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Record-high rains continue to drive improvements but localized floods strain livelihoods

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • June 2018
Record-high rains continue to drive improvements but localized floods strain livelihoods

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  • Key Messages
  • Partners
    Kenya - NDMA
    Key Messages
    • The 2018 March to May long rains were the heaviest in the past 55 years. This caused significant flooding, especially along riverine areas across the country and leaching of cropland, but overall drove recovery in previously drought-stricken areas, improving food security outcomes, particularly in pastoral areas. Currently the highest area of food insecurity is in flood-affected Tana Riverine Zone, where inaccessible households are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. However, assistance is likely to reach these areas by July.

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through September in Wajir, parts of Marsabit, Isiolo, Turkana, Garissa, Mandera, and Tana River due to various factors, including livelihood recovery from drought and/or flooding, a livestock quarantine from an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), and insecurity. However, with the favorable forecast for the October to December rainy season, further improvements are expected, which will lead to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes across the majority of the country.  

    • Through January 2019, food availability and access are likely to be favorable across most areas of Kenya. Overall, the ongoing marginal harvest, followed by the October unimodal harvest, and then the next marginal harvest, beginning in December, are all projected to be average to above average. Staple food prices are forecast to remain below last year’s and the five-year average due to available local stocks and above-average regional imports. This will continue to increase poor household purchasing power.


    Current Situation

    Current Food Security

    In general, across the country, the food security situation has significantly improved, even more than FEWS NET previously projected, primarily due to the positive effects from the historically above-average March to May long rains. In the pastoral areas, the rains were able to drive significant regeneration of forage and water resources, and across most of the counties, the forage greenness, as indicated by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) (see Figure 1), shows record highs. In the marginal areas, forage and water resource availability is also higher than normal levels. Harvesting of vegetables and pulses is ongoing, while the rest of the crops are in good condition and mostly in the vegetative and reproductive stages, driving down food commodity market prices. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present over much of the country.

    However, the rainfall did lead to substantial flooding and crop losses, which were particularly severe in riverine zones where agricultural activities are concentrated. The counties most affected include Tana River, Turkana, Garissa, Mandera, Isiolo, Kisumu, and Kilifi, where significant reductions in the July crop harvest is expected. In Tana River, flood-affected populations that are cut off and inaccessible from humanitarian assistance are facing the worst outcomes and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Displaced households residing in camps in the aforementioned counties are receiving humanitarian assistance and are in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2). In addition, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist in riverine areas of Turkana and Mandera; and a significant population in Kisumu, though below the threshold of 20 percent for an area classification. In addition to the flood-affected areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist in Wajir, and parts of Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, and Turkana, due to a combination of factors, including impacts of a RVF outbreak affecting people and livestock, livelihood recovery from the previous drought, and insecurity. In addition, some poor households in other areas previously affected by the drought are also likely experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, but it is below the threshold for an area classification.

    Seasonal Progress

    Across the country, the March to May long rains were the highest on record and most parts of the country experienced an early onset in early March. Amounts received were upwards of 200 millimeters more than average across the country, except in central Turkana, western Marsabit and along the Isiolo-Wajir border, where amounts ranged between 125 to 200 millimeters. These rains, compared to the seasonal average, were 131 to 210 percent of normal in the high and medium rainfall areas of western Kenya, and the unimodal rainfall will continue through September. Across the rest of the country, the rainfall amounts exceeded more than 171 percent of season averages, many more than 210 percent, except for localized areas in Tana River, Garissa, and southeastern and southwestern parts of Kenya (see Figure 2). In many previously drought-affected areas, the rainfall caused numerous cases of flash floods; and in flood-prone lowland areas of western Kenya, where water levels in upstream areas accumulated, rivers burst their banks and caused heavy flooding downstream. The floods displaced about 156,000 people countrywide. The rains seasonally ceased in May in parts of Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, and Kajiado. In the unimodal areas of western Kenya and the Rift Valley, the long rains continued in June and remained above average. 

    Pasture, water, and livestock

    The record rainfall has allowed for significant recovery and regeneration of forage resources, and pasture and browse resources across most of the pastoral areas are in good condition and mostly above average. Exceptions include browse in parts of Mandera (Mandera East) and pasture in pockets of Wajir (Wajir West and Wajir South) where it is fair to good. Livestock body conditions remain good for all species and are mostly average to above average. An early June RVF outbreak, which occurred in Marsabit (Saku and Moyale sub-counties) and Wajir (Eldas Sub-County), prompted both county Departments of Livestock to institute a quarantine across both counties prohibiting the slaughter, sale, and movement of livestock through early July, rendering major livestock markets in the counties non-operational, significantly affecting household income. In addition, livestock disease surveillance and preventive measures, such as spraying livestock with pesticides to ward off the RVF mosquito vectors, have been significantly stepped up.

    Milk production continues to increase and is mostly average to above average, ranging from 2 to 7.5 liters per household per day in the pastoral counties. While milk production is favorable in most areas of Tana River County, it is likely lower in the cut-off, inaccessible areas, where the livestock may have restricted access to forage. Births are currently below average due to the effects of the previous drought, except in West Pokot, Baringo, and parts of Turkana and Marsabit that experienced better conditions during the second half of 2017. Conception rates, however, are above normal across all counties due to the significant recovery of livestock body conditions and above-average forage and water availability. Water resources increased significantly and trekking distances for water for domestic use fell between April and May and were mostly below 3.3 kilometers but remained above average in Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Garissa, and Kajiado, where they ranged between two to five kilometers. Trekking distances for livestock to water sources from grazing areas remained below average, ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 compared to the average 3.5 to 11.5 kilometers. Migration of livestock remains minimal and mostly within the counties and is only pronounced where households are moving their livestock from flood-affected to unaffected areas.  

    Markets and Trade

    Food access has continued to improve as May wholesale maize prices in the urban markets of Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, and Kisumu ranged from 13 to 22 percent below the five-year average due to increased local supply from previous long rains harvests and cross-border imports. On the other hand, dry bean prices in these markets were slightly mixed and were seven percent above average in Nairobi but ranged from within averages up to 17 percent below average in the rest of the markets. In the coastal and southeastern marginal mixed farming zones, retail maize prices remained 11 to 24 percent below average, stabilized by cross-border imports, and as a result of adequate supplies from neighboring high-producing areas like Meru and Embu. Dry bean prices were six percent below average in Nyeri due to supplies from neighboring counties but were seven, nine, and 11 percent above average in Taita Taveta, Makueni, and Kitui, respectively, due to high demand ahead of the first harvest. In pastoral markets, May retail maize prices remained within averages, except for Isiolo and Garissa, where prices were 15 and 22 percent above averages, respectively, due to high demand, stemming from the previous drought. Due to the marked improvements in rangeland resources across most pastoral markets, goat prices were within averages in Garissa and Mandera and were nine to 23 percent above average elsewhere. Exceptions include Turkana, where they were 56 percent above average following two consecutive good rainy seasons and off-season rains in 2017, and in Wajir, where goat prices were 17 percent below average due to poor market conditions, such as poor infrastructure and lack of transport, as well as the impact of RVF.

    Regional imports played a significant role in driving down seasonal prices across most markets, particularly the urban ones. Approximately 400,166 MT of maize, an amount that was 54 percent higher than in 2017, was imported into Kenya between June 2017 and March 2018 from the region. Increased exports are attributed to increased production in Uganda, lower prices in Tanzania, and higher prices in Kenya that attracted more regional trade. Trade to Kenya from Tanzania has been on the rise, following the removal of an export ban by Tanzania, increasing competition to export to Kenya. October 2017 to January 2018 domestic unimodal harvests and January to February 2018 marginal maize harvests also increased local maize availability within the period and seasonally reduced maize exports from Ethiopia during the first quarter of 2018. Dry bean regional trade in the first quarter of 2018 was 28 percent below the five-year average. These lower levels were driven mainly by reduced trade by Uganda due to increased domestic demand by Ugandan households and restocking by traders to replenish stocks that had been depleted by high exports in 2017, as well as traders holding stocks in anticipation of better prices later in the year.

    Long Rains Production

    Across the marginal areas, some crops from the long rains season are currently being harvested, including vegetables, beans, green grams, cowpeas, pigeon peas, and green maize, while maize, sorghum, and millet are due for harvest within the next month. Excessive rains have affected the beans, maize, sorghum, and millet crops, and crop yields have also been affected by leaching, poor crop management, reduced cropping area, and Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations. According to the State Department of Agriculture and various county departments, FAW infestations are currently affecting less than 15 percent of all planted crops countrywide and are not having a notable impact on local livelihoods.

    In the unimodal areas, where the harvest will not begin until October, a series of factors have led to above-average area planted for both maize and beans. Favorable weather conditions, including the early onset of rains; supplies of adequate seeds and fertilizers, and the county farm mechanization program have allowed households to attempt to increase their yields.


    According to May National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) sentinel site data, the proportion of children under five years of age at risk of malnutrition, measured by Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) <135mm, showed improvements in nutritional status as many arid and semi-arid counties had below-average levels. The notable exceptions were average levels in Garissa and Mandera and above five-year averages in Makueni, Kitui, Kwale, Kilifi, Isiolo, and Tana River, due to the previous drought and non-food security related factors.

    Household Food Security Indicator Data

    May NDMA sentinel site data showed a decreasing trend for the Reduced Coping Strategy Index (rCSI), as households generally applied less consumption-based strategies, except in Nyeri, Kilifi, Kwale, where they increased marginally as households applied more consumption strategies ahead of the long rains harvest. The highest rCSI was observed in Tana River at 16.8, as flood-affected households sought to maximize on limited food availability, while Makueni had the lowest level at 0.9. due to available harvests.

    Humanitarian Assistance

    Emergency humanitarian assistance is ongoing in flood-affected counties for displaced populations. The national and county governments continue to provide food assistance distributed through both the county commissioners’ offices and the county departments of special programmes to displaced households countrywide that are in camps and evacuation centres. Kenya Red Cross is also providing non-food item (NFI) kits to displaced households. In addition, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing “protection rations” to Food for Asset (FFA) beneficiaries in the flood-stricken areas, even during the harvest months of May and June, and providing food to Supplementary Feeding Programmes’ (SFP) beneficiaries’ families. Inter-annual assistance remains ongoing, including school feeding, the Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP), in the counties of Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera; Cash for Assets (CFA), and the normal FFA, providing 65 and 50 percent of monthly food rations in arid and semi-arid counties, respectively.


    The following assumptions have been made at the national level:

    Seasonal Forecast

    • According to NOAA and USGS, the remainder of main season (February to August 2018) rainfall in unimodal (western) Kenya is forecast to be average.
    • Given the record-high rainfall levels, there is an increased risk of flooding over southwestern areas of Kenya through early July.
    • According to NOAA and USGS, given the most likely scenario is for El Niño conditions, there is an elevated probability that cumulative rainfall for the October to December short rains will be above average over eastern and western Kenya.
    • During the typical dry season through September, in eastern and northern Kenya, there is an increased likelihood for hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures. However, in western Kenya, temperatures are more likely to be colder-than-normal over the highland areas and Rift Valley, increasing the risk for frost occurrence, which is likely to impact cash crops, such as tea, coffee, and potatoes.

    Rangeland resources/water availability

    • After above-average March to May long rains of generally more than 171 percent of the season’s average across Kenya’s pastoral areas, pasture and water sources are expected to atypically remain above-normal through September. 

    Crop production

    • In the marginal areas, it is expected that total production will be average to above average despite variations within different counties. Maize production is likely to be average to 39 percent above average in Embu and Kwale, respectively, benefitting from the above-average rains but between 35 to 60 percent below average in Kilifi, Taita Taveta, and Meru due to flooding effects. Bean and Irish potato production is likely to be above average, except for beans in Meru due to excessive rainfall. In the flood-stricken areas, replanting of crops is likely in late June, resulting in delayed, but average to above-average harvests beginning in September.
    • In the unimodal areas, total maize and Irish potato production is projected to be near to above average for both crops. However, beans, affected by fungal infections caused by excessive moisture, diseases, and pest infestations during the season, will likely be 10 to 20 percent below average.

    Fall Armyworm (FAW)

    • According to the State Department of Agriculture and various county departments, FAW infestations are currently below 15 percent and will likely remain at 10 to 15 percent throughout the scenario period due to the mitigating effect of the heavy March to May rains and as local farmers take advantage of readily available and affordable pesticides prepositioned by various county departments of agriculture.

    Markets and Trade

    • Based on an analysis of current prices and drivers, FEWS NET’s integrated price projections show that wholesale staple food prices in the urban market of Nairobi, a reference for the entire country, are likely to remain below 2017 levels and the five-year average. Wholesale maize prices between June and September are expected to range from 13 to 14 percent below average, and from October, with expected favorable unimodal harvests, further dropping to 16 to 17 percent below average. Prices are expected to range from KES 26 – 32 per kilogram. Dry bean prices are expected to range between KES 52 – 63 per kilogram through January 2019. Prices are expected to be 14 percent below average in June and gradually drop to their lowest level in December at 22 percent below five-year averages.


    • According to historic seasonal trends, fluctuations in acute malnutrition are expected during the scenario period, particularly with the typical seasonal decline in food access during the dry lean season from July to September and as waterborne diseases increase, including diarrhea in the flooded areas, and at the start of the short rainy season in October, aggravating wasting levels. However, the above-average performance of the 2018 long rains are likely to have widespread positive impacts until the next rainy season, increasing access and consumption of milk, food, including cereals, tubers, and vegetables, which will improve general levels of acute malnutrition across the country. Nevertheless, high but typical Critical levels (Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM, 15-29.9 percent) of acute malnutrition are likely to be sustained through June to January 2019 in Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Garissa, Wajir, and parts of Baringo counties, primarily driven by non-food security related factors, including poor childcare feeding practices and lack of suitable access to health facilities. Typical Serious levels (GAM 10-14.9 percent) of acute malnutrition are anticipated in Isiolo, Laikipia, and Tana River.

    Health and Diseases

    • Water and vector-borne diseases are expected to rise from June through August, as flooding that contaminated water sources and increased stagnant water amounts will likely increase the prevalence of cholera, other diarrheal diseases, and malaria. Reduced access to health facilities due to damaged infrastructure and flooding of some facilities is likely to exacerbate the situation.

    Rift Valley Fever (RVF)

    • Through the end of August, there is an increased risk of outbreaks of RVF in areas that experienced flooding, particularly in the Rift Valley, Tana River, Garissa, Mandera, Kilifi, Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, and Isiolo, affecting both people and livestock. The spread of the disease will be driven by large occurrences of stagnant water that provide the habitat for the Aedes mosquitoes, the disease vector, and the handling of tissue and fluids of infected livestock. However, implementation of Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response and interventions by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is likely to assist with control measures, which may include additional quarantines outside the current ones in Marsabit and Wajir.


    June to September 2018: Food security is projected to remain relatively stable buoyed by the effects of the significantly above-average March to May long rains and further improved from late-June by the near-average long rains harvests, except in the flood-affected areas. Forage and water resources are projected to last to the next rains in October and expected to support livestock productivity, especially average to above-average livestock prices and near-average milk production. The long rains crop harvests will improve food security in the marginal agricultural areas by providing likely above-average casual wage labor income-earning opportunities and increasing household food availability through late August to early September. Beginning in July, there will be a significant decrease in malnutrition, especially for children under five years of age as household dietary diversity and food consumption increase, resulting in more poor households experiencing None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity as adequate harvests increase food availability and income opportunities. In less severely flood-affected areas along the rivers, where crops were destroyed and replanting was done, households will experience some relief in early September as their replanted crops are harvested, improving their food security. This will include households in flood-affected riverine areas in Mandera and Turkana, which are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, in Tana Riverine Zone, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the presence of humanitarian assistance are projected to persist through September for the previously inaccessible, cut-off households. Also, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to continue through September in Wajir and parts of Marsabit (Moyale, Saku) due to the impacts of RVF; in parts of Isiolo (Cherab), Garissa (Dadaab, Ijara), and Tana River (Wayu) due to drought-related livestock losses and likely insufficient access to water; portions of Marsabit (Sololo and Saku) due to crop failure over successive seasons; and parts of Turkana (Kapedo/Napeitom) due to high insecurity levels. In addition, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will likely be experienced by some poor households, though insufficient to result in area classifications, due to a combination of the above factors in Baringo, Kitui, Laikipia, Narok, Samburu, Kilifi, Kajiado, Meru North, Tharaka Nithi, and West Pokot.   

    October 2017 to January 2018: From October, the forecasted above-average short rains are expected to intensify crop production activities, with households in the marginal and pastoral areas maximizing the area planted in order to get a good harvest, resulting in above-average casual labor opportunities and income for most households. The average to above-average harvests from the unimodal areas will become available from October through January, coupled with the above-average cross-border imports from neighboring Tanzania and Uganda, below-average prices for both maize and beans are expected to prevail, keeping food availability and access high at the household level. Improvements in rangeland resources are expected to build on those of the previous season and bring about more robust improvements, especially in terms of milk production, which is expected to achieve normalcy even in the counties previously hit by drought, improving household nutritional status. In December, short cycle crops in marginal areas are expected, and together with improving milk availability, these will improve the dietary diversity and food consumption at the household level. More households are expected to improve to None (IPC Phase 1) in January as food security increases; however, some households, particularly those in areas affected by flooding (Tana River, Kisumu, Turkana, Mandera), RVF (Wajir, Marsabit), conflict and insecurity (Turkana), will likely be able to meet their basic food requirements in January but will forgo essential non-food needs and remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In addition, if localized flooding reoccurs in Tana River and Kilifi during the short rains, it may result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes for some poor households due to previously affected livelihoods. 

    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 This image shows the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDV), Percent of Median, for June 11-20, 2018. Across most areas

    Figure 1

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDV), Percent of Median, June 11-20, 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    This map shows March 1 to May 30, 2018, CHIRPS rainfall as a percent of the 1981-2010 average. Across most areas of Kenya, ra

    Figure 2

    March 1 to May 30, 2018, CHIRPS rainfall (Percent of the 1981-2010 average)

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Western and Rift Valley of Kenya: Long rains are from mid-February until mid-August. Planting is from April until July. Long

    Figure 3


    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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