Food Security Outlook

Below-average long rains may still result in some improved food security

April 2015 to September 2015

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.
Partners: 
Government of Kenya
WFP

Key Messages

  • Nationally, food security is expected to remain stable through June, supported by typical availability of most food commodities from imports and from short-cycle crops from the long rains harvest. 

  • In the marginal agricultural livelihood zones, food security is most likely to remain stable through June with some food and income coming from the March to May long rains, which is the secondary agricultural production season in these areas. Food insecurity will heighten from July to September, with households in some localized areas in Kitui County being unable to purchase sufficient quantities and moving into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by September. 

  • Pastoral areas are likely to have some improvements in food security though June. Food insecurity is likely to heighten from July to September, triggered by an early start of the lean season and faster than usual depletion of rangeland resources. Some poor households in localized parts of Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa are likely to move or remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) at that time. 

National Overview

Current Situation

Food security is normal and stable in most parts of the country, but in marginal agricultural areas and pastoral areas, households’ food access declined, following the below-average October to December 2014 short rains (Ministry of Agriculture, February 2015 Food Security Situation Report). According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG’s) short rains assessment report published in February 2015, an estimated 1.6 million people are acutely food insecure, predominantly in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas.

In the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas that did not have below-average October to December 2014 short rains, farmers still have substantial stocks, especially of maize. However, incomes and food access for these farmers is being reduced by post-harvest losses due to inadequate storage capacity, and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has been purchasing less maize this year than usual. The consumer price index (CPI) marginally increased between February and March, slightly decreasing households’ food access and purchasing power. National stocks of staple foods like maize, beans, and rice are adequate and expected to last at least through June when harvesting of long rains crops begin. Between January and March, maize prices remained unusually stable in Nairobi and Kisumu, but they increased by five and nine percent in Mombasa and Eldoret, respectively. Stable prices were attributed to the availability of imports from Tanzania and Uganda and some supply from the short rains harvest. The price increase in Eldoret is plausibly due to the drawing down of stocks. March prices in these urban markets were up to 12 percent below their five-year averages in Nairobi and Eldoret, and they remained near their five-year averages in Kisumu and Mombasa.

In both the marginal agricultural areas and the pastoral livelihood zones, acute food insecurity is largely a result of the below-average October to December short rains and, in some areas, the cumulative effects of the third below-average rainy season in a row. The worst hit areas are the southeastern marginal agricultural areas where households get up to 70 percent of annual crop production during the short rains season. In these areas, short rains crop production was well below average, resulting in reduced household food supply. With no food stocks from own produced crops, at a time of year when normally households would be consuming these, households are instead purchasing all of their food from the market. With seasonally limited income-earning opportunities, households’ capacity to purchase food is seasonally low. However, stable food prices have maintained some household purchasing capacity, despite lower incomes this year due to reduced agricultural labor demand for the short rains harvest. To continue meeting basic needs, households are employing some coping strategies including increasing charcoal production, purchasing food on credit, and reducing the variety of foods consumed. The majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Since the start of the long rains in late March, most households were either doing land preparation or planting. The major crops being planted include sorghum, green grams (mung beans), millet, maize, pigeon peas, cowpeas, and groundnuts.

In pastoral areas, food security remains precarious after the below-average October to December 2014 short rains, especially in Northeastern Pastoral livelihood zone. The cumulative effect of the previous three below-average rainy seasons were compounded by the especially dry and hot January to March dry season in these areas. Water, pasture, and browse have been difficult to find, especially in Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, and Marsabit Counties, and in agropastoral areas in Kajiado, Narok, and Laikipia. Consequently, livestock had been unusually migrated with most livestock still in dry season grazing areas, but some have returned to the wet season grazing areas after onset of the rains. Longer trekking distances between water and pasture caused deterioration of livestock body conditions and health during the dry season. Access to milk and other livestock products remains very low, especially for household members who remained at homesteads.

The long rains started in these pastoral areas in late March or early April. So far, the rains have been erratically distributed, both in space and time, with average to below-average cumulative amounts in most pastoral and marginal agricultural areas (Figure 1). Rangeland resources have started recovering from the dry season.

Assumptions

The following assumptions have been made at the national level:

  • According to the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and an examination of other forecasts, the remainder of the March to May long rains are forecast to be erratically distributed with average to below-average cumulative rainfall in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas and with average to above-average cumulative rainfall in most high- and medium-potential agricultural areas.
  • Due to the below-average March to May long rains in marginal agricultural areas, below average crop production is expected in July/August. Long rains crop production is expected to be above average in the high- and medium-potential agricultural areas from October 2015 to January 2016.
  • A modest increase in the availability of rangeland resources is expected between April and June in the pastoral, agropastoral, and marginal agricultural areas, but these are expected to deteriorate faster than normal during the July to September dry season.
  • The primary lean season is expected to start early in July instead of August.
  • Maize prices will typically increase between April and June due to increased demand from households who have exhausted their stocks earlier than usual. However, due to continued imports of maize from Uganda and Tanzania through June, these price increases are likely to be modest.
  • Humanitarian assistance by the national government, county governments, and other agencies is expected to increase and widen in scope in response to deteriorating food and nutrition security between July and September.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Nationally, food security is expected to remain stable through June, supported by continued availability of food from imports and from short-cycle long rains crops. Maize production nationally in 2014 was around 20 percent below the five-year average, but cross-border imports have sustained stable supply on markets. Through June, the national maize balance sheet prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture notes that available maize stocks would be adequate with a surplus of 0.2 million metric tons (MMT) after June when the early harvest from the southern Rift Valley is expected to start.

In the marginal agricultural livelihood zones, between April and June, the most likely scenario points to marginal improvements in food security. While not the predominant agricultural season in these areas, short-cycle crops grown during the long rains and modest increases in agricultural labor wages will support food consumption. Remittances will also support household food consumption through June. Food prices are expected to typically but gradually increase through June, assisting households in maintaining some food access. Most households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June. During the July to October extended lean season, food security is expected to rapidly deteriorate. Though the long rains harvest usually starts in July, the expected below-average long rains are likely to lead to a below-average harvest in these areas, especially for cereal crops. Household incomes are expected to seasonally decline as casual labor opportunities dwindle due to the seasonal reduction in agricultural labor demand. Despite the deterioration of household food consumption, the majority of households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. However, localized areas may have many households with food consumption deficits, especially in parts of Kitui County, and move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by September.

In pastoral areas, marginal improvements in food security are expected in some areas while other areas are expected to remain at their current phase of acute food insecurity through June. The March to May rains started in the last week of March or early April, and they have been poor and erratically distributed in most areas. The current rains have been largely near average to below average, and are likely to result in modest improvements in food security through June, with some increased availability of rangeland resources expected. Some kidding, lambing, and calving will occur between now and June, but at below-normal rates. Both milk production and livestock prices are expected to have modest increase through June, increasing household food consumption and improving nutritional status. The majority of households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but in some of the areas that were the driest and had depleted most of their resources even before the dry season, and where rainfall deficits have continued to be witnessed including parts of Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa, poor households are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). From July through September, faster than normal depletion of rangeland resources is expected due to average to below average recovery of these resources during the March to May long rains. With less income and food from milk and other sources, the lean season is likely to start a month early in July. The expected below-average crop harvest in agropastoral areas, sustained high staple food prices in these more isolated markets, below-average livestock prices, low milk availability, and below-normal household incomes, will lead to more households becoming food insecure. Through September, though most households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), poorer households in localized parts of Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa are likely to remain in or move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the July to September lean season. 

For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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