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Above-average October to December short rains expected to increase food security

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • October 2015 - March 2016
Above-average October to December short rains expected to increase food security

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partners
    Government of Kenya
    Key Messages
    • Most areas of western and central Kenya are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as the long rains harvest and imports continue to keep markets well supplied. Food security is likely to improve further following the start of the short rains in October and the start of the long rains harvest in the northern Rift Valley. However, above-average October to December short rains may result in damage to crops and post- harvest losses.

    • In pastoral areas, above-average short rains are likely to increase the availability of rangeland resources and eventually increase livestock productivity, increasing both milk production and income from livestock sales. Improvements in household food consumption are expected starting in November. Most pastoral households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while some will move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December. Areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in October, which received hardly any rain in 2015, are expected to move into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as herds slowly recover and households gain better access to labor markets.

    • In marginal agricultural areas, the likely above-average October to December short rains will lead to an increase in area planted and encourage more investment of time and resources into agriculture. Higher demand for agricultural labor will increase household incomes, increasing food access from markets almost immediately. After short-cycle crops like legumes are harvested by December, households will have food from their own production. Most households are expected to move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December and remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through at least March.

    • During the forecast above-average October to December short rains, flash floods in lowland areas, river flooding, and lake shore flooding are likely. Flooding will displace households, increase the incidence of water- and vector-borne diseases, and limit physical and economic access to markets. Some flooded areas may move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The harvest of long rains crops from high-, medium-, and low-potential agricultural areas in August entered the markets and increased traders’ stocks. Market supply from cross-border imports also increased between June and September. In September, cross-border imports of maize, rice, sorghum, and beans were 150, 15, 60, and 50 percent higher than June, respectively. Maize imports from Uganda were up to 67 percent above the two-year average. The State Department of Agriculture's August food security report estimated national maize stocks at 1.3 million metric tons (MMT) as of the beginning of September 2015, similar to levels in 2013 and 2014 for this time of year. The stocks were held by farmers, traders, millers, and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). As a result of typical supply during the harvest, maize prices are stable or falling across Kenya. Wholesale maize prices in urban markets continued to decline marginally from August to September, as is the seasonal trend. September prices were six to 12 percent above 2014 prices in Nairobi and Mombasa, but they were up to 10 percent below 2014 in Kisumu and Eldoret.

    The food component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose gradually from July to September. September 2015 prices were 9.81 percent above prices in September 2014. Overall, consumer price inflation rose marginally to 5.97 percent in September at an annualized rate from 5.84 percent in August. Prices of many foods, including maize, wheat flour, rice, beans, and milk remain above their averages. In the formal, urban economy, many wages are stagnant while food prices are rising, likely leading to reduced purchasing power for poor, urban households closely linked into the formal economy.

    In marginal agricultural, agropastoral, and pastoral areas, food security seasonally deteriorated with the early start of the lean season in July and August. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s (KFSSG) long rains assessment in August estimated that about 1.1 million people were acutely food insecure and required humanitarian assistance. This was 32 percent higher than the February estimate made during the short rains assessment.

    In pastoral areas, the availability of rangeland resources seasonally declined and their quality deteriorated. As a result, livestock productivity declined, and many more livestock have poor body conditions than earlier in the year. This has led to a further decrease in livestock prices from August to September. Low livestock prices, low or no milk production, and poor livestock body conditions mean that households have even less income than in a typical lean season. With low incomes and well above-average staple food prices, households have limited purchasing power. The majority of households in pastoral areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, there was considerably less rainfall in eastern Isiolo and western Wajir and livestock in these areas are thus less productive. In these areas, some households remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as they are unable to access adequate quantities of food.

    In the marginal agricultural areas, with the start of the lean season in August, households no longer earned income from agricultural labor, during a time when they relied on market purchases. As a result, households used petty trading, construction labor, and other types of labor to earn income to buy food. Demand for agricultural labor started early this year in September/early October as land preparation and planting began early. The majority of households are thus able to afford food, but they lack enough income to pay for other essential items and invest in their livelihoods, so they remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    The following assumptions have been made at the national level:

    • According to the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and a wide variety of other forecasts, the El Niño is likely to continue through December, meaning that cumulative October to December rainfall is likely to be above average with a timely start in most parts of the country. These short rains are also expected to have typical spatial and temporal distribution, with rains extending to January in some parts of the country. However, in most areas, the rains are expected to end near a typical time in December.
    • Despite typical supply, staple food prices are likely to increase gradually through January. This increase will be driven by expected disruptions to trade during the rains, both that are typical of the rainy season and those caused by floods. Another driver of the increase will be the expected gradual increase in fuel prices. However, staple food prices are likely to fall or remain stable, as the likely above-average short rains harvest starts to enter markets in February.
    • Long rains crop production in high- and medium-potential agricultural areas is expected to be average to above average due to the above-average March to May long rains as well as government input subsidies. According to the KFSSG’s long rains assessment, long rains maize production is projected to be approximately 2.8 million metric tons (MMT), roughly 12 percent above the five-year average. Notably though, the short rains may occur while the harvest is ongoing or just completed in the northern Rift Valley, specifically in Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu Counties. If this occurs, post-harvest losses may be much higher than in recent years.
    • Due to the expected above-average October to December rains, short rains planted area is likely to be higher than usual.
    • As a result of higher planted area and above-average rainfall, the short rains harvest is likely to be above average.
    • The above-average October to December rains are expected to improve and increase food security in many parts of Kenya, especially in pastoral areas, the central highlands, and southeastern and coastal lowlands. However, they are also likely to cause flooding of rivers and lakes and cause flash floods in some lowland areas, especially in the Northeast and near the coast.
    • Floods may lead to outbreaks of human and livestock diseases, including Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in cattle and diseases such as malaria, acute watery diarrhea (AWD), cholera, typhoid, and dysentery in humans. Floods are likely to cause displacement of households and loss of livestock. They limit access to markets by making roads impassable. Flood-prone areas include Western Lakeshore Marginal Mixed Farming livelihood zone in Nyando, Migori, Rachuonyo, Kisumu, Busia and Siaya Counties, Coastal Marginal Agricultural Mixed Farming livelihood zone in Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Kwale Counties, Southern Pastoral livelihood zone in Kajiado and Narok Counties, Northeastern Pastoral livelihood zone in Wajir, Mandera, and Isiolo Counties, Southeastern Pastoral livelihood zone in Tana River and Garissa Counties, Northwestern Pastoral livelihood zone in Turkana County, and Northern Pastoral livelihood zone in Marsabit County.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In most central and western areas, food security is expected to improve through December as the harvest in the northern Rift Valley, the primary grain basket, starts in October. However, heavy rainfall from October to December is more likely this year and coincides with the harvest. Episodes of heavy, later than usual rains could cause extensive damage to both crops in the field and harvested crops. High moisture content, mold growth, and other problems could arise making maize less suitable for milling or storage. Maize stocks stood at 1.3 million metric tons at the beginning of September, according to the State Department of Agriculture. However, with continued harvest and imports, stocks are likely to still stand around 1.16 MMT by December.

    In pastoral areas, after the start of the short rains in October, availability of rangeland resources will increase, and their quality will improve. As a result, livestock productivity will increase. Households will have more milk to consume, and their income will increase from milk and livestock sales. Increased household food consumption is expected, starting in November. Although the majority of households will still be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), some households will improve to None (IPC Phase 1) by December and remain there through at least the start of the next rainy season in March. In the areas that were very dry in 2015 and are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), most are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as households gain more income and access to milk. Households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least the start of the next rainy season in March. However, lower livestock holdings in these areas will prevent most households from moving into None (IPC Phase 1).

    In marginal agricultural areas, the start the short rains is expected to lead to higher-than-normal demand for agricultural labor as a result of increased planting and investment in agriculture. Higher labor demand and wage rates will increase incomes, supporting increased market purchases. By December, households will start to consume and sell short-cycle crops, further increasing consumption. As households consume more food and a more diverse diet, most households are expected to move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to None (IPC Phase 1) and to remain there through at least the end of the harvest in March.

    However, during the above-average October to December short rains, flash floods, river flooding, and lakeside flooding are likely across many areas. Flooding is likely to displace households, increase the incidence of water- and vector-borne diseases, limit access to markets due to submerged or damaged roads, and lead to the loss of life. Some of the flooded areas may move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3). With the rains expected to subside in January, previously flooded areas will quickly return to normal. Households will resume income-earning activities and supply routes will again be open. These areas will move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), likely by March.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 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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