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Below-average short rains to heighten food insecurity in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • January - June 2015
Below-average short rains to heighten food insecurity in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • The October to December 2014 short rains were well below average, which caused food insecurity in the Southeast, the coastal lowlands, and pastoral areas. Over the next several months, the food insecure population is expected to increase to over 1.5 million people.

    • The short rains were well below average and concentrated in November with very little rain in October or December in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural lowlands. This is likely to result in a far below average harvest, and an increase in the number of people who are food insecure. The majority of households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June.

    • In the northern pastoral areas, the performance of the rains was poor and did not support significant increases in livestock production. Rangeland conditions are expected to deteriorate faster than normal during the January to March short dry season. The majority of households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but the areas that had the least rainfall are likely between now and March to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including Sericho and Merti Sub-counties in Isiolo, Daadab and Balambala Sub-counties in Garissa, and Hadado and Sebule Sub-counties in Wajir.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Outside of the marginal agricultural and pastoral areas, food security has remained fairly stable. The High and Medium Rainfall Areas Food Situation Assessment Report published in November 2014 notes that despite the highly uneven distribution of the March to August long rains with many areas receiving well below average rainfall, maize production was still near average. Production of other crops was more than last year, including bananas, root crops, vegetables, fruit, and rice. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCBP) is currently purchasing maize from farmers in the high- and medium- potential areas for the Strategic Grain Reserve.

    Most markets are functioning normally with adequate maize available at stable prices. Between November and December, wholesale maize prices in Nairobi and Eldoret declined up to eight percent, but they were fairly stable in Mombasa and Kisumu. December prices in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Eldoret are up to 20 percent below the five-year average, but they were 11 percent above the five-year average in Kisumu. Stable or declining maize prices are due to ample supplies in the market both from increased imports from neighboring countries and from the continued long rains harvest. The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group’s (FSNWG’s) East Africa Cross-Border Trade Bulletin for January 2015 noted that 2014 maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda were 21 and 16 percent higher than 2013, respectively. Stable macroeconomic conditions, including the recent reduction of general consumer inflation, have also helped keep maize prices stable. Overall, the inflation rate decreased 10 percent between September and December 2014.

    In the marginal agricultural, agropastoral, and pastoral areas, the number of food insecure households is rising, primarily due to the October to December short rains being well below average, being the third consecutive rainy season of below-average rainfall in many areas. The southeastern marginal agricultural areas are likely to have very low production, and the short rains harvest typically provides a large proportion of annual food needs. In the southeastern and parts of the coastal marginal agricultural areas, especially Taita Taveta, short-cycle legumes were not available in late December or early January. These crops would be typically the dominant source of food and income at this time of year. Preliminary reports from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the short rains crop may be 40 to 50 percent below average in volume. Household stocks from the long rains harvest in July were depleted by September when normally they would last into November. Households have needed to purchase food for much of the past year with little of their own production. Due to the reduced size of the harvest and poor performance of the crops, it has been difficult for households to find on-farm, casual labor opportunities, reducing a key source of household income. However, stable food prices have allowed many households to continue to purchase food. Households have been trying to expand their incomes using charcoal burning, credit purchase, sand harvesting, petty trade, and remittances, among other strategies. These households are still able to access adequate quantities of food and are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In pastoral areas, dry conditions led to early livestock migration. This has left household members who did not migrate with the livestock without access to milk and other livestock products. In some areas, there has been conflict over resources due to migration. Deteriorating rangeland conditions have already led to deterioration in livestock body conditions. Livestock prices remained fairly stable from November to December. With limited income and low availability of livestock products, household food consumption remains constrained. Many households are trying to expand their incomes to buy more food. They are purchasing food on credit, burning charcoal, and using other strategies. Most pastoral areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but localized areas in Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to these areas having worse conditions for livestock production.


    The following assumptions have been made at the national level:

    • The March to May long rains are expected to start on time, have typical spatial and temporal distribution, and have near-average cumulative rainfall.
    • Rangeland resources are expected to deteriorate faster than normal during the January to March dry season, due to the low rainfall during the last season, the early end of those rains, and the likely warmer-than-normal temperatures during the dry season.
    • Continued importation of maize from Uganda and Tanzania is expected through June. Maize prices are expected to marginally increase from January through June though ample supplies will ensure price increases are not unseasonable or particularly large.
    • Between January and March during the dry season, land surface temperatures are likely to be higher than average. Heat waves and dust storms will be more likely than usual, especially in the northern parts of the country.
    • Fuel prices are expected to continue decreasing through April, driven by the expected continued fall in international crude oil prices. Declining fuel prices are expected to drive transportation and energy costs down, eventually further reducing the consumer inflation rate. Prices of a broad range of products are likely to fall, increasing household purchasing power.
    • Humanitarian assistance by the national government, county governments, and other agencies is expected to increase and widen in scope between January and June as agencies respond to increasing needs.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With the remaining long rains harvest, the expected short rains harvest, stocks, and maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that maize stocks should last through at least June 2015. The maize balance sheet projected from January 1 to June 30 estimated that the country would have adequate maize supplywith a surplus of 60,000 metric tons (MT) after June. While maize stocks will remain at the national level, households stocks in the high- and medium-potential areas are expected to diminish as households sell maize to purchase other foods, cover other expenses, and buy agricultural inputs at the start of the long rains season in March. With the start of the long rains season expected to be on time, households should continue to be able to access agricultural labor opportunities and conduct other agricultural activities like land preparation, planting, and weeding in a normal manner.

    In pastoral areas, households are likely to become more food insecure from January to March, especially in the Northeast in Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, parts of Mandera, Samburu, and Marsabit Counties. Livestock body conditions and health are expected to continue deteriorating, exacerbated by the warmer than normal temperatures from January to March during the dry season. Distances between water sources and grazing areas are expected to further increase, leading to increasingly long daily treks for livestock and longer distances to collect water for household consumption. Continued migration of livestock to dry season grazing areas is expected, but migration options are likely to be limited with similarly dry conditions across most areas. However, cross-border migration to neighbouring areas in Somalia and Uganda are expected from Garissa, Wajir, and Turkana Counties. Livestock prices are expected to continue decreasing, resulting in a further declines in income and purchasing power. As a result, livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are expected to further decrease, limiting households’ access to food. Malnutrition rates will start to rise, especially in Garissa, Isiolo, Wajir, parts of Mandera, Marsabit, and Samburu. After the start of the long rains in April, rangeland conditions will improve, and livestock body conditions will start to recover. The majority of households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but some poor pastoral households in parts of Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through April and to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) after that in June.

    For the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, the short rains harvest in February/March will likely be below average. With little income, many households may consume less food, especially in areas around Mbeere South in Embu County and Mwingi North in Kitui County between January and March. Once the long rains start, household income will seasonally increase a bit from labor for land preparation and planting. While the long rains are not the principal season in these areas, and given that households have few if any food stocks, it is anticipated that a large proportion of households will plant in an attempt to compensate for the very low production from the previous season. Fresh legumes may be available as early as April, so legume sales and agricultural labor will support market purchases at that time, increasing household food access. Improvements in household food consumption are expected between April and June as more short-cycle crops become available. These areas are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least June.



    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.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015

    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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