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Unexpectedly normal to above normal long rains fell in the eastern parts of the country

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • April - September 2013
Unexpectedly normal to above normal long rains fell in the eastern parts of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The 2013 March to May long rains have been normal to above normal over much of the country except in a few localized places in the Southeast. While allowing planting and improvement in grazing conditions, the rains have resulted in flooding, household displacement, and loss of livelihoods. Floods have destroyed road infrastructure.

    • Unexpectedly normal to well above normal long rains in parts of the Southeast has resulted in an unusual increase in area planted, increasing the availability of casual labor opportunities in March and April. Casual labor opportunities will likely continue to be available through June, enabling most poor households to afford food.

    • In the pastoral livelihood zones, water points have recharged, but recovery of pasture and browse has been slower than usual. Accelerated improvement is expected later and will likely result in improvements of livestock body conditions and increased milk output following calving, kidding, and lambing in March and April. 

    • Maize prices are expected to remain stable or decrease marginally due to expectations of an average to above average long rains harvest, despite fertilizer distribution delays and increasing fuel costs. As a result, household food access is likely to improve and further improvements in food security are expected through September. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The population in need declined by almost 50 percent in 2013 from 2.1 million in August 2012 to 1.1 million in February 2013 according to the short rains assessment by the Kenya Food Security Steering Committee (KFSSG). The improvement was driven by cumulative positive effects of the March to May 2012 long rains and the October to December 2012 short rains, which enhanced the availability of cereal food crops including maize, sorghum, and millet at the households and  market level. Food availability is stable across the country. According to the March food security situation report by the Ministry of Agriculture, households, millers, traders, and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stocked 25 million 90 kilogram (kg) bags of maize (2.25 million metric tons (MMT)) by the end of March.

    While the overall near average short rains maize harvest in February and March among other factors has bolstered food security, rising fuel prices are contributing to gradually rising consumer inflation. Consumer price inflation has increased since January, but the trend is not yet entirely clear. The consumer price index (CPI) marginally increased from 137 in February to 138 in March. However, the annualized inflation rate slowed, marginally, from 4.5 percent in February to 4.1 percent in March.

    Food markets are functioning normally. Major urban centers, including Eldoret, Kisumu, Nairobi, and Mombasa, have a steady supply of maize. In these urban markets, March wholesale maize prices ranged between 28 to 45 percent above their five-year averages and increased by 7 percent on average between February and March. Bean prices increased by nearly 5 percent on average over the same period in the same urban markets. These price increases were driven mainly by the increases in the cost of transport as fuel prices rose. Retail maize prices, on the other hand, declined in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones driven by increases in market supply from the short rains harvest in February and March. Maize prices marginally increased in many of the pastoral livelihood zones between February and March, probably, at least in part, due to the rising fuel prices.

    The onset of the 2013 March to May long rains was timely in the second and third weeks of March. Amounts of rain thus far have generally been above average. Western and central Kenya have received above 200 millimeters (mm) of rain while in other areas, moderate to locally heavy rains have been received. Despite the timely and strong onset of the long rains, planting activities in the high potential areas has been delayed because of a shortage of fertilizer resulting from delays by NCPB because of financial constraints. Whereas 90 percent of the total acreage in the high potential maize growing is usually planted by mid-April, only slightly more than 70 percent has been planted this year. Moreover, the cost of production has increased driven by the increase in fuel prices leading to increased transportation cost and costs of operating farm machinery. Planting is ongoing in the southeastern marginal agricultural areas. Because of the expected reliability of the rains thus far, more households have planted, resulting in a greater than usual area planted for the long rains season.

    Normal to above normal rains resulted in flooding and the displacement of households in parts of western Kenya and in pastoral livelihood zones, including in Tana River, Turkana, Kajiado, and Garissa Districts. More than 35,000 people have been displaced due to flooding between March and mid-April. The government and the Kenya Red Cross are cooperating and offering humanitarian assistance to affected households. As a result, apart from displacement of households, there have been no extreme food security outcomes as a result of flooding, although alerts have been issued for likely outbreaks of waterborne diseases, particularly in the flooded Tana River Delta.

    As a result of stable household food availability and access, acute food security is generally Stressed (IPC Phase 2), particularly in the arid and semi-arid southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural and the pastoral livelihood zones. However, more than 80 percent of households are able to meet both essential food and non-food expenditures in the high potential livelihood zones in western and central Kenya, placing these areas in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    • Following a largely normal or slightly early start to the March to May long rains season, the rains are expected to be near average to slightly above average in terms of overall amount. The rainfall peak is expected in April for the long rains-dominant areas in the western part of the country and in May or June in the coastal strip. Unlike the earlier forecast from the IGAD Climatic Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC) and partners, abnormally warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) off the coast of the Horn of Africa, moderate Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) activity, and tropical cyclone Imelda in the Indian Ocean to the northeast of Madagascar from around April 5 to around April 18, have enhanced rainfall and increased moisture into the eastern Horn of Africa in March and April. As additional tropical cyclone activity in the Indian Ocean is expected, rainfall distribution and amounts should remain relatively normal through May. The long rains cessation is expected to be timely in early May in southeastern Kenya and a little later on the coast.
    • The above average rainfall episodes are likely to result in floods, destruction of infrastructure including roads, and loss of livelihood assets in parts of western Kenya and in pastoral areas, including the Tana River Delta.
    • The long rains are expected to have near normal to slightly above normal rainfall amounts from June to August as they continue in the western and Rift Valley highlands. Rainfall amounts from June to August will be highest and the most above normal in the Lake Victoria basin.
    • Fuel prices will likely continue to increase through September driven by increased domestic demand. High fuel prices are likely to continue driving up the cost of transport up, leading to further consumer inflation and price rises across a broad range of goods.
    • Maize prices are expected to persistently remain above average through September and to follow mostly usual seasonal patterns though with additional increases due to high fuel prices. Wholesale maize prices in major urban areas in March weree more than 28 percent above their five-year averages, driven by rising fuel prices and the increasing costs of transport. Higher prices in urban areas are expected to be vertically transmitted to retail prices in other parts of the country. Between April and June, maize prices are likely to increase gradually due to continued increase in fuel prices, the slight decline in maize supply as stocks are drawn down, and the gradual decline in household stocks replaced by increases in market purchases. High prices normally peaking in June and gradually decline through September as the long rains harvest start to replenish household stocks in August.
    • Accelerated recovery of grazing conditions is expected through the end of the long rains in pastoral areas in May, and this will lead to improved of livestock body conditions through June. Despite the expected normal onset of the June to September dry season, sufficient pasture and browse as well as water are expected to remain through September due to the good distribution and above average start of the March to May long rains.
    • Control of Kismayo’s port in southern Somalia is a focal point for clashes between the armed forces of the Federal Government of Somalia supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and armed groups organized around single clans or coalitions of clans within Kismayo. Conflict between the Federal Government of Somalia’s armed forces and other armed groups in agropastoral areas of the Juba Valley in southern Somalia will limit re-export from the port in Kismayo into eastern and northeastern Kenya. Between an increasingly insecure trading environment within the Juba Valley in southern Somalia and insecurity in Garissa town in Kenya, cattle exports from southern Somalia to Kenya will likely decrease from their usual levels. This may lead to opportunities for cattle traders importing along other routes or sourcing cattle in pastoral areas of Kenya.
    • As a result of improved body conditions and continued high domestic demand for meat, livestock prices are expected to gradually increase and remain well above their five-year averages through September, following a seasonally normal pattern, but at a higher than usual level. Livestock prices will slightly decrease in June and September, which coincides with the start of the second and third school terms. During the months of June and September, an increased supply of livestock will enter the markets from both pastoral and agropastoral areas to offset school costs. This will result in a slight decline in livestock prices during those months.
    • Following a successful election and transition of political power, macroeconomic conditions including the exchange rates and consumer inflation are expected to stabilize. The Kenyan Shilling is expected to stabilize and strengthen against the other currencies, encouraging trade, including food imports. However, consumer inflation might be less affected due to rising fuel prices.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Assuming marginal or no significant increase in post-harvest losses from the February to March short rains maize harvest and a consumption rate of 3.72 million 90 kg bags (334,800 metric tons (MT)) per month, maize stocks can last through September 2013. Declining maize stocks will be replenished by early harvests from the South Rift Valley and imports from neighboring Tanzania and Uganda between August and September. The planting window for maize lasts through April, and it is expected that area planted will expand beyond the current 70 percent of the usual area planted to reach almost 90 percent of the usual planted area. However, late planting is likely to affect the total output from the September and February long rains harvest.

    Continued average to above average rains in the eastern and coastal areas are likely to result in a near average harvests, an unusual occurrence with poor, unpredictable seasons over the past several years. This harvest will partially compensate for reduced production from the high potential areas due to late planting and below usual fertilizer availability. Although a combination of fuel price increases and infrastructure damage resulting from the heavy long rains is likely to increase marketing and transportation costs and thus, constrain food access, a general improvement in agricultural production will continue easing inflationary pressure on food commodities. As a result, maize prices as well as other food items are likely to remain relatively stable and affordable to poor households through September. Above normal rains will increase casual labor opportunities in the marginal agricultural and pastoral livelihood zones, making it possible for poor households to access food. Improved grazing conditions in May and June in the pastoral livelihood zones will result in improved livestock body conditions and higher market values. Consequently, this will enhance household’s ability to access food from markets. As a result, the food security situation is likely to remain largely stable from April to September. Households will be able to minimally meet their food requirements. Most likely, food security outcomes across much of the country will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. 

    Areas of Concern

    Southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones

    Current Situation

    The 2013 March to May long rains started in the second and third weeks of March, and the totals have ranged between 80 to 120 percent of normal in these areas. However, the long rains have not been heavy in all parts of the coastal lowlands including Kwale, Kilifi, and Lamu and in some parts of Mwingi and Kitui Districts which have only received between 50 and 80 percent of normal total rain. Localized rainfall deficits have occurred. In the coastal marginal agricultural districts, rains have not yet peaked Although this is not the primary growing season in this livelihood zone, area planted has increased to greater than normal because of the high number of households who have planted, especially when compared to recent years, which were characterized by unreliable rainfall.

    Despite the normal to well above normal rainfall between late March and mid-April, grazing conditions are only slowly recovering from the deterioration that resulted from abnormally high temperatures in February. March distances to water and grazing points have remained similar to those of February but below their five-year averages in Mwingi, Makueni, Kitui, and Taita Taveta Districts. Distances to grazing points remained stable or increased in March compared to February. For instance, distance to grazing points increased by 35 percent in Kwale and was above average between February and March. Livestock prices in Mwingi, Kitui, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, and Lamu remained stable but above average between February and March. The sustained above average livestock prices were due to improving livestock body conditions and an increase in demand for bulls and oxen as draught power. However, a 25 percent decline in cattle prices was recorded in Kwale where grazing conditions are still below average because rainfall has been locally poorer than other southeastern and coastal areas.

    Maize prices declined by five and six percent in Mwingi and Taita Taveta Districts, respectively. There were also significant declines in maize prices in Tharaka and Mbeere where greater than 20 percent declines were recorded between February and March, following the conclusion of the short rains harvest in March, which increased maize supplies in the market. Except in Mbeere where prices are almost seven percent below the five-year average because of the short rains harvest, maize prices are above average in the rest of the districts. In Kitui District, maize prices are more than 60 percent above average and are even higher in some parts of the district where rainfall has so far been below average.

    As a result of the slow recovery of pasture and browse, seasonal, marginal declines in milk production and consumption which typically accompany the January to March dry season are still being experienced in Mwingi, Mbeere, and Kieni Districts. In Mwingi and Mbeere Districts, milk consumption is below average. However, marginal increases in milk consumption occurred in Kitui, Tharaka, and Taita Taveta Districts. Levels of malnutrition declined and remained below their five-year averages in much of the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones as the proportion of children less than five years of age ‘at risk’ of malnutrition – defined as children under five with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm) – declined between February and March. This decline is attributed to the improved availability of milk, improved access to water, and improved access to food. However, localized above average malnutrition continues in parts of Mwingi District. In March, some areas had children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition at twice the district average and more than 50 percent above the five-year average. Between February and March, marginal decreases of seven to 25 percent in levels of malnutrition were recorded along parts of the coastal lowlands including in Lamu and Kwale Districts with Kilifi being an exception to this trend. Although below the five-year average, the level of malnutrition increased in Kilifi District between February and March due to a considerable decline in milk consumption. Despite the seasonal decline, the proportion of children less than five years of age ‘at risk’ of malnutrition remained more than seven percent above the five-year average in Lamu District in March. The food security situation is Stressed (IPC Phase 2) across the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones since households are able to afford minimum food requirements and there is no recorded use of adverse coping strategies.


    In addition to the national assumptions, the following assumptions are made for the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones:

    • Assuming that the long rains are likely to continue through April and cease in early May, the harvest in June/July is expected to be near average to average and will replenish household stocks. As a result, household stocks will be the primary food source for households longer than normal, probably into August, despite the fact that short rains stocks will have been drawn down to a large extent by June/July. The stocks will reduce the time and degree to which household depends on the markets to meet their food requirements.
    • Although this is not the primary agricultural season in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, normal to above normal rains are likely to trigger increases in planted area and harvesting activities through June with a consequent increase in casual, agricultural labor opportunities expected.
    • Due to expected high moisture content and poor post-harvest handling practices stemming from poor storage facilities, the occurrence of aflatoxin in the short rains maize stored locally is likely to be high by June. Waterborne diseases are also likely to occur in areas where water sources are likely to be contaminated by flash floods during the March to May short rains.
    • Increases in household food availability and improved access due to income from casual labor are likely to decrease the levels of malnutrition, moderately.
    • Landslides are likely to occur in high elevation areas while flash floods are likely to occur in the low altitude areas. As a result, there is likely destruction of some assets including homes, livestock, tools, and some infrastructure including roads.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The long rains are expected to continue and to cease normally in early May in much of eastern Kenya while peaking in May/June in the coastal lowlands. Average to above average rains in much of the Southeast with the exception of a few localized areas, is likely to result in an average long rains harvest, increasing the availability of food in June/July for the first time in several years. Availability of casual labor opportunities is likely to continue through June, providing income for the purchase of food items that are not produced by the households and thus improving household dietary diversity. Whereas the short rains season harvest was near average in much of the mostly midland and highland marginal agricultural areas and maize stocks are likely to be mostly exhausted by June, the long rains harvest in June is likely to prevent normal, seasonal reductions in consumption as the lean season approaches. Cross-border inflows from Tanzania peak in June, and these are expected to create localized positive supply effects in the border areas of the coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zone, stabilizing prices and thus making food access relatively easier for poor households. Faster than normal recovery of grazing conditions is also expected through May, improving livestock body conditions, milk production, and consequently, sustaining the above average livestock prices. Available household stocks, available milk, and early harvests of vegetables and legumes are expected to considerably improve consumption compared to a normal season through June.

    Compared to a more usual lean season, market dependency, which was likely to ensue from June through November is likely to decline considerably since households will replenish stocks from the long rains harvest between July and August. As such, the likely increases in food prices would have less impact than normal due to the availability of household stocks. However, possible occurrences of aflatoxin, likely in June, may reduce household access to maize, especially in affected households. However, households will be able to access their minimum food requirements, and the proportion of the population in need is expected to decline by September and likely afterwards. Nutrition will improve following improved access to food, and mortality rates are not expected to behave anomalously. As a result, overall food security outcomes will improve but remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.

    Pastoral livelihood zones

    Current Situation

    The Northeastern Pastoral livelihood zone that includes Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, and Isiolo Districts had abnormally high temperature during the February to March dry spell. The hot temperatures accelerated the deterioration of grazing conditions, which ended the dry season in somewhat worse condition than usual. The 2013 long rains started in late March across the pastoral livelihood zones. Normal to above normal rainfall resulted in flash floods in Tana River District and damaged roads in pastoral parts of Isiolo District. Despite the above normal onset of the rains and timely start, water shortages continued in March in parts of Isiolo and Wajir Districts that had experienced a below average October to December short rains season. Although water points have been considerably recharged, grazing conditions are recovering more slowly from the February to March dry spell. Distances to grazing areas remain almost the same as February as regeneration of pasture near homesteads has been slower than usual because of the deterioration during the unusually hot February. Poor pasture and browse conditions continue in parts of the pastoral areas in Tana River District. The worst affected parts of the pastoral livelihood zones in terms of pasture and browse availability include the pastoral areas of Isiolo and Wajir County. The slow recovery of pasture and browse has resulted to continued but slowing deterioration of body conditions and milk production between February and March in Wajir.

    Slow recovery of pasture and browse has resulted in little variation is cattle prices between February and March. In Tana River District, improvement in cattle body conditions resulted in a slightly more than seven percent increase in prices. In Mandera, deteriorating body conditions of cattle led to a seven percent price decrease. Between February and March, prices of goats declined by more than 10 percent in most areas, except in Wajir and Garissa. In Wajir, increases in goat prices by more than seven percent were driven by competition with the market in Mandera where goat prices are usually higher.

    Maize prices declined in March in Isiolo, driven by the localized effects of the short rains harvest in February and March from the agropastoral areas reaching markets. Humanitarian programs which distributed maize also induced stability in maize prices in Wajir. However, maize prices increased by almost 20 percent in Tana River and remained more than 100 percent above the five-year average. A combination of the increase in livestock prices and decline in maize prices in most areas enabled households to meet their minimum food requirements.

    The proportion of children under five years of age ‘at risk’ of malnutrition increased in parts of Northeastern Pastoral livelihood zone between February and March. However, they remained 30 percent below their five-year averages in Isiolo and Mandera but less than five percent below in Tana River and Wajir. Localized malnutrition is found in parts of Isiolo District in Merti and Kinna, where March ‘at risk’ proportions are more than 10 percent above their five-year averages. The carry-over effects of the February to March dry season, combined with the below average performance of the October to December short rains, which limited milk production and availability, contributed to these higher rates. Moreover, slower than usual recovery of pasture and browse conditions over March has also resulted in low milk production and consumption. Food security outcomes in pastoral areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    In addition to the national assumptions, the following assumptions are made for the pastoral livelihood zones:

    • Rangeland conditions are expected to improve through June, providing adequate pasture and browse availability through September.
    • Migration to dry season grazing areas is likely to be delayed and coincide with the lean season in August as pasture and browse near homesteads is likely to last longer than normal into July and August instead of into May or June.
    • Reduced conflict over pasture, browse, and water is expected, since there is a high likelihood of considerable improvement of the range conditions following the average performance of the March to May long rains.
    • Continued implementation and repositioning of funded humanitarian assistance through September will likely be effective in addressing problems arising from above average long rains falling in some places such as limited road access, floods, and the likely outbreak of waterborne diseases in April and May.
    • Due to average to above average rainfall, flash floods are likely to contaminate drinking water as well as lead to stagnant waters that act as breeding points for vectors such as flies and mosquitoes. Thus, incidences of waterborne diseases are expected to be higher than usual in the lowlands.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The ongoing March to May long rains will improve pasture, browse, and water conditions considerably. The August to September lean season is usually accompanied by water stress, but this year, it is likely to be shorter and less severe. Through June, livestock body conditions are expected to improve and to remain largely stable through September with good access to pasture, browse, and water. Due to the availability of browse and pasture, improved livestock body conditions, and increasing domestic demand for meat, livestock prices are likely to continue increasing, gradually increasing nominal household incomes for pastoral households. Income from livestock sales is expected to be considerably high, though with a usual seasonal reduction, during June and September, the months when livestock sales are at their highest. Livestock sales should enable household access to food from markets.

    Destruction of transportation infrastructure in pastoral livelihood zones is likely to increase the costs of transportation and as well, result in localized increases in maize prices in some particularly affected areas including Tana River and Garissa Districts through May. But market access will improve from late May once the rainfall ceases. Prices should start to decline, marginally. Although food prices, particularly maize prices, are likely to continue gradually increasing through June, income from livestock sales, availability of milk from goats, sheep, and camels is likely to offset the negative effects of food price increases and sustain consumption at sufficient levels through August. By September, livestock sales will be the primary source of income. Even with these improvements, household food security will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.

    The level of nutrition for the children under five years of age is likely to improve as a result of better availability of food, particularly milk, through July. Kidding, calving, and lambing will coincide with better grazing conditions, and it is likely that with better pasture and browse and reduced distances to water, milk availability will improve significantly. However, the improvement in nutrition levels is likely to be moderated by possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases between June and July that either accompanies or follow the rains. Then by the start of the typical lean season in August, milk productivity and availability will have seasonally decreased. Mortality rates are not expected to be anomalous, and food security outcomes will remain Stressed (IPC 2) through September. Households are not expected to employ extreme coping mechanisms to meet their food needs. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Renewed spread of maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND)

    The spread of the disease to new areas, especially high-potential growing areas in the western and Rift Valley highlands could decrease national production and increase maize prices across the country.

    Southeast and coastal marginal agriculture livelihood zone

    Significant increases in maize prices

    Reduced access to maize from the market and higher price may accelerate maize sales by those households who have stocks. Households may sell, then need to purchase later in the year when prices are at their highest.

    Abrupt cessation of the long rains

    Poorer maize supply would increase prices and reduce availability both to households and markets. Casual labor opportunities would decline as agricultural activities decline. Harvest labor would be less necessary. The decline in casual labor opportunities and the reduced availability of maize would constrain food access.

    Excessive and widespread flooding and landslides

    Destruction of infrastructure and assets would reduce food availability and food access and would likely increase the level of malnutrition.

    Pastoral livelihood zones

    Significant declines in livestock prices

    Reduced income levels for households dependent on livestock sales which, consequently, reduces the capacity of households to access food

    Abrupt cessation of the long rains

    Poor recovery of rangeland conditions and consequent deterioration of livestock conditions and value that diminishes household incomes and purchasing power

    Increased mortality of livestock from waterborne diseases

    Loss of livelihood assets by pastoral households and consequent reduction in purchasing power to buy food

    Intensification and protraction of resource conflicts

    Reduced market access, loss of assets, and displacement would lead to increasingly poor food access.

    Excessive and widespread flooding and water contamination

    The increased incidence of waterborne diseases would negate expected improvements in nutritional outcomes. The destruction of infrastructure and other barriers to market access would create localized shortages, increasing food prices in those particular affected areas. This would reduce household food access.

    Reduced conflict in the Juba Valley in southern Somalia leading to increasing trade

    Reduced conflict in the Juba Valley would likely increase trade through Doblei, resulting in increasing flows of foods imported through Kismayo’s port such as rice, wheat flour, pasta, and sugar into northeastern and eastern Kenya. This would likely lower staple food prices. However, increased cattle exports from Somalia could have the effect of suppressing otherwise rising cattle prices, reducing expected increases in income for some pastoralists and agropastoralists.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, April 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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