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Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely to be sustained in 2019

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • February - September 2019
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely to be sustained in 2019

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Due to the positive impacts of the preceding above-average 2018 long rains season that persist nationwide, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes prevail in Kenya despite mixed 2018 short rains performance. Carryover long rains stocks and favorable terms of trade are maintaining household food availability and food access. Forecast average March to May 2019 long rains in eastern Kenya and above-average long rains in western, unimodal areas is expected to result in normal crop and livestock production, improving more areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September.

    • In marginal agricultural areas, short rains maize production was 55 to 65 percent below the five-year average, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Due to the availability of carryover stocks combined with short rains production, however, household maize stocks are only 21 percent below the five-year average in the southeast and 22 percent above average along the coast. Given likely average agricultural labor demand and average long rains harvests in 2019, most marginal agricultural livelihood zones are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September. However, in areas where the long rains harvest is more minimal, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to be sustained.

    • In pastoral Kenya, livestock body conditions and milk production are declining but generally remain better than normal for the dry season, while above-average goat-to-maize terms of trade in most reference markets is sustaining household purchasing power. The expected average long rains are expected to lead to seasonal improvements in livestock productivity, permitting most households to meet their minimum food needs through the peak of lean season in September. As a result, most livelihood zones are expected to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, though some households in eastern, northern, and northwestern pastoral areas are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Current Situation

    Seasonal performance: The October to December short rains were delayed and poorly distributed in many areas of Kenya, resulting in highly mixed rainfall accumulation that led to below-average crop performance and inadequate replenishment of rangeland resources. In the eastern, northern and northwestern parts of the country, rainfall was below average, ranging from 51 to 90 percent of normal (Figure 1). In parts of the northwest, south, and northeast, including the Rift Valley, rainfall performance ranged from 91 to 140 percent of normal. Some localized areas received heavy amounts exceeding 141 percent of normal. Despite strong cumulative rainfall totals in areas such as central Turkana, the start of season and timing of rainfall distribution was poor in most areas. Rainfall onset was 10-30 days late in the south and northeast areas, and more than 40 days late in the coastal and pastoral areas. However, the onset of the rains was timely in western Kenya. Further, the season was marked by false onsets and dry spells, with most rainfall occurring in early to mid-December. This had a significant negative impact on cropping zones, and particularly short-rains dependent cropping zones, including southeastern marginal agricultural areas. Rainfall ceased early in the second dekad of December, and hotter-than-than normal land surface temperatures have prevailed in the dry season.  

    Crop production: Short rains crop production is near completion and estimated to be below average, driven by delayed or below-average rainfall that resulted in crop failure and replanting of non-certified seeds. However, carryover stocks from 2018 long rains production is mitigating the impact on household food availability. Maize production is 55 and 65 percent below the five-year average in southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, respectively. Cowpea and green grams production in coastal areas was similarly 67 and 51 below average, respectively, but cowpea and green gram production shortfalls in the southeast were less severe at 30 percent below average. In the southeast, the relatively better yields of green grams and cowpeas compared to maize is attributed to the shorter growing cycle, the timing of which coincided with the shortened period of the rainy season. Due to the availability of carryover stocks combined with short rains production, household maize stocks are only 21 percent below the five-year average in the southeast and 22 percent above average along the coast. Agricultural wage labor opportunities are below average in most marginal agricultural areas apart from Meru and Embu, where labor demand for miraa production remains high. For households dependent on labor to finance food purchases, below-average income is constraining food access.

    Livestock production: Following notable declines in vegetation conditions earlier in the short rains season, December rainfall drove significant improvements and recovery to seasonal levels in some areas. As indicated by the proxy indicator Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), vegetation conditions compared to average (2003-2017) remain generally average to above average in the north and along the coast and below average elsewhere (Figure 2). However, above average land surface temperatures since the onset of the dry season has driven forage deterioration, and current field reports indicate pasture and browse quality is below average in Garissa and Wajir, average in Mandera, Marsabit, and Turkana, and above average in Isiolo. The main water sources in use are rivers, boreholes but surface water sources like pans, dams and shallow wells are declining. Livestock trekking distances to water sources from grazing areas exhibited a rising trend in February, and were 30 percent above average in Turkana, Garissa, and Mandera. In Marsabit and Isiolo, distances increased to 15-30 km and 10-15 km compared to the normal 10-15 and 5-10 km, respectively. As a result, livestock body conditions among grazers (cattle and sheep) are poor in Mandera, fair to poor in Turkana and Tana River, fair to good in Marsabit, Garissa, and Wajir, and good in Isiolo. Browsers (goats) body conditions were fair to good in Wajir, Garissa, and Isiolo and good in Mandera, Marsabit, and Turkana.   

    Conception and birth rates are at normal levels with livestock currently in calf, driven by improvements in the 2018 long rains season and maintained by the lasting forage and water resources even with the poor performance of the short rains. However, milk production is declining with resource availability and deterioration in body conditions, as well as earlier-than-normal livestock production. In February, production at the household level was lowest in Tana River at less than one litre per day, while in Marsabit, Garissa, and Wajir, production ranged from one to three litres compared to two to six litres. Production remained average at two litres in Isiolo and four litres in Turkana and Mandera.

    Markets and trade: Wholesale maize prices remained well below average in February, driven by high carryover stocks from the 2017-2018 season, availability of 2018 long rains harvests from high and medium producing areas of the Rift Valley and Western Kenya, and significant but declining cross border imports from Tanzania. Across urban reference markets, prices were 18-32 percent below the 2018 average and 16-31 percent below the five-year average. In rural marginal agricultural markets, maize prices remain within average in Kwale and Kilifi due to the ongoing harvests and the preference for sifted maize flour, respectively, but remain 19-24 percent below average in the remaining marginal agricultural counties due to available ongoing maize harvests and available substitutes like sorghum and millet and mainly imports from the high and medium producing areas of Rift Valley and Western Kenya. In pastoral markets, maize prices are 8, 18 and 22 percent below average in Samburu, Marsabit and Turkana, with domestic supply flowing to Samburu and Turkana and cross-border imports from Ethiopia to Marsabit. Prices remained near-average in Wajir due to stable demand and preference for rice, pasta and sifted flour as substitutes. In other pastoral markets, rising local demand has modestly increased prices to 6-12 percent above average, but prices were 47 percent above average in Tana River due to early depleted stocks. Livestock prices were within average in Garissa and Tana River due to declining body conditions but were 7-42 percent above the five-year averages across the rest of the pastoral markets, due to the mostly average livestock body conditions and reduced supply of livestock volumes to the markets due to atypical migration increasing demand.

    Interannual Assistance: In Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera the hunger safety net program (HSNP) continues to support about 100,000 vulnerable households with a potential for emergency scale ups in intense drought situations. The world food program’s (WFP) asset creation program continues across the arid and semi-arid counties providing income to households in non-harvest months to help build their resilience.  

    Conflict and Insecurity: In Marsabit conflicts were reported in Saku Sub County (Jaldesa, Kubi Qallo, and Sagante), North Horr (Forolle, Bales Saru) Moyale Township and settlements along Kenya/Ethiopia Border.   In Kitui, here is tension in areas bordering Tana-River County following a high influx of livestock from the neighbouring county.In Isiolo, border disputes and communal tensions still persist along the Isiolo-Garissa border in Eldera Centre and Duse-Kinna areas, which forced households to flee and seek refuge in Garbatulla Centre. In Taita Taveta, the presence of herds of camels from other areas was reported near community settlement areas in Sagalla and Mwatate wards, Sagalla Ward community members staged a peaceful demonstration protesting increased destruction of food crops by marauding elephants.

    Most households in the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas at the moment are currently able to meet their minimum food needs due to ongoing short rains harvests. Though these harvests are largely below average, carryover stocks from the long rains harvests are still available at household level and are stabilizing household food security. In the pastoral areas, near average milk production and above average terms of trade have improved household food availability and access (Figure 3). Parts of West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Meru, Embu (Mbeere), Kitui, Makueni, Kajiado, Narok, Taita Taveta, Kwale and Kilifi are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with the rest of the areas classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, some households in Tana River, Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Garissa are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes however, these households are not enough to reach the 20 percent threshold for an area classification.  In December, consumption coping strategies measured by the reduced coping strategies index (rCSI) indicated mixed trends across the country, with a general decreasing trend in application of the consumption-based coping strategies except in Kwale, Makueni, Tharaka and Nyeri where it is likely that household food stocks are dwindling. According to the January NDMA sentinel site data, the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition measured by Middle Upper Arm Circumference <135mm remained stable in Mandera, Garissa, Nyeri (Kieni) and Kitui stabilized by ongoing harvests and milk consumption and below average in the rest of the counties implying an improved nutrition status except in Makueni and Kwale, where the proportion at risk is nine percent above average and almost double the five-year average respectively.

    Refugee settlements: As of January 2019, there were about 475,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers hosted in the urban areas and in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. About 84 percent of these refugees live in the camps and 16 percent live in the urban areas The UN refugee agency, united nations high commission for refugees (UNHCR), financial requirements for 2019 as of January 2019 were amounting to USD 170.1 million and were only four percent funded. However, UNHCR together with donor and humanitarian agencies will continue to fund prioritized activities as required.


    The February to September 2019 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The CPC/IRI probabilistic forecast indicates the presence of weak El Niño conditions and a neutral Indian Ocean Dipole through May. Impacts are likely to be weaker compared to other El Niño events. Cumulative rainfall during the March to May 2019 long rains season in eastern Kenya is most likely to be average. Main season (February to August 2019) rainfall in western, unimodal Kenya is most likely to be above average.
    • According to NDMA and FEWS NET’s estimates, 2019 short rains production in marginal agricultural areas is expected to be below average, particularly in the southeast, due to erratic, below-average short rains performance. Maize will be most significantly affected and is estimated to be 15-25 percent below average. Production of green grams, cowpeas, sorghum, and millet is expected to be about 30 percent below the five-year average. 
    • Based on forecast average 2019 long rains and corresponding average regeneration of rangeland resources, water, pasture, and forage resources are expected to steadily deteriorate through March but then rebound from April to June. Resource availability is likely to decline from June to September.
    • In marginal agricultural livelihood zones, agricultural labor demand during the short rains harvest is expected to remain below average in February due to projected below-average production, particularly in the southeast. Labor demand is expected to rebound to average levels in late-February and March in anticipation of average March to May long rains performance. Wages are expected to remain stable and average, based on historical trends.
    • Due to average conception rates during the short rains season, a medium level of calving, kidding, and lambing is expected in April in most pastoral areas. However, conception was below-average in some rainfall deficit areas, and a low level of births is expected in areas of concern. Given medium to low livestock births, demand for herding labor and other livestock-related services will likely be average to below-average from February to September.
    • Based on above-average 2018 long rains production and anticipated stable regional imports, maize prices in Nairobi are expected to follow seasonal trends at depressed levels. Prices are likely to range from 19 to 24 percent below the five-year average, increasing from KES 25/kg in February to a seasonal peak of KES 28/kg in May and June, then decreasing marginally to KES 26/kg in September. Dry bean prices will remain comparatively high in the structurally deficit Kenyan market. Regional imports are expected to keep prices near the five-year average, however, likely ranging from 65 to 74 KES/kg and following seasonal trends. Prices in rural reference markets are also expected to remain below average in most marginal agricultural areas.
    • Due to the impact of deteriorating rangeland conditions on livestock body conditions and value, livestock prices are expected to remain below the 2018 average through September. However, restricted market supply driven by seasonal restocking is likely to stabilize prices at near-average to slightly above-average levels, and prices are likely to follow seasonal trends through September.
    • Inter-annual and emergency food assistance implemented by multilateral donors and national and county governments are planned, funded, and likely to continue at current levels. These include HSNP, asset creation programs, supplementary feeding, and relief food distribution. Following the results of the KFSSG Short Rains Assessment and IPC analysis in March, planned humanitarian assistance is likely to increase from March through September.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Pastoral Areas

    From February to May, pastoral livelihood zones are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, an elevated number of households in Turkana, Wajir, Garissa, and Marsabit are likely to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes at the peak of the January to March dry season, particularly among poor households. In the remainder of the dry season, deteriorating forage and water resources are likely to drive some atypical migration patterns, heightening resource–based conflict in dry season grazing areas. Reduced access to water and dry pasture is expected to lead to declines in livestock body conditions and milk production, and poor households with low herd sizes are most likely to experience food consumption gaps as a result. However, near- to slightly above-average livestock prices and low staple food prices will enable most other households to continue to purchase sufficient quantities of food. With the onset of the long rains in March, food security is expected to seasonally improve. Replenished forage and water resources will lead to the return of livestock to wet season grazing areas near the homestead and to improved body conditions, boosting livestock value and milk productivity. Given anticipated average lambing and kidding, household milk availability is likely to be average, which will improve nutrition and income from milk sales to typical levels. Average livestock-related labor opportunities are also expected to contribute to average household income levels. Although households may sell fewer livestock due to seasonal restocking efforts, stable livestock and food prices will drive favorable terms of trade, facilitating food access through June and increased households that were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in in Turkana, Wajir, Garissa, and Marsabit are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase2). The lingering positive effects of the short rains is expected to contribute to the stability of wasting levels however, a slight seasonal deterioration in level of acute malnutrition is likely in February owing to reduced milk access at the peak of dry season and due to seasonal increase of waterborne diseases that will come with the start of long rain in mid-late March.  

    From June to September, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to prevail across the pastoral areas as forage and water resources decline seasonally.  In July, seasonal migration is expected to occur, leading to an increase in resource-based conflict and declines in milk productivity and availability at the homestead. Herding labor demand is expected to be above average following increased livestock births from previous seasons improving household income and food access. Livestock body conditions are expected to decline seasonally and remain within seasonal levels, maintaining average income from milk and livestock sales. However, households are expected to increasingly rely on stressed consumption and livelihood coping strategies to meet their food needs once the lean season begins in August, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Typical, Critical (GAM 15-29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition are likely to be sustained in Mandera, Wajir, Turkana, and Samburu counties, and in parts of Baringo and Marsabit counties, primarily driven by chronic issues that include non-food security related factors, such as poor childcare feeding practices and limited access to health facilities.

    Marginal Agricultural Areas

    From February to May, below-average short rains production is expected to lead to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in Makueni, Meru North, Lamu, Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka), Nyeri (Kieni), Kitui, Taita Taveta, Kwale and Kilifi. In addition to below-average maize harvests, drought-tolerant crops, like green grams, sorghum and millet, are also expected to be below-average, which is worse than previously anticipated. This is due to earlier losses incurred as a result of dry spells during the planting stages and replanting of smaller areas.  As a result, household maize stocks are likely to be depleted by April in the southeast marginal areas and by June in the coastal marginal areas, reducing food consumption and dietary diversity. Below-average agricultural wage labor opportunities will reduce household income in February, increasing household reliance on normal coping strategies such as charcoal sales, remittances, and petty trade, though some may also increase their reliance on consumption-based coping strategies. In March, however, planting activities and agricultural labor opportunities during the long rains season is anticipated to improve household income to average levels. Given poor availability of seeds from the preceding season and limited incomes, area planted for long rains production is likely to be normal. Replenished forage and water resources will improve livestock body conditions, milk production, and livestock prices to average levels. During this period, households will continue to rely on market purchases, but below-average staple food prices is anticipated to sustain average to above-average terms of trade and maintain food access. In May, short-cycle crops will become available, boosting food consumption and dietary diversity at the household level and offering harvest wage labor opportunities. Malnutrition levels are likely to remain within ‘Acceptable’ (GAM WHZ <5 percent or MUAC <6 percent) levels.  

    From June to September, poor households will rely on own crop and livestock production and long rains harvest labor opportunities to meet their food needs. In July, the long rains harvest will increase household food availability and consumption, improving food security. The long rains harvest will be available from July providing income and food at household level. More areas in Makueni, Kitui, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Tharaka and Nyeri (Kieni) are likely to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1), and some parts where crop production is below average are likely to experience remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The long rains harvest in July to August, however, comprises only about 30 percent of the total annual crop production in marginal agricultural areas. Most households are expected to sell their crops at once to obtain income, driving a momentary staple food glut in the markets and a drop in staple food prices. Though excess supply reduces household income from crop sales, prices are anticipated to stay low, enabling food access. Household food stocks are likely to last through September, leading to seasonal declines in food availability, but most will continue to meet their minimum food needs via market purchases, supported mainly by low staple food prices.

    In refugee settlements, humanitarian assistance is planned, funded and likely throughout the scenario period. As a result, most refugees sheltering in the refugee camps will remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

    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.


    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Source: NDMA

    Figure 5


    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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