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Food security improves, but some pastoral areas of the Northeast still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • September 2012
Food security improves, but some pastoral areas of the Northeast still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

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  • Key Messages
  • Pastoral conditions
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The estimated number of food insecure people declined by 43 percent, from 3.8 million in August 2011 to 2.1 million in August 2012 according to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG). In pastoral livelihood zones, the decline was a 69 percent in August from the previous year and was 31 percent in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural zones over the same period. 

    • High maize prices in some northeastern pastoral areas and in the southeastern marginal agricultural zone continued to make food access difficult and contributed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity.

    • Conflicts in parts of the northeastern pastoral livelihood zone in Mandera, Tana River, and Wajir Districts, have caused displacements and asset losses. Conflict also limits the ability of traders and humanitarian organizations to supply these areas. The zones of conflict are currently classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    • Although most pastoral and agropastoral areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and seemingly stable, malnutrition, particularly in the conflict-prone pastoral areas of the Northeast along the Kenya-Somali border could deteriorate if enhanced October to December rainfall increases outbreaks of water-borne diseases and heightens the levels of malnutrition.

    Pastoral conditions

    Pastoral conditions vary across the different areas. Water and pasture availability in northeastern pastoral areas such as Mandera, Wajir, and Isiolo Districts is declining, leading to increasing livestock trekking distances. In Mandera District’s Warankara, Ashabito, and Shimbir Fatuma Divisions, and in Ijara District, some water points had already dried up by August. The average return trekking distance in Mandera and Ijara have at least doubled. The body conditions of livestock remained fair in Mandera but poor in Ijara, and livestock body conditions are likely to to deteriorate as dry conditions continue before the October short rains start. The population in need in Ijara District increased by nearly 20 percent between August 2011 and August 2012 due to the emerging conflict along with other food security conditions. The increase in population in need in Ijara followed a negligible long rains harvest between July and August, deteriorating livestock body conditions due to decreasing pasture availability, and increasing trekking distances to watering points. This has led to a seasonal decline in milk consumption from a seasonal average of four to five liters to a half liter per household per day and water consumption from a normal of 13 to 15 liters per person per day to five liters per person per day, according to the 2012 August long rains assessment by KFSSG.

    In spite of good livestock body conditions in most of pastoral livelihood zones, milk production is seasonally low because of decreasing livestock watering frequency and increasing trekking distances to water points. Kidding and lambing are expected to increase starting in October, and at that time, water availability is also expected to improve with the start of the October to December short rains. The herd size per household remains lower than average. For instance, in Ijara, herd size per household has declined by half since August 2006. Consequently, the supply of milk to markets is seasonally low due to the smaller herd sizes, long trekking distances, and infrequent livestock watering, placing an upward pressure on milk prices. In Mandera, milk availability at the household level is averaging between one quarter and one full liter compared to the seasonal average of around seven liters. The price of a liter of milk in August across the northwestern and and northeastern pastoral areas were all above the five-year averages. For instance, prices of milk ranged from KES 90 to KES 120 compared to five-year average of KES 70 in Mandera District while they doubled from KES 30 to 60 per liter in Ijara, and increased from KES 30 to40 up to KES 80 to 120 per liter in Marsabit District. Consequently, due to high prices of milk, household milk consumption in most of the pastoral zones decreased, negatively affecting the nutrition of the households. In some pastoral areas, for instance, in Ijara and Turkana, the number of meals consumed has decreased from three to either two or one which means that there are likely reduced levels of caloric intake. Where the number of meals has not reduced, the number of food groups consumed has been reduced, and is often below the recommended levels of at least four of the seven food groups. For instance, in Marsabit, Mandera and, Turkana households are consuming two to three of the recommended seven food groups, which indicates that households may not be consuming important micronutrients. August livestock prices, especially for goats, were high above the five-year average. August goat and cattle prices were more than twice the five-year average in Laikipia, Garissa, Turkana, and Mandera. Currently, livestock-to-maize terms of trade are relatively favourable for pastoralists. However, as the livestock body conditions deteriorate before the start of short rains in October, the market value for livestock will decline, thus leading to decreasing terms of trade if maize prices remain at their current high levels.

    Although maize prices remain high across most pastoral areas, terms of trade remain significantly higher than the five-year averages. In August in Mandera, maize was KES 80 per kg, and in Lodwar in Turkana, it was 63 per kg compared to five-year averages of KES 41 and KES 44, respectively. Currently, the price of a goat is equivalent to the price of one 90 kg bag of maize while over the past five years, the terms have ranged between two and four goats for a single 90 kg bag of maize. Despite significant improvements in livestock-to-maize terms of trade over the past year, the food security situation in parts of the Northeast remains at Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to poor water consumption, reduced milk consumption, and continuing food access related nutrition problems. In Mandera, the proportion of children under five years of age at risk of malnutrition as indicated by mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm) was 26 percent in August. Also, in Ijara, Mandera, and Laikipia Districts, MUAC indicates that the risk of malnutrition remained above the five-year average in August.

    In regions along the Kenya-Somalia border, continued conflict in Somalia is interfering with cross-border trade. Frequent closure of border crossings constrains the livestock trade and the importation of food, thus straining food access for households who depend on these livelihood activities. In Tana River district, the increasing conflict has displaced over 4,000 households and destroyed livelihoods assets. Livestock has been lost and crops destroyed. Despite efforts by the government and Red Cross to bring peace and provide food and non-food assistance, the food security situation in Kipini Division, the area worst affected by the conflict, is classified as Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Marginal agricultural farm households in the southeastern and coastal lowlands

    The food security situation has worsened since the long rains in marginal agricultural areas, but it is expected to become better by the end of October once the short rains start. The start of the short rains will provide casual labour opportunities for land preparation and planting. In the northeastern parts of Kitui District bordering Tana River and Mwingi Districts, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is driven primarily by poor harvests from long rains season and resource conflicts between pastoralists migrating from Tana River District and the agropastoral and sedentary agricultural populations. In parts of Kitui’s marginal mixed farming livelihood zone, in particular in Mwitika and Mutomo, following the third consecutive season of poor rains, the distances to water points for both livestock and humans are abnormally long. The average level of consumption of water is five liters per person per day compared to 10 liters per day per person during a typical season, according the the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and KFSSG.

    For livestock, trekking distances have increased, and frequency of watering has decreased. Kidding and lambing rates between April and May were poor, and lactating goats and sheep started to dry up in Kitui District as early as August. As a result of low milk production, supply to markets has declined, leading to increases in milk prices. Goat milk prices are KES 70 per liter and are well above the five-year average of KES 50 per liter. High prices have led to declines in household milk consumption. Reduced consumption of milk over the lean season harms the nutritional status of children, particularly those less than five years of age. In addition to difficulty in accessing milk, the prices of maize and beans, have remained high above the five-year average. For example, August maize prices per kg were 223 percent above the five-year average in Kitui. At the same time, the price of goats has declined, reducing the ability of households to fund market purchases of food. August cattle and goat prices were 58 and 56 percent above the five-year averages, respectively. Consequently, the livestock-to-maize terms of trade are well below the five-year average. The shortage of milk, difficulty accessing sufficient quantity and quality of water, and high maize and bean prices are factors contributing to malnutrition in the Southeast.

    Nutritional outcomes vary widely across the southeastern and coastal marginal zones. In August, the percent of children at risk of malnutrition, defined as MUAC less than 135 mm declined by 16 percent in Malindi, but it increased in Makueni and Mbeere to three and 39 percent of above the five-year averages, respectively. The absolute proportion of children at risk in August remained remarkably high in Kitui at 15 percent and in Mbeere at 25 percent.

    Prospects for national cereal supply and prices

    According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the national long rains maize harvest is expected to be between 10 and 15 percent below the five-year average. This is attributed, at least in part, to the late onset and poor distribution of the March to June long rains as well as the low rainfall totals in some regions. Among other factors which reduced yields and overall output were the late distribution of subsidized fertilizers and certified maize seeds by the Ministry of Agriculture. Also, maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) has, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, affected at least 300,000 maize farmers on 60,000 hectares (ha) in Rift Valley, Eastern, Western, and Central Provinces, reducing yields. Despite below-average maize output from the long rains season, from October onwards, maize prices are expected to slowly decline but not to below the five-year average price levels as harvesting intensifies in the main grain production zones of the northern Rift Valley.

    Ongoing interventions and impacts

    Both food and non-food interventions are ongoing, and the World Food Program (WFP) has prepositioned food supplies in pastoral areas in anticipation of enhanced October to December 2012 short rains reducing road accessibility during the rainy season. In the conflict zones in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country, the government has beefed up security and is undertaking a disarmament program. The Kenya Red Cross is providing medical and food assistance to displaced households in these areas, despite continued insecurity. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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