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Improvements in food security expected as short rains resume

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Improvements in food security expected as short rains resume

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Food security deteriorated during the August to October lean season, especially in the northern pastoral areas and the marginal agricultural areas. An estimated 1.5 million people remain acutely food insecure in these areas.

    • Household food security is expected to improve in the southeastern marginal agricultural areas starting in November due to availability of short-cycle crops, increased household incomes, and the expected stability or decline in food prices. The majority of households will move to None (IPC Phase 1) by January or February, when the short rains harvest becomes available.

    • In the pastoral areas, improvements in rangeland conditions due to the short rains are expected to improve household food security, as livestock products become available and household income increase. Most households will move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by March 2015.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Food security continued to deteriorate during the August to October lean season, especially in the northeastern pastoral areas, parts of the northwestern pastoral areas, and the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas. According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG’s) long rains assessment report published in August 2014, an estimated 1.5 million people remain acutely food insecure, predominantly in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. Compared to last year, this food insecure population is 75 percent higher.

    One of the primary drivers of food insecurity in the country was the cumulative effects of two consecutive seasons with below-average rainfall: the October to December 2013 short rains and the March to May 2014 long rains. Other contributing factors included staple-food and non-food prices that are above their five-year averages, conflicts in some pastoral areas, and crop diseases in the high potential areas, which have reduced national maize production. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) September report shows that over the last six months, inflation increased 33 percent between March and August 2014. Inflationary pressure from the past six months increased the cost of living against relatively constant household incomes, eroding the purchasing power of poor households. Inflation decreased slightly in September.

    National stocks of staple foods such as maize, beans, rice, and wheat increased from July to September, partly due to domestic production but also as a result of imports from neighboring countries. This resulted in a gradual, seasonal decline in staple food prices. Wholesale September maize prices in the major urban markets of Nairobi, Eldoret, Kisumu, and Mombasa declined 15 to 25 percent between July and September, but they remained up to 18 percent above their five-year averages.

    The impacts of the below-average long rains in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas resulted in deterioration in food security. In pastoral areas, livestock were migrated to dry season grazing areas early. This left some household members without access to milk, other livestock products, and in some cases, the associated income. This has reduced household food consumption. Poor rangeland conditions resulted in poor livestock health, resource-based conflict as competition for resources increased, and reduced household incomes. Most areas are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Some areas received even less rainfall for two consecutive seasons, and had worse rangeland conditions, as the availability of resources quickly eroded during the June to September dry season. Earlier conflict in parts of Mandera and Wajir also destroyed some assets and caused displacement, and many of these households resorted to more extreme coping mechanisms during the dry season. Thus, parts of Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, and Baringo Counties are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) (See “Current food security outcomes” map).

    In marginal agricultural and in agropastoral areas, the below-average March to May long rains led to very few crops being harvested, which reduced local food availability and increased the amount of food households needed to purchase from markets. Households in these areas are able to meet their minimum food needs, but they are unable to cover all essential non-food needs. They remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Ongoing humanitarian interventions by the national government, county governments, and other development partners are playing a critical role in preventing further deterioration of food security conditions in these areas and in pastoral areas.

    Despite worsening food security in both pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, other parts of the country reported improved food security. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, harvesting of long rains crops continued in many parts of the country from July to September. Average-to-above-average June to August rainfall in the high potential areas also contributed to the stable food access as crops developed normally and associated on-farm labor opportunities were available.

    Harvesting of the long rains maize crop is complete in the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, southern areas of what was once Nyanza and Western Provinces, the southern parts of the Rift Valley, and agropastoral areas in the Northeast. The long rains maize harvest in the northern Rift Valley, northern areas of what was once Nyanza and Western Provinces, and most of the former Central Province have just started.


    The following key assumptions have been made at the national level:

    • The October to December short rains are forecast to be normal to above-normal in amount in the southeastern, marginal, agricultural areas in Kitui, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, and the coastal marginal agriculture areas in Kilifi, Kwale, and Lamu, and pastoral areas in the eastern parts of Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Tana River, Garissa, and Wajir. However, pastoral areas of Turkana, the western parts of Marsabit and Samburu, Baringo, Kajiado, Narok, and the southern parts of Kitui, Makueni, and Taita Taveta Counties are likely to have near-normal to below-normal rainfall. The start and end of the rains are expected to be mostly timely with distribution both over time and space being mostly normal. However, the normal pattern for these rains is for somewhat erratic distribution over time and scattered spatial distribution.
    • Maize prices are expected to remain mostly stable through December, driven by increased imports from Uganda and Tanzania and the availability of the long rains harvest from high-potential areas expected to enter markets starting in November. A gradual decline in prices is expected from January through March as alternatives to maize become available, easing maize demand and as the short rain’s maize harvest becomes available in February/March.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From October to December, gradual improvements in food security are expected. Most of the harvested maize crop from the high- and medium-potential areas, especially the northern Rift Valley, is expected to enter the market from November onwards. Along with continued importation of maize from Uganda and Tanzania, supplies will remain adequate in most markets. As a result, maize prices in most markets are expected to remain stable or gradually decline through December. Due to the below-average long rains and losses to maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND), the national long rains maize production is expected to be up to 30 percent below the five-year average of 2.7 million metric tons (MMT).

    Once the short rains start in October, many sources of food and income seasonally will become more available. Improvements in livestock productivity are expected in November after the rains have led to improved rangeland conditions. Most livestock are expected to be migrated back to the wet season grazing areas near homesteads. Increased milk availability and availability of short-cycle crops will likely help moderate high malnutrition rates, especially in pastoral areas. In the marginal agricultural areas, the start of the short rains will trigger increased agricultural labor demand, resulting in increased household incomes. With increased household incomes and stable staple food prices, households’ purchasing power will increase, leading to increased food consumption. The majority of households in the southeastern marginal agricultural areas, particularly in Kitui, Meru, Embu, and Tharaka Nithi, are likely to be able to meet their food and non-food needs by January and move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) into None (IPC Phase 1).However, southern Kitui, Makueni, and Taita Taveta Counties, where the risk of below-average rainfall is higher, are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Pastoral areas that are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and are likely to receive average to above-average amounts of rain, are likely to see some improvement in food security by December. Most households in these areas will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) around this time. While there is likely to be less rainfall in the Northwest, some improvement in food security is still expected through December with the majority of households remaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, a few localized areas are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, most pastoral households are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by March 2015.

    For more information on areas of concern during this outlook period, please download 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, October 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2014

    Source: 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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