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Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity likely to continue in pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • February - June 2012
Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity likely to continue in pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes, February to June 2012
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The gradual improvement in pastoral food security across the north, northwest, northeast pastoral and parts of the southern Maasai rangelands, following significantly above-average October-December 2011 short rains, is starting to slow. However, household food consumption is stable due to improved availability of milk, enhanced terms of trade, and ongoing interventions. Nutrition levels are improving and the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition is 10-40 percent below the five-year average for January, with the exception of Mandera district where dengue fever is reported. The majority of households are classified in the Stressed or Crisis phase of food insecurity. Given the forecast for below-average and poorly distributed March-May 2012 long rains, further improvements in pastoral food security are not expected. The majority of households will remain in either the Stressed or Crisis phase of food insecurity through June 2012 (Figure 2).  

    • The majority of households in the southeast marginal agricultural zone are likely to revert to previous food insecurity levels as food stocks are expected to deplete two months early, in April, due to heightened sales of the below-average short rains harvests. If the forecast for a poor long rains season holds, this would be the second successive poor season. The majority of poor and very poor households in the southeast will be in Stressed or Crisis levels of food insecurity through the Outlook period (Figure 2). 

    • Limited access by humanitarian organizations, due to the volatile security situation, coupled with inadequate funding is restricting the scale of service delivery in the Dadaab refugee camps. In addition, resource shortfalls are likely to occur due to the rising number of refugees in Kakuma after arrivals from South Sudan. Even though arriving refugees are being provided with food and water, their food security situation is likely to remain precarious due to prolonged stay in an overcrowded reception center because of inadequate shelter facilities.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes, February to June 2012

    Pastoral conditions

    The gradual improvement in the pastoral food security situation across the north, northwest, northeast pastoral and parts of the southern Maasai rangelands, after significantly above-average October-December 2011 short rains, is starting to slow down. The distances to water for domestic use and livestock are rising, as it is the middle of the short dry season, though trekking distances are within or below the normal range of five kilometers, with the exception of southern Kajiado, where trekking distances have just surpassed the normal range. Livestock are in good physical condition and milk is available for households, though production is declining seasonably. Pastoral households are accessing 1-3 liters of milk per day, mainly from shoats and camels, in Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo, West Pokot, Kajiado, Narok, Samburu and Tana River. However, available milk is only about half of what is normal at this time of the year as nearly 80 percent of livestock are in conception.

    Livestock prices have increased significantly by up to 95 percent since October 2011, for example, in Mandera, Garissa, Tana River and Isiolo. Cattle prices are above the five-year average for January by 30-60 percent in Isiolo, Baringo, Samburu, West Pokot and Moyale; and by 65-100 percent in Mandera, Ijara, Turkana, Tana River, Marsabit and Kajiado. Similarly, goat prices are above average in Garissa, Marsabit and Isiolo by 30-55 percent; and in Kajiado, Tana River, Baringo, Mandera, Ijara, Trans Mara, West Pokot, Narok and Turkana by 80-120 percent. Favorable livestock prices are moderating above-average cereal prices, leading to improvements in pastoral terms of trade. For example, households in Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Samburu, Tana River and Trans Mara are able to access 30-65 kilograms of maize in January 2012, up from 15-40 kilograms in October 2011, in exchange for a goat. While terms of trade are up to 70 percent above the five-year average in Isiolo, Baringo, Turkana and Marsabit, they are 10-45 percent below average in Garissa, Madera, Kajiado, Tana River and Moyale, due to significantly above-average cereal prices.

    Better milk consumption, enhanced terms of trade and ongoing interventions are sustaining household food access for the majority of pastoralists. The surveillance data from Arid Lands Resource Management Programme (ALRMP) show that the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition as measured using Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC<135mm) is declining and is currently 10-40 percent below the January five-year average, with the exception of Mandera, where about 50 percent of children under five are at risk of malnutrition. Above-average MUAC in Mandera is attributable to a dengue fever outbreak.

    The current pastoral food security situation is expected to remain stable during the current short dry season. According to IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center consensus forecast for the Greater Horn of Africa, below normal and poorly distributed 2012 March-May long rains are forecast for most pastoral areas of the north, northeast and northwest. The long rains season is expected to be shorter than usual, between mid-March and mid-April, instead of mid-March to the end of May, and rains are expected to be 75 percent of long-term mean.  Available water and pasture is expected to last for the next 4-6 months while livestock birthing are expected to intensify from mid-March onward. However, the resultant increase in milk availability, from the end of March, is likely to be temporary because trekking distances are likely to start increasing from May onward, particularly in southwest Wajir where large areas of pasture and browse have been burnt. In addition, conflicts and cattle rustling, for instance in Turkana, Tana River, Moyale and Isiolo; high insecurity, particularly along the border with Somalia; loss of livelihood assets; floods; and above-average food prices are likely to moderate improvements to food security for affected households. Overall food insecurity for the majority of pastoralists is expected to remain at Stressed or Crisis levels through the scenario period.

    Marginal agricultural farm households in the southeastern and coastal lowlands

    The food security situation has considerably improved for the majority of marginal agricultural farmers due to enhanced availability of food from own production, increased on-farm casual labor opportunities due to ongoing harvesting and land preparation activities, and external support through ongoing interventions. At the same time, improved milk availability and ongoing harvesting of fruits, mainly mangoes, has enhanced household dietary diversity. Better food consumption is evident in the improving nutrition status of children under-five years of age. According to ALRMP surveillance data, the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition is 20-50 percent below average across the southeast and Coastal marginal agricultural districts.

    However, households located in the mixed marginal agricultural areas are likely to revert to previous high food insecurity status due to below normal short rains harvests that are estimated to be half of normal; heightened sale of harvests; and the high risk of significant post harvest losses due to poor storage practices as farmers rarely apply storage chemicals or use appropriate facilities to store harvests.  Many households are selling their harvests in order to obtain cash for school fees and land preparation, as is typical at this time of year. As a result, household stocks are likely to deplete two months earlier than usual, in April, leading to increased reliance on market purchases as the main source of food, at a time when food prices are likely to be significantly high and above average. While livestock condition is good and livestock prices are 40-100 percent above January average, households are unlikely to sell their livestock due to low livestock holdings. Therefore, the high livestock prices are unlikely to insulate households from the rising maize prices that are already 50-130 percent above the five-year average.

    The 2012 long rains are forecast to be average to above-average in the Coastal marginal agricultural areas but below-average and poorly distributed in the southeast. Poor 2012 long rains would represent the second successive poor season in many areas of the southeast. The majority of poor and very poor households in the Coastal marginal agricultural zone are likely to remain at Stressed levels, while those in the southeast will be in Stressed or Crisis levels of food insecurity through the scenario period.

    Refugees’ food security prospects

    According to the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the volatile security situation is limiting access to refugees in the Dadaab camps and restricting the delivery of necessary services. In addition, only about 50 percent of required funds is available, which is likely to slow down delivery of necessary interventions. The previous influx of refugees from South Sudan has markedly declined, from more than 200 per day in late January to less than 10 per day currently, but is likely fluctuating because refugees are walking for 2-8 weeks before arriving at the camp. According to UNHCR, about 2,400 refugees from South Sudan (55 percent of the total arrivals in 2011) have entered Kakuma refugee camp, which is located in northwest Turkana district in 2012. While the majority are children and youth, about 20 percent are returnees, mainly from Upper Nile, Equatoria, and Bar el Ghazel States. Nearly 1,600 refugees are staying in the reception center that has a capacity of 700 people, where they are being provided with water and food, since shelter facilities are inadequate. The refugee population in Kakuma has increased from about 85,200 to 87,000 since January 2012 and is likely to rise due to ongoing tensions, fighting and insecurity in South Sudan. The refugees are mainly relying on assistance, and resource shortfalls, coupled with competing demands for the available meager resources, is likely to slow or limit support to refugees in Kakuma.

    Prospects for national cereal supply and prices

    The harvesting of long rains and part of the short rains maize crop has concluded in the Rift Valley, western, and in some areas of the southeast and Coastal marginal agricultural zones. However, harvesting of the late planted crop is ongoing in localized areas of the southeast. The increasing supply of maize into the market has resulted in price declines in all livelihood zones. For instance, between the end of January and mid-February 2012, wholesale price of maize declined by 10-25 percent in major urban markets such as Eldoret, Nakuru, Kitale, Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Malindi and Meru. Meanwhile retail prices of maize have dropped by 5-15 percent in Isiolo, West Pokot, Baringo, Turkana, Trans Mara, Tana River, Garissa, Moyale and Marsabit within the pastoral areas; and by 5-20 percent in Nyeri, Malindi, Kwale, Makueni, Mwingi and Tharaka within the southeast and Coast marginal agricultural zone. Nonetheless, maize prices are above the five-year average for January in all livelihoods, for example, by 45-75 percent in the urban; 50-80 percent in northwest pastoral; 50-70 percent in southeast and Coastal lowlands; and 55-100 percent in northeast pastoral.

    Maize prices are likely to continue declining through the end of March 2012, particularly in areas where harvests have just concluded or are ongoing, as households are likely to continue disposing their stocks in order to prepare land and purchase inputs for the long rains season. Maize prices are likely to rise steadily during the April-May period as domestic supply is expected to tighten due to low carryover stocks, below average harvests, and the likely increase in demand in the pastoral and southeast and Coastal marginal agricultural zones.

    Ongoing interventions and impacts

    According to UN OCHA, about 15 percent of the 2012 multi-sectoral appeal is funded. The bulk of available funding is for assistance to refugees and food aid. Therefore, the food pipeline is likely to be secure beyond February. Food distribution under the World Food Programme (WFP) Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) and Food for Assets (FFA) that were earlier impeded by impassable roads has improved and is reaching 40-60 percent of the food insecure population. While WFP expects to reach 75-80 percent of the food insecure population by end of the programme, rechanneling of resources towards the South Sudan response may cause shortfalls before the commencement of the new project in May 2012. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    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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