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Above-average short rains harvest substantially improving food security

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • February - September 2016
Above-average short rains harvest substantially improving food security

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partners
    WFP
    Kenya - NDMA
    Key Messages
    • Food security has improved significantly following two consecutive above-average seasons. According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG) February short rains assessment, the number of food insecure people requiring immediate humanitarian assistance declined to roughly 640,000 people, a 41 percent decrease in the past six months.

    • Household food security has improved across most pastoral areas after the above-average short rains, influenced by the ongoing El Niño, supported favourable rangeland conditions. Most livestock continue to graze near homesteads and, as a result, households have access to livestock products. Some pastoral households have improved to None (IPC Phase 1), but the majority remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    • The short rains harvest is ongoing and expected to be above average in the Southeast. Most households in these areas are expected to remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through September. However, in the Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming livelihood zone, poor temporal and spatial distribution of the short rains affected crop production, which is expected to be 60–80 percent of average. This will lead to below average household stocks and likely increase the number of people who are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the lean season.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    The above-average September to December short rains, influenced by the ongoing El Niño, has so far supported an above average harvest. The short rains harvest will continue to improve food security in Kenya, which was already improving as a result of the above-average March to June long rains harvest and stable cross-border trade. According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG) February 2016 short rains assessment, the number of food insecure people requiring immediate humanitarian assistance declined to approximately 640,000 people, a 41 percent decline in needs from the long rains assessment conducted in August 2015.

    Most markets are functioning normally and have adequate supplies of all major staples, including maize, beans, rice, potatoes, and vegetables. There was a 30 percent decline in maize imports, due primarily to reduced exports from Tanzania following its below-average season. However, there was also a reduced demand for imports from Kenya given the country’s above-average national production. A food security report published by the State Department of Agriculture (SDA) noted that Kenya had roughly 1.2 million metric tons (MMT) of maize stocks at the end of January. Wholesale maize prices in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu have remained fairly stable between December 2015 and January 2016. Prices are near five-year averages in Mombasa and Kisumu and eight percent below the five-year average in Nairobi. In the high-potential area of Eldoret, the price is five percent below the five-year average, but increased 11 percent between December and January, largely due to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) buying maize from farmers for the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).

    Stability in food prices is also supported by fairly stable macroeconomic factors. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya’s overall inflation rate fell marginally from 8.01 percent to 7.78 percent between December 2015 and January 2016. However, the inflation rate remains high due in part to price increases of some food items. In January 2015, the overall inflation rate stood at 5.53 percent, showing a 40 percent rise in inflation over past year.    

    In most pastoral areas, the above-average short rains led to substantial improvements in pasture conditions and water availability. Rangeland conditions remain favourable, ranging from fair to good in most areas. However, pasture and water resources are now seasonally deteriorating and in some areas at faster than normal rates due to hotter than normal land surface temperatures. Despite this, most livestock are still grazing near homesteads and fewer than normal livestock have been migrated to dry season grazing areas, as would be typical during this time of year. Most open water sources recharged to full capacity during the short rains and are now holding 40 to 60 percent of full carrying capacity. The average trekking distance to livestock watering sources ranges from one to five kilometres in agropastoral areas and four to 10 kilometres in pastoral areas, which are typical distances for this time of the year. Most livestock have fair to good body conditions and with livestock near homesteads, many households are able to access cattle, goat, and camel milk. Average milk production per household is one to two litres per day in pastoral areas and two to three litres per day per in agropastoral areas, which are normal levels for this time of the year. Between December and January, livestock prices typically declined as pastoralists increased sales to earn income for school fees. Most pastoral households are currently consuming one to two meals a day comprising of three food groups, mainly cereals, pulses, and milk. However, localized pastoral areas including northern Isiolo, western and central Wajir, eastern Mandera, and central Turkana received only 50-90 percent of normal rainfall during the short rains. These areas are reporting poor rangeland conditions and livestock have been migrated away to other parts of their respective counties in search of water and forage. While some pastoral households have improved to None (IPC Phase 1), the majority of households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Despite favourable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade in Wajir and Mandera, poor households’ herd sizes remain below average and pastoralists have few saleable livestock. As a result, household income is low and many remain unable to purchase all basic food and non-food needs

    In southeast marginal agricultural areas and central and western Kenya, the above-average short rains resulted in favorable crop development of all main crops, including maize, beans, green grams, potatoes, wheat, sorghum, and millet. The harvesting of legumes and vegetables was completed in January and was above average. The harvesting of maize is ongoing and production is expected to be average to above-average. The majority of households are able to meet their basic food and non-food needs and are in None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. In the Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming livelihood zone, most areas received average to above-average short rains, although localized areas experienced below-average rains. In areas that did received favorable cumulative rainfall, poor temporal and spatial distribution and an earlier than normal end of the rains negatively affected crop development. While this livelihood zone’s legumes production has so far been average to above average, there are localized areas of below average production. Maize crops suffered moisture stress, with some drying up, and production is expected to be 60 - 80 percent of the five-year average. Despite this, food security is still improving seasonally as the short rains harvest replenishes household food stocks. Furthermore, as legumes are the dominate source of food and income at this time of year, households in this livelihood zone are still able to purchase basic food and non-food needs. The majority of households are in None (IPC Phase 1).

    Assumptions

    The following assumptions have been made at the national level:

    • It is expected that the October 2015 to January 2016 long rains harvest in the West and Rift Valley will adequately stock markets through May.
    • The February to March short rains harvest is expected to be average to above-average, estimated at 15 percent above the five-year average. 
    • Maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania are projected at 425,000 MT and 400,000 MT, respectively, between July 2015 and June 2016, a cumulative nine percent reduction compared to last year. This is attributed to increased supply in Kenya and below-average production in Tanzania.
    • The March to May long rains are expected to have a near normal start, have typical spatial and temporal distribution, and have average to above-average cumulative rainfall. It is expected rainfall will be influenced by the ongoing El Niño, which is forecast to weaken and transition to ENSO-neutral conditions in the late spring to early summer.
    • The July to September long rains maize harvest in eastern and northern Kenya is expected to be average.
    • Maize prices are expected to seasonally and gradually increase through June, although imports and the short rains harvest will ensure prices are not unseasonably high. From July through September, prices are expected to stabilize or gradually decline, as the long rains harvest becomes available, increasing supplies in the markets.
    • In most pastoral areas, rangeland resources are expected to remain atypically fair to good during the January to March dry season, due to above-average rainfall during the last season.
    • Land surface temperatures are expected to be above average in eastern Kenya from February to April and from June to September.
      • Rangeland resources are expected to deteriorate faster than normal during months with above-average land surface temperatures.
    • The inflation rate is expected to rise marginally due to the depreciation of the Kenyan Shilling (KES).
      • Despite declining oil prices, the prices of imported goods are expected to be slightly above average through at least June due to the depreciating KES.
    • Humanitarian assistance by the national government, county governments, and international agencies is expected to continue through June, though at reducing levels due to reduced needs. From July onwards humanitarian assistance is expected to increase as agencies respond to increasing needs during the lean season.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Nationally, food security is expected to remain fairly stable through September, improving from April through July during and after the long rains, and deteriorating slightly starting in August with the lean season. Food security throughout this time will be supported by adequate availability of both household and market food stocks following the above-average long rains harvest in high- and medium- potential areas, and the expected above-average short rains harvest from marginal agricultural areas in southeastern, western, and central Kenya. Total maize production in 2015 from both the long and short rains harvests is estimated at 3.1 million metric tons (MMT), approximately nine percent above the five-year average. Additionally, the continued importation of food commodities from Uganda and Tanzania will further support food availability. An analysis of available maize stocks and imports against the expected utilization by both manufacturers and consumers predicts that Kenya will have about 0.4 MMT of maize surplus by the end May. It is expected the long rains harvest will adequately replenish food and household stocks and staple prices will only fluctuate moderately and seasonally throughout the outlook period. Agricultural labor opportunities will be available at typical levels throughout the upcoming long rains season. With adequate stocks, fairly stable prices, and normal levels of income-earning opportunities, the majority of households are expected to remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through at least September. 

    In the Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming livelihood zone, household food security will deteriorate slightly during the February to April short dry season. Poor households that own small plots of land and are experiencing a poor short rains harvest have few food stocks and are now atypically reliant on markets to access food. However, income is seasonally low, constraining food access throughout the dry season. Food security is expected to improve between April and July following the start of the long rains, which will provide agricultural labor opportunities, seasonally increasing household income to purchase food from markets. In addition, the availability of early maturing leguminous crops in May will further support household food consumption. Most households are expected to remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through July. Starting in August, household food consumption is expected to typical decline as the lean season starts and agriculture-related income-earning opportunities are again seasonally low. During this time, some households are expected to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but the majority will remain in None (IPC Phase 1).

    In pastoral areas, household food security is expected to seasonally deteriorate between now and April as the short dry season progresses. This decline will be marginal in areas that received above-average short rains, as favourable pasture will support livestock grazing near homesteads, providing households access to livestock products. However, areas that received below-average rainfall, including parts of Isiolo and Garissa, western and central Wajir, eastern Mandera, and central Turkana, will experience an atypical decline in food security. The seasonal depletion of rangeland resources in these areas is expected to be faster than normal due to low rainfall during the last season and the forecast hotter than normal land surface temperatures. As a result, livestock body conditions and productivity are expected to deteriorate faster than normal from now through April. However, the start of the long rains in March is expected to improve pasture, browse, and water conditions in all pastoral areas. Consequently, livestock production will seasonally improve starting in May. Terms of trade (TOT) are likely to remain favourable through at least July, as a result of fairly stable staple food prices and above-average livestock prices. By August/September, with the start of the lean season, household food security is expected to typically deteriorate. Rangeland resources will again decline faster than normal given the expected hotter than normal land surface temperatures. Livestock productivity will seasonally reduce and livestock products and income will be limited, reducing household consumption. Some poor households in pastoral areas are expected to improve to None (IPC Phase 1) during the long rains when food access and availability improve, but most households are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period while some in areas that received significantly below-average rainfall are likely to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the peak of the lean season. Despite recent improvements, many poor pastoral households have below-average livestock herd sizes and therefore low levels of saleable animals. With below-average income, while many pastoral households will be able to meet their basic food needs, they will likely have insufficient income to purchase basic non-food needs.  

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    October to December 2015 rainfall, anomaly in millimeters (mm) as a standard deviation (SD/z-score) from 2000-2014 mean using Climate Hazards Group Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) data

    Figure 2

    October to December 2015 rainfall, anomaly in millimeters (mm) as a standard deviation (SD/z-score) from 2000-2014 mean using Climate Hazards Group Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) data

    Source: USGS/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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