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Food security to improve as short rains continue

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • November 2015
Food security to improve as short rains continue

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through March 2016
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Food security in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas is expected to improve in early December as the short rains lead to the seasonal recovery of rangelands and increase the demand for agricultural labor. The majority of pastoral households are expected to move into or remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by December. Households in marginal agricultural areas are expected to improve to None (IPC Phase 1) by December. 

    • Above-average short rains, driven in part by El Niño, are likely to result in incidents of flash flooding in lowland areas and along rivers and lakeshores, causing displacement of housesholds, increased incidences of water-and vector-borne diseases, infrastructure damage, and physical inaccessibility of markets. As a result, some flooded areas may move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • Harvesting of long rains crops is currently underway in many areas of the northern Rift Valley. Unusually late and heavy rainfall has damaged crops, and some additional damage may be likely after the harvest, as wet conditions prevent drying of grain. It is estimated by the Minstry of Agriculture that this may affect up to a third of the crop in Trans Nzoia and Nandi Counties. 

    Current Situation

    The start of the rains varied in different parts of the country. The rains started earlier than normal in the pastoral areas of Mandera, Wajir, and Tana River Counties and in the marginal agricultural areas of Embu and Meru. Heavy rainfall in parts of Wajir and Mandera resulted in flash floods and temporarily limited or prevented access to some roads in October. The rains also started on time in the pastoral areas of Turkana, Garissa, and Isiolo Counties and in the marginal agricultural areas of Nyeri, Kwale, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta. A late start was reported in the marginal agricultural areas of Kitui, Makueni, and pastoral areas of Marsabit and Samburu Counties. Rainfall became more regular in its timing in November, with above-average rainfall reported throughout the country, likely, in part, due to the ongoing El Niño.

    In pastoral areas, by November, forage typically would have regenerated in many places, and its condition would be good. However, this year, despite above-average rainfall in many areas, forage has not grown as much as usual, and its condition in most areas is only fair. Most water points have reached around half of their carrying capacity. Most livestock have been migrated back to wet-season grazing areas. Livestock body conditions are improving, but they still range from fair to poor. Furthermore, milking and breeding livestock that had grown weak during an especially dry July to October dry season have not yet fully recovered their health. Milk production remains below average as few livestock have given birth and few animals were milking over the course of the dry season. The majority of pastoral households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, localized areas in Isiolo and Wajir remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as dry conditions have led to high food prices and low livestock prices since 2014, which are continuing to constrain purchasing power.

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, land preparation and planting were mostly completed in October. Dry planting occured, but crops either did not germinate or dried up early in their development due to the late start of the short rains in these areas. Subsequently, some farmers replanted. Most crops are currently still in the germination stage, but their condition is good. Crops are developing well. The majority of households in the Southeast are able to meet their food needs, but lack enough income to pay for other essential items and invest in their livelihoods. They remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, in the coastal marginal areas, the majority of households remain in None (IPC Phase 1).

    Harvesting of long rains crops in the northern Rift Valley began in October and is ongoing. Despite good crop conditions, unusually heavy rains in October and November in these areas delayed the harvest or damaged crops. The joint assessment by county agricultural offices and FEWS NET in late October/early November estimated that a little over half of the long rains grains had been harvested by early November. As a result, a little less than half of the crops are still in the field and are being exposed to heavy rains. Most farmers rely on drying maize outdoors in the sun, and wetter-than-normal condtions prevent maize from drying. Heavy, late rains have already damaged maize in the field and while drying. Up to a third of the crop may be damaged either in the field or post-harvest. Inadequately dry maize increases the risk of aflatoxins contaminating stored maize.

    Heavy rains have resulted in flooding in some areas. Transportation has been delayed due to damage or inaccessibility of several major roads, including the Nairobi-Mombasa, Narok-Bomet, Turkana-Kitale, and Garissa-Nairobi highways. Other roads in Tharaka Nithi, Isiolo, Meru, and Turkana Counties have also been impassable at various times. In Samburu, heavy rainfall in October displaced approximately 30 households and caused several cattle deaths. As most of the disruptions have been temporary or have affected very small populations, thus far, there have not been changes to area classifications of acute food insecurity using the IPC 2.0 scale.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Kenya Food Security Outlook for October 2015 to March 2016 remain unchanged. 

    Projected Outlook Through March 2016

    In pastoral areas, food security is expected to improve as the short rains and seasonal recovery of rangeland resources continue. With livestock having been migrated back to wet-season grazing areas, livestock productivity will increase as pasture, browse, and water become more available. Milk production and consumption are expected to increase as kidding, lambing, and calving occur more often in December. Livestock prices are expected to rise starting in late November, as a result of improved livestock body conditions, a reduction in the number of livestock offered for sale, and an increase in demand for livestock both for restocking and for December holidays. Availability of livestock-related labor opportunities will increase poor households’ incomes and support food purchases. Despite an expected gradual increase in cereal prices, a larger increase in livestock prices will result in stable or improving livestock-to-cereal terms of trade through January. The majority of households will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at least through March 2016.

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, expected above-average short rains has led to higher-than-normal demand for agricultural labor, resulting in above-average household incomes. An above-average harvest is expected in February, and the harvesting of short-cycle crops starting in December is expected to further increase household food consumption. The majority of households in these areas are expected to move into None (IPC Phase 1) in December as more income becomes available and own production of short rains crops starts.

    According to short- and medium-term weather forecasts, above-average short rains is likely to continue resulting in flash floods, river flooding, and lakeshore flooding in late November and into December. It is likely that flooding will displace people, increase the incidences of water- and vector-borne diseases, damage roads, limit access to markets, and cause human and livestock deaths. Some of the areas most likely to flood, which were already acutely food insecure, include southern Marsabit, western Mandera, and northern Wajir and Garissa. These areas are likely to move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3), especially during the peak of the rains in November/December. As flood waters recede in late December and January, normal livelihood activities are expected to resume, and markets are anticipated to function again. Households in these areas will move back to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by March as households again gain access to income and their own crop and livestock production. 


    Figure 1


    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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