. Nevertheless, short-cycle legumes coupled with coping mechanisms would ensure most households maintain access to minimally adequate amounts of food through June. The expected stability or gradual increase in food prices through June will help households maintain access. Food security will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, higher phases of food insecurity are likely after June 2015 as the August to October lean season approaches. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top