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A dry April slowed seasonal improvements in pastoral areas and the Southeast

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • May 2014
A dry April slowed seasonal improvements in pastoral areas and the Southeast

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through September 2014
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Cumulative March to May long rains have been below average to near average in much of the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural lowlands and in agropastoral and pastoral areas. A below average long rains harvest in marginal areas and below average recovery of rangeland conditions are likely worsen the already Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes between now and September.
    • Maize has developed more slowly than normal in the surplus-producing Rift Valley and western highlands. Even with replanting occurring, the start of the harvest is likely to be delayed, contributing to prices remaining elevated longer than normal and thus constraining household food access. The August to January long rains maize harvest in the surplus-producing areas is anticipated to be average to below average.
    • Many households in the southeastern and coastal marginal areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the expected seasonal increase in food prices and early depletion of short rains stocks from the harvest in February/March. Food access will likely further deteriorate sharply starting in July as market dependence increases.

    Current Situation
    • The 2014 March to May long rains started mostly on time in March across the country. The normal onset of the long rains encouraged many farmers to prepare land and plant at the normal time. However, in April and the first few days of May, there was very little rainfall. This long dry spell retarded crop development and led to some wilting, especially in the maize surplus-producing areas in the Rift Valley, the western highlands, and central Kenya. Cumulative March to mid-May rainfall has been well below average in these areas, but rainfall did pick up and the amounts were closer to normal in the second and third weeks of May.
    • Nationally, food security situation has remained mostly stable as staples such as maize, rice, bananas, and fresh vegetables have remained widely available, according to the State Department of Agriculture. Despite the well below average short rains harvest in February/March, maize prices have been stable, primarily due to the availability of imports from Uganda and Tanzania. 
    • The food security situation in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, remains fairly stable but many households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Unlike other areas of the country, the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones have received near normal March to May long rains thus far. Crops are at various stages of development. Wilting has not been reported. In Tharaka Nithi, Meru North, and Kwale Counties, the early planted maize crop has been weeded, and pulses including beans, cowpeas, and green grams were approaching the flowering stage. In Kitui and Makueni Counties, the maize crop was at the dusting or tasseling stages while pulses were in the flowering or pod-formation stages. In Kilifi like in the western and northern parts of Kenya, cumulative March to mid-May rains were well below average. In this area, less than 20 percent of farmers planted. A majority were still waiting for the May rains before planting.
    • In April in the marginal agricultural areas, casual labor remained the main source of income, contributing between 30 to 50 percent of household income. The majority of households were involved in agricultural labor including for planting, weeding, spraying, and other activities. 
    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas in April, the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) less than 135 millimeters (mm) remained fairly stable in Mwingi, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, and Meru North Counties. In the coastal area, ‘at risk’ MUAC levels fell 10 to 20 percent between March and April in Kwale and Kilifi, but they remained stable in Taita Taveta. Except for Meru North, the proportions in most counties remained below their respective five-year averages, mainly due to the continued support of supplementary nutrition programs and relatively stable household food access over the past year.
    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, rangeland conditions improved following the onset of the long rains in March. Though the rains have so far been erratic and poorly distributed both in space and time, rangeland conditions have gradually improved. Pasture and browse availability have increased, and livestock body conditions are currently fair to good. Water availability and access has substantially increased, leading to reduced distances to watering points from grazing areas. In Turkana, Marsabit, and Wajir Counties, the average distance to water points fell from March to April from around 10 to nine kilometers (km,) five to three km, and nine to five km, respectively. 
    • Improved body conditions led to livestock prices increasing in most pastoral areas from March to April, but in Marsabit, they decreased slightly less than six percent for all species. Prices increased five to 20 percent in Mandera, Garissa, Turkana, and Wajir. Reduced prices in Marsabit were attributed to reduced demand in the market, especially from traders, as a result of insecurity and associated tensions. Cereal prices remained constant or declined marginally. As a result, goat to maize terms of trade (ToT) increased. ToT increased 15, 10, and six percent from March to April in Turkana, Wajir, and Mandera, respectively. 
    • The proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition declined from March to April by six, 14, and 23 percent in Marsabit, Wajir, and Turkana Counties, respectively, due to improved household milk availability with livestock births at the start of the rains. Many households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with the exceptions of Loiyangalani and North Horr in Marsabit, and Kaaling, Lapur, Loima Localities in Turkana, which are still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). An extremely warm January to March dry season led to poor access to water for both human and livestock use. These areas have seen less increase in pasture, browse, and water availability than other pastoral areas so far this season.
    • In agropastoral areas, including areas in Baringo and West Pokot Counties, the below-average rainfall since March, combined with the long dry spell in April, delayed the seasonal improvement of rangeland and caused the wilting of already planted crops. Pasture and browse conditions are only poor to fair resulting in poor to fair livestock body conditions and some unusual deterioration of livestock body conditions during the long rains. Livestock have remained in dry-season grazing areas, which has resulted in reduced milk availability for most households. Livestock prices, especially for cattle, have declined 10 to 20 percent from March to April, attributable to poor livestock body conditions. However, livestock prices have remained 20 to 50 percent above their respective five-year averages. Maize prices increased by five percent in Baringo and declined by 13 percent in West Pokot from March to April. The marginal increase in Baringo was due to limited market supply due to seasonal transport difficulties. Nutrition levels as measured by the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition with MUAC have remained stable/within normal ranges between March to April, though in West Pokot, it continues to be 30 percent above the long-term average. 

    Updated Assumptions
    Most assumptions from the Kenya Food Security Outlook for April to September 2014 remain unchanged. However, updated forecasts and weather performance have changed the agroclimatic assumptions. More recent information suggests the following modified assumptions:
    • Last month, it was assumed that the March to August long rains in the Rift Valley and western and central Kenya would be near normal to above normal in terms of cumulative rainfall. Like other areas of Kenya, there was very little rain in April in these areas. April is typically the month when the most rain falls. Based on the April rainfall and revised forecasts, cumulative March to August rainfall is expected to be average to below average in these areas. In May and June, normal to below normal amounts of rain are likely to continue, leading to overall below average cumulative rainfall.

    Projected Outlook Through September 2014
    The long rains have so far been below normal in terms of cumulative rainfall in most areas, especially during April and especially in the grain basket in Rift Valley and the western highlands. However, short-term forecasts for the remainder of May and early June suggest above-average amounts of rain. Some farmers are expected to replant, primarily in the northern Rift Valley. These late-planted crops will not yield as much as is typical for these areas, so total grain production for the long rains harvest from August to January will likely be average to below average. However, in terms of national grain supply, if rains in May and June allow both replanting and prevent further water stress in western Kenya, the total harvest may not be that far below average.
    In the southeastern and coastal marginal mixed farming areas, households who planted for the long rains season in March/April will have short-cycle crops to harvest in June/July. There have been some areas with better distributed rainfall in April, and this will mean there will be some crops in these areas, helping to increase food access and provide food other than maize purchases. With some labor, remittances, and other sources of income, along with some milk production and own produced crops, many households will be able to afford their minimal dietary requirements. The expected continuation of supplementary nutrition programs is expected to help prevent malnutrition from rising. After the harvest ends in August, household incomes are likely to seasonally decline as casual labor opportunities, especially for on-farm labor, dwindle. Although food access is expected to deteriorate, the majority of households may still be in a position to afford a considerable amount of food and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, in the areas that had the least amount of short rains production in January/February, households will likely enter the lean season up to a month early in July instead of August. As the lean season starts in full in August, some households may start to be unable to afford adequate quantities of food, and small, localized pockets of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) may appear.
    In pastoral areas, there are areas in central and southern parts of Turkana and southwestern parts of Marsabit where the March and April rains were far below average in terms of amount. In these areas, food security will decline, starting in July. The below normal-to-normal recovery of rangeland conditions will lead to deterioration in rangeland conditions earlier than normal during the June to September dry season. The resultant effect will be an earlier than normal increase in trekking distances, decreased water availability, early migration to dry season grazing areas, and reduced access to milk. The expected increase in food prices at a time when livestock prices would likely be declining,  decreasing households’ purchasing capacity, leading to inadequate food consumption. With major food security outcomes expected to start deteriorating by July, the majority of pastoralists are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However some small, localized areas, primarily in central and southern Turkana and southwestern Marsabit, are likely to fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between July and September.
    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.

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