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Long rains driving improvements in food security

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • May 2015
Long rains driving improvements in food security

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The long rains have been average to above-average in cumulative amount since March in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas. This will likely to result in an average to above-average October to December harvest. 

    • Near average March to May long rains in most pastoral areas have helped improve food security. Despite improvements, most pastoral areas are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September, but localized parts of Isiolo, Garissa, and Wajir will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    • In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, short-cycle legumes harvested in June and labor opportunities will allow households to maintain current levels of food access. Most households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. 

    Current Situation

    The March to May long rains have been largely near average in pastoral areas (Figure 1), with pockets of below-average cumulative rainfall in areas in and around Isiolo, Marsabit, Mandera, Turkana, Kajiado, Tana River, Samburu, and Wajir Counties. Water, pasture, and browse conditions range from fair to good, and some of the migrated livestock have been returned to wet-season grazing areas. However, parts of Kajiado, Narok, and Isiolo still have poorer pasture and browse conditions, due to the late start and below-average cumulative rainfall. Overall, livestock productivity has increased. For example, milk production increased 30 to 60 percent from April to May. Livestock body conditions range from fair to good. Water sources have been refilled by the rains, and most are currently at around 60 to 80 percent of their capacities and expected to last two to three months. As a result, trekking distances to water points from grazing areas fell from 15 to 20 kilometers (km) in April to less than 10 km in May.

    As livestock body conditions have improved and demand for livestock remains high, county- and sub-county-average livestock prices increased five to 30 percent from March to April in Turkana, Samburu, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Narok, Kajiado, and West Pokot Counties. However, as livestock body conditions and health have not recovered across all areas, county-average livestock prices remained fairly steady from March to April in Marsabit, and goat prices fell 12 percent in Isiolo. Rainfall since March has been far below average in Isiolo, and the rangelands conditions have not yet improved. Livestock productivity in Isiolo remains very low. Despite poor livestock body conditions, county-average April livestock prices increased up to 30 percent above their five-year averages in Turkana, Narok, Samburu, Wajir, and West Pokot, but they were up to 15 percent below their five-year averages in Baringo, Kajiado, Mandera, and Garissa. April county average maize prices have seasonally increased by up to 11 percent since March in Turkana, Narok, Baringo, and West Pokot as supplies were drawn down in these markets. Maize prices remained stable from March to April in Kajiado, Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, and Isiolo, but they declined six percent in Samburu due to ample supplies coming in from other parts of the country. The proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition, defined as having a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm), declined from March to April in Marsabit, Samburu, Wajir, Isiolo, and West Pokot. It remained stable in Turkana, Garissa, Mandera, and Baringo. Improvements in nutrition were attributed to increased milk production and consumption and to nutrition interventions. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but parts of Isiolo, Wajir, and Garissa, where rangeland resources and livestock productivity have not recovered since the start of the rains, are still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, food security has moderately improved since the long rains started in late March/early April, one to three weeks late. Improved food security is the result of increased food access as household incomes from agricultural labor seasonally increased due to demand for labor for planting, weeding, spraying, and other activities. Planting of maize, beans, green grams, and cowpeas has been completed in most areas. Pulses such as beans and green grams are at the flowering to pod-formation stages, while maize is knee-high to already tasseling. Most households have already finished the first weeding. For those who planted late due to the late start of the rains, most crops were still at the germination stage. Flash floods in April washed away already planted crops in parts of Kilifi, Kitui, and Embu forcing the affected households to replant again, with replanted crops currently being at the germination stage. Retail maize prices seasonally increased between March and April. County- and sub-county-average retail maize prices increased six to 15 percent in Kitui, Makueni, Nyeri, and Lamu Counties, and Meru North and Mbeere Sub-counties. The increases are likely due to more households buying food from markets since household stocks have already been drawn down. However, county-average maize prices remained stable in Taita Taveta, Kwale, and Kilifi Counties due to adequate imports from Tanzania. Maize prices in April were up to 30 percent above their five-year averages in Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Mbeere, and Meru North, primarily due to low supply from the past several seasons. Households are purchasing adequate quantities of food, having no remaining stocks from their own production, primarily funding purchases through various coping mechanisms. 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

    With average to above average long rains experienced in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas, crop production may be above average. In most areas of the country, food security is expected to remain stable through September. Food imports should moderate price increases, and short-cycle long rains crops from high-potential, medium-potential, and marginal agricultural areas will start to be harvested in June.

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, the late start of the rains and below average rainfall in some places is likely to lead to below-average crop production. Only if the long rains continued through early June, which is not the most likely scenario, would crops likely develop enough to produce a near average harvest. With very limited or no food stocks from their own production, households will need to continue to purchase food from markets through September. Household incomes are likely to be below average due to limited agricultural labor demand. Short-cycle crops will start to be harvested in June. These sources of food and income coupled with coping mechanisms would ensure most households maintain access to minimally adequate amounts of food through June. Despite the expected gradual increase in food prices through July, households would still be able to maintain some food access and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.

    Pastoral areas of Isiolo, western Wajir, and northern Garissa are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September. These areas continued to have below average rainfall and will likely not see full or even much partial recovery of water, pasture, and browse availability until the short rains start in October. As a result, livestock body conditions are likely to remain poor, and livestock prices and thus household incomes are likely to remain low.

    Other pastoral areas are likely to see further improvement in food security through June. Rangeland conditions are likely to further improve, supporting livestock productivity, including a high likelihood of an additional increase in milk production. Most water sources are expected to last for the next two to three months. With better livestock body conditions, livestock prices may rise further as will household incomes from livestock sales, milk sales, and labor. However, rangeland conditions are expected to typically deteriorate during the August to October lean season, resulting in declining livestock productivity and increased household food insecurity. The majority of these households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September, despite deteriorating dietary quality during the August to October lean season.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Cumulative rainfall March1 to May 30, 2015 as a percentage of the 1981-to-2010 mean, African rainfall climatology-2 (ARC2) methodology

    Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Climate Prediction Cente…

    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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