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COVID-19 restrictions and flooding from above-average March-May rains drive acute food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • June 2020 - January 2021
COVID-19 restrictions and flooding from above-average March-May rains drive acute food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • COVID-19 control measures and flooding from the above-average March to May long rains have driven widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, with households in rural and urban areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) has increased from February 2020. Overall, the above-average March-May short rains led to favorable crop conditions across the country, except in parts of Taita Taveta and Makueni where the rains ended early in late April, and in Nyeri, where rainfall was excessive. Food availability continues to improve with the harvest of early planted crops, vegetables, and green harvests.

    • As of June 30, 2020, Kenya has reported 6,366 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 148 fatalities. The rising number of COVID-19 cases has led to a 30-day extension of the national curfew, social distancing requirements, and enforcement of containment zones at Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. The movement restrictions in and out of Nairobi metropolitan area, Mombasa, and Mandera have negatively impacted household incomes, and this alongside increases in food and non-food commodity prices is affecting urban poor households' capacity to meet their basic food and non-food needs.

    • In May, the price of maize was 8-22 percent above the five-year average in Nairobi, Garissa, and Mandera, while bean prices were 14-38 percent above average in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Makueni and Kitui due to increased demand, and a slowdown in cross-border trade flows due to mandatory COVID-19 testing/screening. Across both urban and rural markets, prices are average or below-average due to traders dumping of stocks in anticipation of the long rains harvests, the availability of substitutes, and lower-priced cross-border imports.    

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist across pastoral areas as below-normal livestock assets from previous poor seasons and limited incomes impact poor households’ ability to meet their non-food needs. Despite this, milk production is above average across most counties and average to above-average goat-to-maize terms of trade is supporting poor pastoral households meeting their food needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in Tana Riverine and Mandera Riverine livelihood zones due to successive flooding events that have led households to lose their crops, homes, and access to typical livelihood activities.

    • Seasonal forecasts suggest that a below-average October to December 2020 short rains season is likely. While pasture and vegetation conditions across much of the country are well above the median currently, a deterioration is likely in late 2020. Preliminary research suggests there is a possibility for a below-average March to May 2021 season, which will likely result in an increase in acute food insecurity in 2020 due to consecutive below-average rainfall seasons.


    Current Situation

    The performance of the March to May long rains and the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the progress of the agricultural season, livestock sales, market functioning, and income-generating activities, leading to a deterioration in food security outcomes at the household level in urban areas, and in the Tana and Mandera Riverine livelihood zones.

    The recently ended March to May long rains were average to above-average across much of the country, with some parts of the Northwestern Pastoral, Northern Pastoral, Northeastern Pastoral, Eastern Pastoral, Northeastern Agropastoral, Southeastern Pastoral, and Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming livelihood zones receiving over double the amount of rainfall typically received during the season (Figure 1). Heavy rainfall in April resulted in flooding in low-lying and riverine areas, and landslides in hilly areas across the country.

    In May, the Kenya Red Cross Society and the National Disaster Operations Centre reported that the floods displaced approximately 18,000 households and caused 237 deaths, affecting 160,000 households across 30 counties. In mid-May, around 7,000 people were displaced in Tana River and Garissa counties as the Tana River burst its banks due to heavy rains upstream. Currently, displaced households are sheltering in crowded facilities where adherence to social distancing and sanitary facilities are inadequate, increasing susceptibility to COVID-19. The country-wide 21:00-04:00 hours curfew has contributed to slower response efforts than normal. The flooding has also increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks. Currently, there is a cholera outbreak in Marsabit with five registered cases in early June. There remains a risk for additional outbreaks of pneumonia, bilharzia, diarrhea, and cholera. 

    Crop and livestock production: In the high and medium potential agricultural areas, maize, sorghum, and beans are primarily in the vegetative to reproductive stages, with some crops nearing maturity and harvest. The planted area for maize, beans, and sorghum was 10-20 below targeted acreage due to heavy rains in February that delayed planting, and in April heavy rains caused widespread flooding that destroyed crops and eroded soil.  According to May field observations, crop conditions are mixed with the majority in ‘good’ condition. However, in areas affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding, the crops were in ‘fair’ to ‘poor’ condition.

    In the marginal agricultural areas, maize, green grams, cowpeas, beans, pigeon peas, millet, and sorghum are in the final stages of development. According to May field observations, grain crops ranged from the knee-high/flowering stage to maturity. Most crops were in ‘good’ condition, except in southeastern Kenya where a portion of maize crops planted in March was in ‘fair’ condition due to moisture stress from the early end of the long rains in April. In Nyeri, bean development is expected to be impacted by waterlogging due to the excessive rains.  

    Based on prevailing rainfall, wind, and vegetation conditions, the FAO’s Desert Locust Watch, and ICPAC indicate that climatic conditions have been most suitable for desert locust development. Currently, approximately 78 percent of desert locust swarms are concentrated in the Northwestern Pastoral, and Northern Pastoral livelihood zones (Figure 2). These swarms continue to pose a considerable threat to crops and pastures in Turkana and Marsabit; however, aerial spraying is ongoing to control the infestation. Hopper bands and groups have been sighted in Isiolo and Garissa but are being controlled by ground and vehicle-mounted spraying. Despite sightings of hoppers in El Wak in Wajir along the Kenya-Somalia border, access and control measures are limited due to insecurity in the area.  

    The March to May long rains have improved water availability for both domestic and livestock use. According to NDMA sentinel site data, the return trekking distances to domestic use water sources ranged from 7-85 percent below-average across the country. Return trekking distances were lowest in Nyeri, Kilifi, and Isiolo ranging from 0.2-1.8 kilometers, while the rest of the country ranged from 2.2-5.5 kilometers. Return trekking distances for livestock from grazing areas to water sources were 14 percent below-average in Wajir but 40-75 percent below-average across the rest of the pastoral areas, ranging from 2.6-8.5 kilometers. Compared to April, return trekking distances in Marsabit, Isiolo, and Wajir are increasing seasonally while return trekking distances in other pastoral areas are stable or decreasing due to above-average recharge of water sources.

    In pastoral areas, field reports indicate that the quality of pasture and browse remains ‘good’ and was stable between April and May, except in Mandera where the forage was mostly ‘fair’ and declining following the end of the March-May rains and poor regeneration in degraded areas. The above-average water and forage conditions continue to support livestock productivity and good body conditions for both grazers and browsers. According to NDMA sentinel site data, national milk production trends are mixed, ranging from 8-35 percent below-average in the Southeastern Marginal Mixed Farming, Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming, Northeastern Pastoral, and Northern Pastoral livelihood zones; within average in Wajir; and above-average across the rest of the country.

    Impacts of COVID-19: As of June 30, there were 6,366 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 148 fatalities, and 4,327 active cases in Kenya. Currently, 42 out of 47 counties have documented COVID-19 cases, with Nairobi and Mombasa being the most affected.

    According to the IMF, World Bank, and the African Union, Kenya’s GDP growth averaged 5.4 percent in 2019. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, GDP growth was projected to be around 5.7 percent in 2020, driven by significant private consumption, higher credit growth, and rising public and private investment. However, the IMF now expects GDP growth to shrink by 0.3 percent. Kenyan vegetable and fruit exporters are shipping 25-30 percent of their normal capacity, while flower exports have fallen by more than 50 percent of average. The tourism industry, which provides over 1.1 million jobs, has been significantly affected by the halt of international flights and social distancing measures. The grounding of both local and international flights has led to over 139,000 people in the airline industry being sent home on unpaid leave since early April. Currently, 42 percent of manufacturers are operating at less than half of their capacity and have reduced the number of permanent employees to cut down on costs.

    Since late March the government has put in place several restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 such as border closures except for cargo, a nightly curfew, social distancing measures, and mandatory mask-wearing. In early May, targeted mass-testing was rolled out in Nairobi and Mombasa, followed by a cessation of movement order in and out of Eastleigh (Nairobi) and Old Town (Mombasa) which was lifted on June 6, 2020. Social distancing measures are being enforced, including public transport which can only carry passengers at 60 percent of capacity. Government and private-sector workers have been encouraged to work from home. Currently, there is a nationwide curfew from 21:00 to 04:00 hours. Truck drivers are required to undergo mandatory testing at border crossings, and Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps have been declared containment zones.

    Across urban areas, households are facing food price increases due to a premium put on commodities at the onset of the pandemic, a general slowdown in trade, and compounded by below normal income. Poor households have had reduced income opportunities due to the nationwide curfew, movement restrictions in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Mandera counties, and restrictions on business operations. Additionally, many households have been unable to travel to rural areas where stronger social bonds and opportunities to farm may improve food security. A study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics conducted in May 2020 reported that 43.2 percent of the surveyed population was out of work. Out of this population, 49.9 percent are staying home due to lockouts from work and unpaid leave, 16.6 percent due to slowed operations, and 13.4 percent due to lay-offs. Approximately 91.2 percent of the out of work population reported being unsure when they are likely to return to work. The reduction in work has led to an estimated 31 percent of households being unable to pay rent in April. Renters have been granted leniency, but some landlords are evicting tenants for non-payment. The cost of transportation also increased by at least 50 percent. The Government of Kenya has put in place some interventions such as 100 percent tax relief for low-income earners, a reduction of the value-added tax (VAT) from 16 to 14 percent, and cash transfers to the elderly, orphans, and other vulnerable members of society totaling 10 billion KES.

    Markets and Trade: Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, markets were closed for fumigation, but have since reopened with a reduced number of traders and social distancing rules of 1.5 meters. At the borders, the testing of truck drivers for COVID-19 has slowed the movement of goods due to test results taking up to two weeks as samples are transported to Nairobi for analysis. In March, the government of Kenya issued a gazette notice for the importation of two million bags of white maize for human consumption to avert a possible flour crisis amid projections that stocks were to run out by April. However, regional imports persisted despite border-related delays mitigating fears that stocks would run out. The vessels are expected to begin arriving in late June due to delays caused by the late notice and global COVID-19 related constraints.

    Maize prices are 8-22 percent above-average in Nairobi, Garissa, and Mandera, respectively, impacted by the movement restrictions that were imposed on Nairobi and Mandera and the closure of the Somalia and Ethiopia borders, which ultimately slowed down cross-border trade. In Kitui, Turkana, Makueni, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta markets prices are 9-13 percent below average, while in other markets prices remain close to average due to a combination of low household income reducing demand, continued cross-border imports from Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda,  and the availability of harvests from early planted and short-cycle crops. Bean prices remained within the five-year average in Nyeri, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta due to the recent bean harvest and availability of substitutes like cowpeas and green grams. Across the rest of the country, bean prices are 14-38 percent above average due to dwindling household stocks and low supply in the markets resulting in increased demand.

    Despite COVID-19 related restrictions, livestock markets remain stable with minimal disruptions to trade. Goat prices across most pastoral areas are 8-29 percent above average, with prices in Garissa 66 percent above average. These prices are attributed to improved livestock body conditions supported by above-average rangeland resources and reduced market supply as livestock owners hold onto their stock to increase herd sizes. The goat-to-maize terms of trade are lowest in Mandera where the sale of a goat buys 49 kg of maize, 10 percent below the five-year average. Across the rest of the pastoral markets, the terms of trade are average to 47 percent above average, purchasing around 50–76 kg of maize per goat.

    Humanitarian assistance: Interannual and emergency food assistance to food-insecure households across the country continue. The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) administered by NDMA provides bi-monthly cash transfers of 5,400 KES (51 USD) to 100,000 households in the pastoral counties of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, and Turkana year-round. In May, WFP assisted 797,929 people with 3,070 MT of food assistance and cash transfers of 3.3 million USD. The Government of Kenya is also providing various safety nets including a monthly cash transfer of 2,000 KES (19 USD) to an additional 2.15 million households with orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly, and persons with severe disabilities. In Nairobi, emergency cash transfers of 5,654.50 KES (53.5 USD) was disbursed to 1,504 vulnerable households in May within informal settlements by the Urban Early Warning Action (UEWA) consortium as assistance to mitigate the effects of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Urban area outcomes: In January 2020, data from a SMART survey collected in informal settlements of Nairobi pointed to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Since the start of the implementation of measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kenya in early March, the impacts of the stay at home orders, national curfew, and movement restrictions have reduced household incomes in informal settlements. Elevated staple food prices have resulted in a decline in household consumption, driving households to increasingly apply more consumption-based and livelihood coping strategies. Before COVID-19, approximately 50 percent of urban poor’s income was spent on food purchases. The May 2020 KAP survey carried out in Nairobi reported that 74 percent of households reported eating less or skipping a meal compared to 68 percent of respondents in April; with 80 percent indicating that their children are also skipping meals or eating less; 10 percent of participants also reported forgoing medical services because they could not afford it. Approximately 21 percent of the informal settlement population are receiving humanitarian assistance; however, it is estimated that only a third of the population receiving assistance is being reached with food assistance, while the majority are receiving non-food items such as soap and hand sanitizer. The lack of proper targeting of assistance also remains a major concern to the government. To mitigate this, the government banned all uncoordinated distribution of humanitarian assistance and is currently undertaking a nationwide targeting exercise to identify households in need of assistance. Due to elevated food prices, lack of income-earning opportunities, and length of time under COVID-19 related restrictions, it is anticipated that most urban poor households in major urban areas (Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru, and Kisumu) are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Less than 20 percent of households are facing food consumption gaps or only marginally meeting their minimum food needs by adopting crisis-coping strategies and are likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Pastoral area outcomes: In pastoral areas, the consecutive above-average rainfall seasons have resulted in above-average forage and water resources that have supported livestock productivity. Based on current milk production levels of 1.2-2.9 liters per day, the typical poor household is likely consuming some goat or cow milk several days per week. Above-average livestock productivity and milk production are maintaining above-average goat-to-maize terms of trade, coupled with other income sources such as seasonal charcoal and firewood sales, and interannual safety nets are driving a relative improvement in dietary quality and quantity among most poor households. However, below-normal livestock assets from previous poor seasons and limited market access are restricting poor household food and income sources. Households can meet their food but not their non-food needs. Chronic food insecurity remains of concern. According to NDMA sentinel site data, the use of consumption-based coping strategies as measured by rCSI ranged from 7.1-15.7 across pastoral areas. Additionally, May 2020 NDMA sentinel site data for Garissa, Marsabit, and Mandera, where global acute malnutrition (GAM) was measured by Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC <135mm) showed that children under five years of age considered “at-risk” of acute malnutrition ranged from 9.3-17.9 percent and was 19-31 percent below average due to improved household milk consumption.

    Due to households having below-normal livestock assets from previous poor seasons, limited market access, and restricted income sources they are able being able to meet their food but not non-food needs and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) on the area level. Poor households in Tana Riverine and Mandera Riverine livelihood zones are likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as they have been unable to recover from consecutive seasons of flooding which resulted in a significant reduction in assets and crop losses. The NDMA sentinel site data also suggests that some poor households in Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Turkana, and Garissa are experiencing food gaps and engaged in livelihood coping strategies that are indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Marginal area outcomes: Most households have depleted their food stocks and are primarily dependent on markets for food purchases. As the early planted and short-cycle crop harvests become available in June, food consumption is expected to remain stable or improve but is expected to be short-lived in Makueni, Taita Taveta, and Nyeri (Kieni) due to below-average crop conditions. As the main harvest nears, poor households are facing increasing food insecurity due to the expected below-average main harvest, below normal income from the reduced short-cycle crop sales, and diminished casual wage labor opportunities due to the early cessation of the March-May rains. According to NDMA sentinel site data, more than 80 percent of households in central and southeast regions reported an acceptable Food Consumption Score (FCS). However, at least 20 percent of households in Kwale, Makueni, and Nyeri, and Kwale counties reported borderline or poor FCS. Despite broad trends in FCS remaining stable or improving, the use of consumption-based coping strategies at the county level as measured by rCSI ranged from 1.2-15.6 across counties and broadly are increasing, except in Kitui where the average county rCSI score is decreasing. GAM analyzed from MUAC data collected at NDMA sentinel sites in February 2020 indicates that acute malnutrition is ‘Acceptable’ (GAM MUAC <5 percent) while data collected in May 2020 indicated that the proportion of children under five years of age at risk of malnutrition measured by MUAC (<135mm) which is 27-30 percent below the five-year average. 

    As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present across the marginal areas as a majority of households have exhausted their household food stocks and are dependent on markets to obtain staple food commodities in the face of below-normal income from casual labor, sale of crops, and employment salary all which have been affected by the performance of the rains, flooding, and indirect impacts of COVID-19 and are having difficulty meeting their non-food needs.


    The June 2020 to January 2021 most likely food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • According to the IMF, the Kenyan economy is expected to shrink for the first time in 27 years by 0.3 percent. However, the economy is expected to expand by 4 percent in 2021. Although most economic sectors are expected to be operating at near-normal levels by the end of the scenario period, the economic impacts of COVID-19 on private consumption, higher credit growth, and rising public and private investment will have already taken place. Flower and black tea exports are expected to return to near-normal levels by the end of the scenario period.
    • Based on cumulative rainfall to date and the NOAA/CPC and GHACOF forecasts, the February to August 2020 long rains season in western unimodal Kenya is most likely to be above average. However, rainfall from July to August is most likely to be average.
    • Based on forecasts from USGS and NOAA/CPC, the October to December 2020 short rains season in bimodal areas of Kenya is most likely to be below average. While there remains uncertainty due to the long-term nature of the forecast and the only slightly elevated likelihood of La Niña, the Horn of Africa is particularly sensitive to Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events, and there is relatively greater confidence in a negative IOD, which tends to drive below-average rainfall over the region.
    • According to the Desert Locust Global Forecast by FAO, the second-generation desert locust swarms will migrate northwards facilitated by the prevailing winds into Ethiopia and South Sudan reducing the prevalence in northern Kenya. It is expected that by mid-July less than 5 percent of the current swarm will remain in Kenya, causing minor damage to crop and rangeland resources. With the below-average October to December short rain forecast, a desert locust upsurge will remain a threat to crop and rangeland resources throughout the projection period particularly in the northeast and northwest parts of the country. With the change of monsoon winds during the October-December short rains season, there is a risk of re-invasion from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen into Kenya.   
    • Based on funding levels for a national desert locust response in Kenya, available and planned procurement of control equipment and products, and a continuation of control operations despite COVID-19, control operations are expected to continue surveillance and aerial, vehicle-mounted, and ground spraying across all affected counties to curb infestations. Funding is sufficient for control operations through mid-September 2020. Currently, 76 percent of the 32.1 million USD revised appeal has been met.
    • Based on available information from the Ministry of Health and leading local and international health experts including the WHO, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is likely to rise between June and September due to both the spread of the virus and increased testing. Available models from the University of Nairobi and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine indicate that COVID-19 cases will likely peak between June and September. During this same period, the COVID-19 related restrictions like the nationwide curfew, mandatory testing at border points for truck drivers, enforcement of social distancing measures, and the ban on international flights are likely to remain in place through at least August. It is expected these measures will continue to impact business operating hours, employment opportunities, slow down the transportation of goods, and reduce business revenues.
    • Based on the government’s directives, the nationwide curfew will remain in place through at least August 1, 2020. Also, all movement of persons and passengers into and out through the Kenya-Tanzania and Kenya-Somali borders, except for cargo, is prohibited indefinitely. The easing or expansion of the curfew and inter-county and border movement restrictions will likely vary depending on the trajectory of confirmed cases. This scenario assumes that current restrictions will most likely be extended through September and eased from October onward.
    • Kenya’s maize supply is expected to be adequate to meet the 2019/2020 national consumption throughout the scenario period despite border closures with Uganda and Ethiopia slowing down cross-border trade in food commodities due to COVID-19 control measures such as driver testing and health checks. The importation of approximately 4 million bags (360,000 MT) of maize from abroad for human consumption and livestock feed from mid- June through late July is expected to increase local maize supply. For the remainder of the scenario period, the maize supply will be filled by local production and regional imports.
    • The March to May long rains crop production is expected to be slightly below average following above-average rainfall that flooded and waterlogged soils that rotted pulses. In marginal agricultural areas, moisture stress from the early cessation of rains in late April and the lack of significant rainfall through May has impacted the maize crop. It is therefore expected that there will be a below-average maize harvest in July. Due to the below-average harvest, harvest labor demand is likely to be below average in July and August resulting in below-average household income.
    • According to the Ministry of Agriculture estimates, the long rains crop harvest in October in unimodal areas is expected to be slightly below average for maize, beans, and green grams due to excessive rainfall and a dry spell at the crop flowering stages in some counties.
    • Livestock prices driven by above-average forage and water resources are expected to remain above-average due to favorable body conditions, and livestock owners holding on to their livestock to restock their herds. However, with reduced income earnings from casual wage labor due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, livestock owners may increase dependence on livestock sales and increase market supply slightly moderating prices. Livestock prices are expected to follow seasonal trends at elevated levels. Periodic market closures are likely to occur due to COVID-19 or Rift Valley Fever (RVF) outbreaks. Prices in neighboring markets are expected to experience fluctuations due to variations in supply.
    • Outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) will likely occur in Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Tana River, and Kilifi from late May following the above-average March to May long rains that have provided ideal habitats for RVF mosquito vectors. Heightened awareness, surveillance systems, and improved control measures at both the national and county level is likely to reduce the impacts of RVF compared to 2019 except in the insecure parts of Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa which may experience significant livestock infection and deaths.
    • Forage and water resources are expected to be above normal through September due to the above-average March to May long rains and current above-normal vegetative conditions. However, the forecast below-average, October to December short rains will likely result in only short-lived improvements of forage and water resources which will likely remain below average from October through January. Localized losses of forage from desert locusts are likely in the northern pastoral counties of Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, and Wajir.
    • Emergency humanitarian assistance is expected in the urban areas as WFP plans to disburse cash transfers equivalent to 50-75 percent of daily kilocalorie needs to 70,500 households in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Following a reduction in rations from WFP due to funding constraints, all 410,000 people in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee settlements are expected to continue receiving 70 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs through food assistance throughout the scenario period. From August to October, additional households in Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, and Wajir counties are likely to receive emergency cash transfers as part of a Hunger Safety Net Program (HSNP) emergency scale-up.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Urban area outcomes: It is likely that over 50 percent of local businesses will render their staff redundant over the year due to reduced revenue from COVID-19 related restrictions resulting in below-average business operations and a rise in unemployment significantly impacting household income and food consumption. Below-normal income will lead to households intensifying the application of both consumption and livelihood coping to bridge food consumption gaps. Although staple food prices are expected to drop following the stabilization of food imports, including international imports of maize beginning in mid-June, low household income will continue to limit demand and household food access. Increased unemployment is also likely to lead to more crime and insecurity as people become more desperate for income. With a projected peak of COVID-19 cases by September, restrictions will likely begin to be eased; however, income-earning opportunities will remain below average as the economy and businesses gradually recover through the scenario period. Poor urban households despite the gradual improvements in the economy will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes for much of the scenario period. However, area-level food security in urban areas is expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Pastoral area outcomes:  Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to be sustained in most pastoral livelihood zones, except in the insecure parts of Mandera, and the flood-affected areas of Tana River which are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Following the above-average March to May long rains, vegetation and water resources are expected to remain above-average across most pastoral areas except in localized areas of the northwest and northern pastoral areas where significant desert locust infestations are concentrated. Household income from livestock sales is not expected to be impacted by desert locust damage to rangelands as the damage has not been widespread. An increased likelihood of RVF outbreaks will likely result in quarantines and suspend livestock sales reducing household income. Households in affected areas will have to engage in coping strategies such as sending household members to eat elsewhere, purchasing food on credit, selling more animals than usual, selling productive assets, spending savings, borrowing money, and likely reducing expenses on health to meet their minimum food needs. Despite above-average goat-to-maize terms of trade across most pastoral areas, it remains below-average in Mandera and Turkana due to low livestock holdings among poor households.

    Beginning in October, the below-average October to November short rains will drive below average regeneration of pasture and rangeland resulting in below-average livestock productivity from early January. Average to below-average milk production will likely result in lower than normal income from milk sales. Livestock prices are projected to seasonally decline due to a seasonal decline in body conditions but remain average to above average due to the residual effects of the previous good season and partial regeneration of forage by the below-average rains, and as market supply is lowered as livestock are kept in the grazing areas to replenish the herds.  The terms of trade will be lowered by projected high maize prices that will reduce household food access. Livestock migration in early January is expected to increase herding labor opportunities as earlier-than-normal depletion of resources occurs. With lower livestock productivity, households are likely to depend more on charcoal and firewood sales, but remittances are expected to remain low as urban areas also recover economically. Poor households are expected to be able to afford their basic food needs but be unable to afford non-food needs at least through December and be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, with lower milk consumption increased malnutrition is likely. Some households will be able unable to meet basic food requirements without the application of more severe coping strategies and it is expected that Mandera East and Mandera West sub-counties will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as livestock productivity declines due to rapidly declining rangeland conditions, constrained livelihood activities, and market disruptions reducing food and income. Some households in Turkana, Marsabit, Tana River, and Wajir will also likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In addition to reduced food intake, chronic food and non-food factors like disease and poor child-care practices are likely to sustain high but typical ‘Critical’ levels of acute malnutrition across Mandera, Turkana, Isiolo, and Wajir counties, and in parts of Baringo (Tiaty/East Pokot), and Marsabit (Laisamis and North Horr) sub-counties.

    Marginal agricultural area outcomes: Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist throughout the scenario period as households are likely unable to meet their non-food needs due to below-average income from crop sales from the below-average long rains harvest and below-average casual labor opportunities of both the long and short rains seasons. Income constraints are expected to persist throughout the scenario period due to an increase in costs of staple food especially beans and non-food needs such as transport and expected below-average casual labor opportunities. In July, the long rains harvest will increase household food availability and income albeit momentarily. Despite below-average harvests from poor rainfall distribution, incoming regional and international imports will increase supply and drop staple food prices through September when the harvest from the high and medium rainfall areas becomes available increasing food access. In September, casual labor opportunities such as land preparation for crop production will provide income for households The October to December short rains, are forecast to be below-average and it is likely that cumulatively, the planting season will result in below-average income due to reduced planted acreage and crop losses. Households are likely to depend on market purchases for food. Households that are usually dependent on and supported by remittances from family members and relatives living in the urban areas will experience a significant reduction in income as households in the urban areas face reduced income-earning opportunities. As a result, households are expected to try and expand minor income sources such as petty trade and firewood and charcoal sales. Households are also expected to intensify the application of consumption-based and livelihood coping strategies such as borrowing money, purchasing food on credit, spending their savings, sending household members to eat elsewhere, and selling some female animals to meet their food needs. Acute malnutrition is expected to increase during the lean period along with reduced livestock productivity but remains within ‘Acceptable’ levels.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalAverage October to December short rains Average October to December short rains would maintain rangeland and livestock body improvements from the two previous well-performing rainy seasons. In pastoral areas, this will result in improved rangeland resources and livestock productivity, higher livestock prices, more household income, and reduced migration. More households would be expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the marginal agricultural areas, the average rains will provide a boost to the main production season providing at least average casual labor opportunities during the cropping season, and average income to households. Household food security would likely improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) driven by at least average crop production in December and increased food availability.  


    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 of Kenya

    Figure 1


    Current food security outcomes, June 2020. Northeastern, northern, and eastern Kenya are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Tana Riverin

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, June 2020

    Source: FEWS NET

    CHIRPS cumulative rainfall anomaly as a percent of the 1981-2018 mean, March-May 2020

    Figure 3

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Desert locust upsurge, June 20-26, 2020

    Figure 4

    Figure 2.

    Source: FAO

    NDVI as a percent of the 2003-2017 median, Jun 01 -10, 2020

    Figure 5

    Figure 3.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    The wholesale price of 90-kilogram bag of white maize, Nairobi urban reference markets

    Figure 6

    Figure 4.

    Source: Ministry of Agriculture data

    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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