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Food security will deteriorate through March but improve slightly after the long rains start

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • January - June 2014
Food security will deteriorate through March but improve slightly after the long rains start

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that might change the outlook
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The food insecure population is likely to increase in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas and in pastoral areas as the October to December short rains generally started late, included dry spells, and were well below average in total amounts. Food consumption is likely to only meet minimal requirements through March, and the highest levels of food insecurity may not become apparent until the August to November 2014 lean season.
    • Food security is expected to improve slightly but remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between April and June in southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas. However, households will be able to access some income from labor during the long rains though this is not a peak period of labor demand. They will also have some pulse production. Maize prices are expected to increase at a time when many households will purchase food from markets.
    • The below average October to December short rains in the pastoral areas led to seasonal improvement of pasture, browse, and water conditions. However, these are expected to deteriorate faster than normal due to higher than usual temperatures during the January to February dry season. Already parts of Turkana, Isiolo, Mandera, and Wajir have had pasture, browse, and water exhausted in some areas, and they are at high risk of falling into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by March.

    National Overview
    Current Situation
    • According to the high- and medium-potential rainfall areas assessment by the Food Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Kenya conducted in November 2013, the available maize stock at that time was 1.2 million metric tons (MMT), which was nearly 30 percent below the five- year average and almost 26 percent below November 2012 stock levels. The stocks were lower primarily due to below average long rains production. Land preparation and planting were delayed in many areas as the national political campaigns disrupted activities. Especially in parts of the Rift Valley, some households avoided or delayed planting, fearing a wave of post-election violence may separate them from their land as it did to many in 2007. Also, yields were reduced due to poor rainfall distribution and the late arrival by up to a month of subsidized fertilizer, which in some cases, did not arrive until June after crops were too developed to benefit from its application. The below average yields were concentrated in maize and beans. However, in the high- and medium-potential areas, production of rice, wheat, and other food crops, especially tubers, was higher than usual.
    • According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased marginally from 142.7 in October to 143.9 in December 2013. The December CPI was seven percent higher than December 2012, depicting the increased cost of living in 2013. The overall inflation rate stood at 7.15 percent in December 2013, down from 7.76 percent in October 2013. The price trend among food products, especially staples like maize, showed a slight decrease or remained constant in December, as inflation eased in the same period, enhancing food access very slightly. Compared to November 2013, wholesale maize prices fell five to 10 percent in December 2013 in major central and western urban markets in Kisumu, Nairobi, and Eldoret. Staple price reductions were also noted in the southeastern, coastal, and pastoral areas where prices either remained constant or fell five to 10 percent between November and December 2013. However, in these areas, maize prices remained 15 to 30 percent above their five-year averages. The below average harvest from the long rains season, the expectation of below average short rains harvest in February, and the continued reliance on markets due to exhausted households stocks have kept prices elevated in much of the country.
    • In January, the most severe food insecurity is in the pastoral areas and a few, localized pockets in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural zones. In these areas, as a result of the below average short rains (Figure 1), market dependence for food is higher than normal for this time of year, and household income remain below normal due to limited casual labor opportunities with the reduced level of need for harvest and weeding labor for the short rains harvest. Due to the poor performance of the 2013 short rains, food security remains largely Stressed (IPC Phase 2) (Figure 1), but in the worst-affected areas, there are localized pockets of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Conditions for livestock, livestock production, and even child malnutrition rates seasonally improved in most pastoral areas in December.

    Between January and June 2014, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    • The March to May long rains are expected to be normal to below normal in terms of total rainfall.
    • Maize imports into Kenya are likely to continue between January and June, primarily from Tanzania. There is also likely to be some maize export from Uganda to both Kenya and Tanzania. Ugandan maize exports to Kenya is likely to increase as maize initially destined for South Sudan from Uganda gets diverted to Kenya due to political instability in South Sudan. This will be most prevalent to the areas of southwestern Kenya, which often import maize from Uganda and have existing trade connections.
    • Driven by below average August to January long rains harvest along with expected below average February short rains harvest in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural livelihood zones, maize prices are likely to only slightly decline in January and February with the short rains harvest. Then they will slowly and gradually increase from March to June as stocks at household and market levels are drawn down.
    • Abnormally high land surface temperatures, up to two degrees above normal, are likely between January and March during the dry season.
    • Rangeland conditions will deteriorate at a faster than usual rate through March due to the higher than normal temperatures during the January to February dry season. Pasture and browse availability will increase following the start of the March to May long rains.
    • Humanitarian assistance, especially that funded from the drought contingency funds available to county governments, is expected to increase and widen in scope following successive, below-average rainy seasons.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    An updated number of the total, national food insecure population will become available after the planned Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG) short rains assessment in February 2014. Household stocks in high- and medium-potential areas were average, but they will quickly dwindle in February and March as most farmers sell maize to traders in order to buy non-food items and agricultural inputs for the 2014 long rains season. Households in these areas are expected to remain food secure between now and June and to carry out agricultural and labor activities at seasonally normal times.

    Available national maize stocks are likely to be sufficient through June or later, depending on the total size of the short rains harvest. In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, the short rains harvest will start shortly. While the short rains maize harvest is likely to be well below average and currently estimated to total only 360,000 metric tons (MT), according to an assessment conducted in November 2013. This amount is 23 percent below the five-year average. Legumes are expected to perform much nearer to average. The availability of other food crops including rice, sorghum, Irish and sweet potatoes, finger millet, and bananas will provide opportunities for some labor, crop sales, and food to consume in February and March. Some minimal improvements in food security are expected, but due to the lingering effect of the reduced total harvest labor and less labor during the season, households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March.

    In the pastoral areas, pasture and browse is expected to deteriorate faster than normal due to higher than usual temperatures during the January to February dry season, though some pasture and browse are expected to last through March when the long rains start. There is likely to be a rapid decline in some areas, resulting in some localized areas moving into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in February and March. However, for pastoralists who migrate from these areas to areas with more water and pasture availability, they are likely to better maintain their herds and their food access. In the worst-affected areas, poor access to water for both human and livestock consumption will be the biggest impediment to food security. However, once the March to May long rains start, pasture, browse, and water availability will increase, even if the total rainfall is below normal. The worst food security outcomes will quickly wane, and most of the areas that had deteriorated into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season are expected to return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April until at least June.

    Most households will be able to afford their minimal food requirements but not essential non-food items like medication, fuel, transport, and clothing. Between March and June, maize prices are expected to increase gradually. In southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, some income will be available from labor opportunities for the long rains crops, but households may face increasing difficulty accessing food as the prices rise and their stocks of legumes and other non-maize crops from the short rains dwindle. Households will continue purchasing, and then they will have some additional food in June/July during the long rains harvest, though this is not the dominant cropping season in these areas. The expected high staple food prices in the face of limited casual labor opportunities this time of the season and hence reduced household income, will prevent poor households from meeting essential, non-food expenses. Much of the population in the country is likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between January and June, and some localized pockets may even fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as the August to October lean season approaches.


    Areas of Concern

    Southeast Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone

    Current Situation

    In most parts of the southeastern marginal agricultural livelihood zones, there was a protracted lean season, which started in July instead of August and continued through October. In October, the rains started late, and they delayed land preparation and planting by a month.  After starting late, the short rains had poor temporal and spatial distribution, were below average in total amount and ceased earlier than normal. In late December, maize crops were still at very early stages of development, but legumes were doing well. The availability of legumes including cowpeas, cowpea leaves, beans, and other short-cycle crops starting from the early harvests in December has provided many households with some food. However, in many areas, the rains ceased slightly earlier in December than usual.

    Prices for maize increased by 10 to 30 percent between August and November, driven by constrained supply due to a below average harvest from the high- and medium-potential areas. Going into December, prices remained fairly stable due to the availability of early-maturing, drought-resistant legumes, reducing maize demand on markets. However, maize prices remained 15 to 30 percent higher than their five-year averages in December. Below average short rains harvests in 2011 and 2012 had reduced households stocks which means there has been increased market demand for nearly three years in this area, as the short rains are the primary agricultural season.

    Despite the performance of the short rains, pasture, browse, and water availability have increased since the rains started in October, enhancing livestock productivity and increasing livestock prices. Between November and December, livestock prices increased by 13, 24, 44, and eight percent in Kitui, Tharaka, Makueni, and Mwingi, respectively. Livestock prices continue to be 10 to 20 percent above their five-year averages.

    The proportion of children with a middle-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of less than 135 millimeters (mm) declined marginally or remained constant in all the areas, probably owing to the increased availability of milk and early-maturing legumes and vegetables along with casual labor income, albeit below normal, which have allowed  food access and some measure of dietary diversity, effectively ending the lean season in December, despite the poor performance of maize.

    In December, casual labor earned wage rates between KES 150 per day in the marginal mixed farming areas in Mwingi Sub-county and KES 200 in the in higher-productivity areas in Kitui and Makueni Counties. With a wage of KES 150 per day, a household can only afford three kilograms of maize, which is meager compared to other areas of East Africa. The low wage rates, coupled with the staple food prices remaining  15 to 30 percent higher than their five-year averages have created unfavorable terms of trade for poor households who depend on selling their labor on less formal markets to access food. Although many of the households can access their most basic food energy requirements through this income, dietary diversity is lower than it would normally be in the time right before the short rains harvest. Households can hardly afford little more than maize to supplement their own produced legumes and other vegetables with less income from casual labor earned during the short rains. Food security in these regions is currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone:

    • The January/February short dry season will be characterized by unusually high temperatures, which are likely to hasten the deterioration of grazing conditions, especially  in the lowlands. However, grazing conditions are expected to recover, following the start of the long rains in March.
    • The February/March harvest is likely to be slightly delayed and below average, owing to the poor short rains performance.
    • With a below normal harvest, casual labor availability during the harvesting in February/March 2014 is expected to be below average. While land preparation for the long rains in April 2014 will employ some casual labor, this will only be available at a seasonally normal level, with far less demand for labor than during the short rains season.
    • Remittances from labor migrants to rural households are expected to increase through June, but there will be a slight decline in February/March due to the slight improvement in food availability following the short rains harvest.
    • Intensification of coping strategies including charcoal burning and sand harvesting is likely from January through  at least June as households seek to generate income and make up some income not earned during the short rains or short rains harvest.
    • There is likelihood of continued and expanded humanitarian interventions in these areas. For example, food for assets (FFA) is already programmed to continue in many areas through 2015, and it will likely be complimented by additional  programs over the coming months.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The delayed onset and early cessation of the short rains, followed by poor spatial and temporal distributions is likely to lead to a below average crop output. This will be the third below average short rains harvest in a row, as the short rains in 2011, 2012, and 2013 will have all experienced below average maize production. Localized marginal mixed farming areas in Kitui, Makueni and Tharaka-Nithi counties are likely to be unable to harvest up to 70 percent of the planted area as the crop failed to reach maturity and  the rains ceased slightly earlier than normal. According to early estimates, maize production is likely to be 50 to 60 percent of average in southeastern marginal mixed farming zones. The three successive below average short rains seasons in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and the depletion of household maize stocks le have kept prices high and households dependent on market purchases for much of this time.

    The more drought-resistant legumes are likely to mature, and their yields are expected to be near average during the harvest in February/March. Casual labor availability will be low because of below average agricultural activities resulting in lower than normal household income. Food consumption is likely to deteriorate but remain marginally above the minimal requirements through March due to below average production and high maize prices that rise slightly against below average household incomes. With less casual labor income during the March to May long rains being far less available than during the primary short rains season, elevated and rising food prices, and longer dependence than usual on market purchases, poor households will have difficulty accessing adequate food through March. A slight improvement in availability of food is expected from  April to June, resulting from the availability of some drought-resistant, green vegetables, and perennial legumes such as pigeon peas that mature during the March to May long rains. This will sustain minimally adequate food consumption through June, but will not be sufficient enough to improve the overall food security conditions. Poor households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June. After that, as the August to November lean season approaches, some localized areas may fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Pastoral and Agropastoral livelihood zones

    Current Situation

    The northern pastoral areas including parts of Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana, and Ijara Counties have had an October to December short rains season that was below average in terms of amount and erratically distributed over both time and space. The rains started in the first week of November and by December, they had subsided in almost all the areas, with some areas like Isiolo, Marsabit, and Mandera recording no rains at all in December. Despite the poor performance of the short rains, pasture, browse, and water availability substantially increased through December though they remain less available than normal for this time of year. However the seasonal improvements have resulted in improved livestock body conditions and milk yields across many areas. With very uneven spatial distribution, some localized areas are already reporting that pasture, browse, and water resources have been depleted. In a few of the driest areas, food security deteriorated rapidly after the rains ended in December. These areas include Kaaling, Lapur, and Loima in Turkana County, that are presently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Livestock prices increased five to 20 percent between November and December, owing to the improved body conditions and increased demand triggered by the December holidays. This had a positive net effect on household incomes, as it increased purchasing power at a time when food prices had remained mostly stable. Livestock prices remain above their five-year averages, but there was a wide range from 20 percent to as much as 100 percent above their five-year averages. Livestock prices are expected to decline in January as households sell more livestock to markets to pay school fees. However, in Wajir, unlike in other pastoral areas, livestock prices fell between November and December. The cattle price fell seven percent, and the goat price fell by three percent. Poor rains, which failed to adequately replenish pasture and browse in some areas of the county led to poorer livestock body conditions, decreasing the value of the livestock on markets. Staple food prices on the other hand, remained stable between November and December, even in Wajir, driven by the expectation of some marginal increase in supply following the short rains harvest and with continued marketing of supplies from the long rains harvest.

    Between November and December, milk production had varied effects in different areas, increasing 41, 14, and 20 percent in Isiolo, Turkana, and Marsabit Counties, respectively, but declining in others places like Wajir. Milk production declined in Wajir County as most pastoralists migrated to far grazing fields in Wajir South bordering Somalia and Wajir North where there was more pasture and browse available than in other parts of the county.

    The rates of malnutrition, measured using the middle-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of children under the age of six have also showed mixed effects, showing improvements in some areas, and remaining constant or declining in other areas, from November to December. December ‘at risk’ of malnutrition rates (MUAC <135 mm) decreased marginally by seven, three, and two percent in Mandera, Marsabit, and Ijara Counties, respectively. This improvement is attributed to increased milk production as a result of good pasture availability for livestock, following the late start of the short rains. However, the rates increased by seven and 29 percent in Isiolo and Wajir Counties, respectively, and they remained fairly constant in Turkana, probably related to the weaker growth of  vegetation in these areas and delayed recovery of children from malnutrition. Other factors like conflicts also have a great influence on the malnutrition rates. Looking at the five-year averages, the proportion of children ‘at risk’ of malnutrition was 30 to 40 percent lower in Mandera and Isiolo Counties where conflict is often present, but it has remained fairly close to the five-year average in other areas.

    Conflict was reported in parts of Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Turkana, and Ijara Counties. Inter-clan conflicts were reported in the Korondille-Eldas area of Wajir North and Diff in Wajir South. Local leaders have intervened and calmed the situation though tension remains high in these areas. In Wajir North, a large number of displaced people from the recent conflict in Moyale remain in the area. Disputes over grazing land have also been reported between communities in Ijara and around the Tana River. Some incidences of cattle raids between the Turkana and Samburu communities have also been reported, with the raids resulting into human deaths and theft of hundreds of heads of livestock. In all these areas, the national and county governments have stepped up peace-making initiatives and consultations. Already in Isiolo, high livestock outmigration from Sericho, Cherab, and Oldonyiro areas has been reported, indicating a likely onset of deteriorating conditions. Conflict has also discouraged trade, as traders who come from outside these areas stay away from market participation due to higher security and transaction costs and higher risks of theft and losses.


    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about pastoral and agropastoral livelihood zones:

    • With higher than usual temperatures expected in January and February, and poorly distributed rains during the October to December short rains, earlier than normal depletion of browse and pasture is expected.
    • Livestock migration is likely to increase earlier than normal from areas with poorer pasture and browse to areas with better pasture, browse, and water availability.
    • Water shortages may spread to more areas or intensify through March due to the expected high temperatures in January and February. Water sources are likely to recharge slightly during the March to May long rains, even if the total rainfall is below normal, which will lead to some recovery in water availability through June.
    • Gifts and remittances from labor migrants, mainly in urban areas, are likely to increase through March.
    • Normal to below normal March to May long rains will sustain enough water, pasture, and browse for normal lambing in May/June and kidding and calving in March/April.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Available pasture and browse will deteriorate faster than normal due to higher than usual temperatures during the  January/February dry season, but in some places deterioration will continue through March when the long rains start. Livestock body conditions and milk production are expected to continue to improve, but marginally, in areas that still have pasture and browse, but remain below normal through March. Other than milk, household access to foods is expected to deteriorate through June, owing to gradual increase in food prices and constrained income opportunities. Normal or even somewhat below normal March to May long rains will result in improvement of rangeland conditions and sustain milk production through June. Income from casual labor opportunities will decline through March as pasture and browse decline and opportunities for grazing become fewer. Although milk will be available through June, humanitarian assistance is likely to increase, but access will likely remain poor to staple cereals. Protracted conflicts in a few localized areas will likely disrupt trade and livestock migration. Areas that received fair amounts of rainfall during the short rains season are likely to see increased conflict as inward migration of livestock in search of water and pasture brings concentration of livestock to some areas.  Food security is likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March, but with possibilities of deteriorating into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in some areas (Figure 2) by March. Counties like Wajir, Mandera, other areas of Turkana, and Isiolo are already reporting poor access and availability of water. Most open earth pans and dams have already dried up, and browse and pasture are already exhausted in some areas. The early cessation of the short rains suggests that the dry season will be longer than normal and that water and pasture availability could begin to rapidly deteriorate, especially given prevailing high temperatures.

    However, once the March to May long rains begin, pasture, browse, and water availability are likely to quickly recover, even if total rainfall is below average. Most areas will return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during this time period as access to food and income improves and additional livestock births increase milk availability.

    Events that might change the outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Northern Pastoral livelihood zones

    Well below average total rainfall during the March to May long rains or a late start

    Even more rapid deterioration of browse, pasture, and water availability would likely lead to poorer livestock body conditions and reduced prices. With the expected price increase for crops, purchasing power of households will be further eroded.

    Northern Pastoral livelihood zones

    Resurgence of conflicts

    Increased displacements and reduced market functionality  would limit household food access.

    Northern Pastoral and agropastoral livelihood zones

    Flash floods after onset of the long rains, in localized areas

    Displacement of households, loss of crops in agropastoral areas, loss of livestock, and loss of other assets would constrain food access.

    Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone

    High above average March to May long rains


    Although this is not the primary season, above average rains would result in improved grazing conditions and consequently improve livestock body conditions. They would improve crop production for those who plant for the season or have perennial legumes such as pigeon peas, increasing both food access and income.

    Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone

    Far below average total rainfall during the March to May long rains or a late start

    Earlier than expected depletion of the short rains harvest stocks due to the lack of perennial legumes, leading to increased market dependency. With further limited casual income opportunities and high staple food prices, food access would be constrained.


    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. October to December 2013 rainfall, anomaly from the 2002 to 2012 mean in millimeters (mm)

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. October to December 2013 rainfall, anomaly from the 2002 to 2012 mean in millimeters (mm)

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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