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Increasing food prices constrain food access Increasing market dependency against increasing food prices likely to constrain food access

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Kenya
  • September 2013
Increasing food prices constrain food access Increasing market dependency against increasing food prices likely to constrain food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Between July and August, food security remained stable but Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with increasing severity in the marginal agricultural and pastoral livelihood zones due to increasing dependency on markets for food while food prices increased. Food prices remain considerably above their five-year averages, constraining household food access. 

    • In the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone, a slight increase in maize prices from July to August while livestock prices and casual labor wages were relatively constant has reduced household purchasing power, constraining access to food from markets. However, household food stocks supported minimally adequate consumption. 

    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, access to food in the market remained stable due to marginal declines or stability in maize prices while prices of cattle and goats increased between July and August. Many households were therefore able to afford food.

    Current Situation
    • In the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone, including in Kitui, Makueni, Mbeere, and Tharaka Nithi Counties, declining household stocks of maize, sorghum, pigeon peas, and cowpeas from the long rains harvest in July/August are supporting consumption. Maize stocks are below average, and households are increasingly becoming market dependent. Meanwhile, maize prices increased marginally between July and August and remained marginally above the five-year average due to near average July/August harvest in much of the southeastern and coastal marginal mixed farming livelihood zones. Unlike in the rest of the Southeast, maize prices increased by 13 percent in Nyeri between July and August most probably due to an almost 75 percent below average local long rains maize harvest in July/August.
    • In order to increase consumption, households in much of the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone increasingly used strategies such as brick making, sand harvesting, charcoal burning, and petty trading to earn income between July and August.
    • Pasture and browse seasonally deteriorated in quality and quantity, and distances to water points increased between July and August due to dry conditions. In the marginal mixed farming areas of Kitui, Mbeere, and Makueni Counties, pasture and browse are mostly below average in terms of availability and quality, resulting in a seasonal decline in milk availability. In Mwingi Sub-county, milk production declined by 11 percent from July to August, and it declined below the five-year average in Tharaka Nithi County.
    • Despite the decline in milk availability, nutritional status measured by the proportion of the children less than five years of age ‘at risk’ (defined as having a mid-upper arm circumference less than 135 millimeters (MUAC<135mm)) remained stable and below the five-year average in much of the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, attributed to ongoing nutrition interventions. The major exception was in Tharaka Nithi County where the proportion of children `at risk’ of malnutrition was above the five-year average, driven by poor food access and below five-year average milk production. Households remained Stressed (IPC Phase 2), consuming their small remaining stocks and buying food from markets using income saved from legume sales from the short rains harvest in January/February in addition to borrowing food or money on credit, often to be repaid in the form of labor.
    • In the Northeastern and Southeastern Pastoral livelihood zones including Isiolo, Mandera, Garissa, Tana River, and Ijara Counties, a combination of seasonal deterioration of pasture and browse resulted in seasonal deterioration of livestock body conditions. Pasture and browse deteriorated faster around areas where livestock have concentrated, especially in the dry season grazing areas in Merti and Sericho in Isiolo County where in July there was an influx of livestock from neighboring Tana River and Marsabit Counties. Seasonal declines in livestock body conditions resulted in a marginal decline in cattle prices in Garissa and Mandera Counties between July and August driven by increased sales as households sought cash to fund consumption.
    • In the Northeastern Pastoral livelihood zone where 70 percent of income comes from livestock during this time of the year, a decline in cattle prices translated to a reduction of household income and consequently reduced purchasing power for a considerable proportion of the population. Moreover, the seasonal decline in milk availability caused by poor rangeland conditions, especially in Garissa and Isiolo Counties, continued to negatively impact nutritional status between July and August. However, the number of children ‘at risk’ remains more than 10 percent below the five-year average in much of this livelihood zone, primarily attributed to ongoing humanitarian nutrition programs.

    Updated Assumptions

    Most of the assumptions made in the Kenya Food Security Outlook for July to December 2013 as updated in the Food Security Outlook Update in August remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook through December 2013

    In the southeastern and coastal marginal mixed farming livelihood zones, retail maize prices are likely to remain above their five-year averages through October as households deplete food stocks by October and market demand increases through December. Although supply from the high- and medium-potential areas is likely to dampen the increase in prices, a general increase in prices due to continued implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food which went into effect in early September and the likely increase in fuel prices may keep retail maize prices elevated. The October to December short rains are highly likely to be late, erratic, and average to below average in terms of total rainfall. Casual labor activities as well as income will be unusually low through December. Below average casual labor income while food prices increase would likely reduce household purchasing power at a time when market dependency will peak, reducing food consumption through November. Most likely, food consumption will decline through December. A slight improvement in food consumption and diversity, especially in areas at slightly higher elevations, is likely in late December due to green harvests from drought-resistant legumes. Food security is likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), especially in areas at higher elevations. However, food consumption deficits, which characterize Crisis (IPC Phase 3) may be evident due to below average causal labor opportunity availability, especially in the marginal mixed farming areas where food stocks will have been depleted over the next one or two months and where rainfall will likely not have yet stimulated germination and growth of short rains crops or pasture or have revived milk production. These areas include the southeastern and coastal marginal mixed farming livelihood zones in Makueni, Kitui, and Taita Taveta Counties.

    In the pastoral livelihood zones, in general, even if there is below average October to December rainfall, pasture would likely regenerate and water points recharge to near average by November. However, a delayed onset would prolong the lean season by almost a month by slowing the recovery of conditions for livestock. Calving, kidding, and lambing in November are likely to coincide with below average rangeland conditions, leading to average to below average milk production. Income from milk sales is likely to be low because less milk will be available. As well, below average livestock-related activities would likely result in reduced casual labor demand and income, which would reduce purchasing power and consequently food access. Although the quantities of food consumed most likely will decline, food security will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), supported by income from livestock used to purchase food from markets. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for 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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