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COVID-19 restrictions and forecast below-average Oct-Dec rains to heighten acute food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • October 2020 - May 2021
COVID-19 restrictions and forecast below-average Oct-Dec rains to heighten acute food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • In the pastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through the scenario period will persist with the worst affected households likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to below-average herd sizes, limited assets, low income-earning opportunities, and constrained livelihood activities impacting market access. The forecast below-average 2020 short rains and 2021 long rains are expected to lead to short-lived pasture and water regeneration, and gradual declines in livestock body conditions and production, limiting household access to food and income.

    • In the marginal agricultural areas, land preparation and planting activities in anticipation of the October to December short rains are providing average income to households. Below-average short and long rains are expected to drive below-average harvests and associated income earning activities, and households unable to improve their food stocks will become market dependent. Due to low income and higher-priced commodities impacting household purchasing power, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely through May 2021.

    • The Ministry of Health attributes the increase of over 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of October to increased testing following the receipt of 150,000 testing kits from donors. COVID-19 control measures such as the national 11.00 pm to 4.00 am curfew, containment of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, mandatory testing at borders for truck-drivers, and enforcement of social distancing rules remain in place.  Education institutions partially reopened across the country on October 12 with final year students in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions reporting back to school.

    • Following 130 percent of normal rainfall from February to September, flooding from the Lake Turkana and along the Turkwel River basins has displaced around 6,500 households in Kerio, Kalokol, Kang' atotha Lake zone wards in Turkana County and Loiyangalani ward in Marsabit County. The submergence of fishing equipment, boats, and homes located along Lake Turkana's shores is driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Fishing Livelihood Zone. The Turkwel Dam is currently at 92 percent capacity, and there remains a flood risk to downstream households located along River Turkwel.

    • Staple food prices in September were mixed and continue to be affected by COVID-19 related restrictions. Maize prices were mostly average to 12 percent below the five-year averages except in Kwale, Garissa, and Mandera markets where maize prices were 17-22 percent above average due to below-average production and constrained cross-border supply. Dry bean prices remained 9-24 percent above the five-year averages across all markets except in Taita Taveta, Nyeri, and Kisumu, where there was adequate supply from a combination of local harvests, available substitutes, and cross-border supplies.   


    Current Situation

    Household food security in pastoral areas remains relatively stable despite high food prices as above-average but seasonally decreasing rangeland resources continue to maintain good livestock body conditions, high livestock prices, and typical migration driving area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present among pastoral households with below-average herds, limited assets and low-income earning opportunities which are limiting market food purchases.   In the marginal agricultural areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist as households continue consuming dwindling food stocks from the long rains harvest and earning average income from land preparation activities in anticipation of the October to December short rains. However, high commodity prices are impacting household purchasing power and limiting household market access.

    The rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases is attributed to the  scale up of testing, lifting of measures to reopen the economy, disregard of existing containment measures, difficulties in contact tracing, and possible mutation of the virus resulting in reinfection. Despite the easing of COVID-19 control measures, household livelihoods, particularly urban poor households, remain impacted by the restrictions reducing market operations and by the slowdowns in the supply chain that keep prices high. Below-average activity in key sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, tourism, transport, and manufacturing, has driven employment losses and significantly reduced income-earning opportunities, particularly for urban poor households. An assessment of informal urban settlements in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu by WFP and the IPC TWG, reported that 63 percent of respondents indicated that the loss of income was impacting food access and driving household food insecurity. Additionally, 28-45 percent of households across the three cities reported not working in the last seven days preceding the assessment.

    Ongoing rains in Mt. Elgon and Cherang'any Hills catchments, located between Turkana and West Pokot counties, have filled the Turkwel Dam to 92 percent of capacity, its highest ever recorded level. According to reports, in September, the dam's average inflow was estimated at above 300 percent of the long-term average. There is a risk of the dam overflowing and flooding areas downstream in Turkana South, Loima, and Turkana Central. The dam overflowing risk may result in the displacement of around 50,000 households that inhabit the Turkwel River basin. The heavy rains have raised Lake Turkana to 800 meters, a 60 percent rise from normal, resulting in widespread flooding along the shorelines that have displaced 6,500 households, flooding homes and schools and forcing thousands to relocate. Fishing activities for the lake residents have been disrupted as homes, boats, and nets have been submerged, severely affecting their livelihoods.  

    Crop and livestock production: The long rains maize crop is at the peak of the harvesting stage in the high and medium potential agricultural areas. The harvest is expected to be average to above average. The anticipated increase in availability has reduced market prices as traders and farmers sell the previous season's stocks to markets. However, the ongoing rains continue to constrain harvesting and drying activities increasing the likelihood of both pre- and post-harvest losses. However, losses are still expected to be at normal levels of 12 percent or less.

    In the marginal agricultural areas, the main crops planted during the short rain are green grams, cowpeas, pigeon peas, maize, millet, and sorghum. Land preparation is currently underway as households prepare for the start of the October to December short rains. However, in Kilifi, harvesting of long rains cassava and amaranth is underway, while in Nyeri (Kieni), the planting of maize, beans, and potatoes is ongoing. Currently, the main source of agricultural income across marginal agricultural areas is casual labor and the sale of crops, which remain at average levels.

    According to the October Update of the FAO Desert Locust Upsurge for the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, Kenya has made significant progress in desert locust control.  Since the start of the invasion, the number of infested counties has fallen from 30 to one (Figure 2). The current success can be attributed to control measures, including the treatment of approximately 150,000 hectares since January 2020. There remain a few small maturing swarms in Samburu county, which are likely to breed during the short rains. However, Kenya remains at risk of further infestation from swarms currently breeding in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia as the wind direction is expected to shift from north to south, which is likely to drive the swarms towards northeast Kenya. Preparedness is high with ground control teams ready, and pesticide stocks are sufficient to last through March along with pre-positioned spraying assets.

    Following the above-average long rains, return trekking distances for domestic water remain below average, ranging from 2.2-11.9 kilometers, around 10-33 percent below the three-year average, but in Kilifi and Isiolo, domestic water trekking distances were 49 and 65 percent below average. However, In Garissa, Kwale, and Marsabit, domestic water trekking distances were 11, 21, and 58 percent above average, respectively, driven by the drying up of open water sources and breakdown of boreholes. Livestock return trekking distances from grazing areas to water sources in pastoral areas ranged from around 8 to 19 kilometers. In Garissa and Marsabit, livestock trekking distances were 9-19 percent above average due to the drying up and breakdown of important water sources. At the same time, other pastoral counties reported livestock trekking distances 16-47 percent below average. Across all areas, distances are increasing as water sources dwindle from use and dry up. Livestock watering frequencies continue to decline due to increased pressure at water points and increased distances to grazing areas.

    In pastoral areas, the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) indicates that greenness remains primarily above the 15-year median (Figure 3). As a result of forage and water availability, livestock body conditions are both good and fair across all pastoral areas. Livestock migration remains typical, with livestock moving within counties in Turkana and Marsabit. However, there has been atypical outmigration from Oldonyiro ward in Isiolo to the livestock ranches of Laikipia county due to depleted forage, leading to conflict along the county borders.

    In Garissa county, there have been reports of resource-based conflict between communities in Balambala and Isiolo South while the consistent threat of terror attacks from Al Shabaab along the Kenya-Somalia border continues to limit livelihood activities in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu counties.

    Impacts of COVID-19: In September, due to a reduction in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Health (MoH) indicated that the COVID-19 curve was flattening, prompting the President of the Republic of Kenya to ease some of the COVID-19 restrictions in a bid to open up the economy. This included reducing the curfew by two hours (11.00 pm to 4.00 am), allowing bars to reopen, and allowing alcohol sales by bars and restaurants. The number of people permitted to gather publicly was increased to one-third of capacity, and 200 people are now allowed at funerals and weddings. The economic stimulus packages have been extended through the end of 2020, providing relief on income, turnover, and value-added tax for individuals, companies, and Micro-, Small-, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). Following discussions with stakeholders, the Ministry of Education announced a phased reopening of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions allowing for mostly final year students and exam takers to resume their studies in strict conformity with the health ministry guidelines on the prevention of COVID-19, including social distancing and provision of disinfection booths.

    By October 29, there were 51,851 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya, including 950 fatalities and 15,643 active cases. Currently, all 47 counties have documented COVID-19 cases. Since mid-October, there has been a steady rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths, which health experts have termed as the second wave. On October 22, Kenya recorded its highest single day of infections, with 1,068 cases and a case positivity rate of 14.1 percent. Recent reports released by the MoH suggest the virus has progressively spread to rural areas, overwhelming health facilities. The President will deliver this year's State of the Nation Address on November 5 to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate a departure from the typical delivery between March and May. The speech is expected to address Kenya's COVID-19 situation. The COVID-19 National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) has identified five counties (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kericho, Nakuru, and Turkana) as coronavirus hotspots after a recorded surge in COVID-19 cases. Additional restrictions will likely be considered to mitigate further spread in these counties. There are concerns over the possibility of rural public health facilities unable to manage a rise in cases. Only 22 of the 47 counties have at least one intensive care unit (ICU). As of October 21, Kenya has 41 patients on supplementary oxygen and 27 patients admitted to ICU.

    Despite the gradual and partial easing of COVID-19 restrictions since June, poor households across urban areas continue to face income deficits and constrained access to food due to decreased labor demand and income opportunities coupled with higher than normal food prices of some key staples, such as beans. According to the Quarterly Labor Force report released in August by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the national unemployment rate has doubled, increasing to 10.4 percent in the second quarter (April-June) compared to 5.2 percent in the first quarter (January-March) of 2020. Also, below-average performance in manufacturing and processing, transportation and storage, wholesale and retail, and restaurants due to the COVID-19 restrictions has led to significant staff layoffs and compulsory leave of employees to minimize costs, impacting predominantly poor households. Despite near average staple food prices, job losses have significantly eroded poor urban households' purchasing power and constrained their food access. The growing food insecurity among the poor households in urban areas has prompted WFP to provide 4,000 KSH monthly cash transfers through November 2020 to 70,500 households in Nairobi's informal settlements, equivalent to 50 percent of daily kilocalorie needs.

    Markets and Trade: COVID-19 impacts on markets continue to primarily be delays in the supply chain due to slowdowns at the border as truck drivers are tested for COVID-19. However, the availability of local long rains harvests from the high and medium rainfall areas continues to supply markets and keep prices average to below average. In the third quarter (July-September), about 72 percent of the regional dry maize exports from Uganda and Tanzania have been to Kenya. Exports from Uganda to Kenya were 147 percent above the five-year average as traders sought to capitalize on the relatively high prices in Kenya before an expected drop with the availability of the unimodal long rains harvests. For dry beans, 28 percent of the regional traded volumes were to Kenya. Cattle exports from Somalia to Kenya declined by 62 percent following the end of the July-August domestic and Middle East Hajj religious festivities. Still, goat and camel exports from Somalia to Kenya have increased by 103 percent compared to the second quarter with Garissa's open-air markets reopening.

    National maize prices range from within average to 11 percent below average, driven by available local harvests from the high and medium rainfall areas and cross-border imports. However, maize prices were 17-22 percent above average in Kwale, Garissa, and Mandera due to a combination of below-average production and the COVID-19 related border restrictions. Dry bean prices remain within average in Kisumu, Taita Taveta, and Nyeri due to incoming cross-border imports from Tanzania and Uganda and available local bean harvests.  However, dry bean prices remained 9-24 percent above average across the rest of the monitored markets due to low market supply from two consecutive below-average harvests.

    In September, the average price of a medium-sized goat in the pastoral counties ranged from 6-23 percent above the five-year average, with good forage and water conditions driving good livestock body conditions. However, in Mandera, the price of a medium-sized goat was 68 percent above the five-year average due to a combination of good livestock body conditions and a limited supply to the markets due to border closures with Somalia. The goat-to-maize terms of trade are lowest in Turkana and Garissa, where the sale of a goat buys 46-47 kilograms of maize, 7 percent below the five-year average driven by high maize prices. Across the rest of the pastoral areas, goat-to-maize terms of trade ranged from 64 to 88 kilograms of maize per goat, 12-38 percent above the five-year average driven by above-average livestock prices and mostly average maize prices.

    Humanitarian assistance: Across the country, interannual and emergency food assistance for food-insecure households continues. In September, to mitigate the effects of the COVID- 19 pandemic on the urban poor in Nairobi, WFP targeted an additional 20,500 households for cash transfers through November on top of the initial 55,700 households already receiving cash transfers equivalent to 50 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) administered by NDMA continues to provide year-round bi-monthly cash transfers of 5,400 KES (51 USD) to 100,000 households in Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, and Turkana counties. In August, WFP assisted 695,337 people with 13,325 MT of food assistance and cash transfers totaling 4 million USD. The government also provides a monthly cash transfer of 2,000 KES (19 USD) through various safety nets to approximately 2.15 million households with orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly, and persons with severe disabilities.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Urban area outcomes: Due to a 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 in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In August, an  Urban Food Security Assessment conducted by WFP and IPC Technical Working Group (TWG) in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu indicated that households are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes with the worst-affected households in Mukuru and Dandora informal settlements engaging in coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The acute food insecurity is being driven by income deficits that have widened food consumption gaps and increased reliance on negative coping strategies to bridge food consumption gaps. Approximately 29, 40, and 45 percent of respondents in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, respectively, reported having not worked in the last seven days before the survey, with 82-85 percent of households reporting a reduction in meals per day due to the loss of income. Approximately 20-22 percent and 3-7 percent of households reported 'borderline' and 'poor' food consumption scores (FCS), respectively. Also, the Household Hunger Scale (HHS), which has a 30-day recall period, indicated that 36-40 percent of households faced 'Slight' hunger, while 45-55 percent of households reported 'Moderate' hunger. At least 27-33 percent of households across the three cities engage in a livelihood coping strategy indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) such as spending savings, borrowing money, and selling household assets due to low income and constraints in accessing food. Further, an estimated 23-31 percent of households reported employing at least one coping strategy indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4), including engaging in illegal activities.

    Pastoral area outcomes: Good to fair livestock body conditions continue to support above-average livestock prices, provide milk for sale, despite above-average maize prices and above-average goat-to-maize terms-of-trade. The above-median NDVI is likely helping drive livestock productivity across pastoral areas. Milk consumption mirrors milk production and is 12-53 percent below average across most pastoral areas but average in Isiolo and Garissa counties. According to the September NDMA sentinel site data, at least 20 percent of households reported 'borderline' or 'poor' FCS across all pastoral counties, while consumption-based coping strategies as measured by the reduced coping strategy index (rCSI) ranged from 4.6-16.6 and were stable or decreasing, except in Garissa and Wajir where rCSI scores have been increasing. The most applied consumption-based coping strategies were reducing portion sizes and relying on less preferred/less expensive food. According to September NDMA sentinel site data, the number of children under five years of age at-risk of malnutrition (MUAC < 135mm) was 11-18 percent above the five-year average across pastoral areas, indicating a deterioration in nutrition status as milk consumption reduced except in Mandera where the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition was 25 percent below the five-year average.  Despite the above average goat-to-maize terms of trade indicative of above average purchasing capacity, households are engaging in stress coping strategies due to below-average income from milk sales and non-agriculture wage labor. The September NDMA sentinel site data also suggests that the worst-affected poor households in pastoral areas are experiencing food gaps and engaged in livelihood coping strategies that are indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these households recover from livestock losses from the poor short and long rains seasons in 2018 and 2019 respectively, which is limiting income for market purchases..  

    Marginal area outcomes: Household food stocks are dwindling with more households depending on market food purchases.  However, casual labor opportunities in land preparation for the October-December short rains cropping season and crop sales continue to provide average income to households. According to September NDMA sentinel site data, more than 80 percent of households in Kilifi and Taita Taveta reported an 'acceptable' FCS, but in Embu (Mbeere), Meru North, Kwale, Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka) and Nyeri (Kieni) counties, at least 20 percent of households reported 'borderline' or 'poor' FCS. Apart from Taita Taveta, households used consumption-based coping strategies as measured by rCSI, including reducing food consumption frequency, reducing the portion sizes of meals, and relying on less preferred food. MUAC data collected at NDMA sentinel sites indicate that 1-7 percent of children under five years of age are at risk of malnutrition (MUAC < 135mm). Nearing the end of the lean season, households with dwindling or depleted food stocks are able to access minimum  food needs from markets supported by the average to below-average maize prices; however households are unable to afford essential non-food needs such as cooking oil, firewood, charcoal and transport without the application of stress coping strategies. Due to low income and commodity price increases reducing household purchasing power, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist.


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

    • According to the Central Bank of Kenya, in June, the growth forecast for the rest of 2020 was 2.3 percent despite the impact of COVID-19 on economic activity. The growth forecast was also partially driven by restructured loans amounting to 23.4 percent of the total banking sector. The latest World Bank Kenya Economic Update (KEU) predicts growth of 1.5 percent in 2020 in the baseline scenario, with a potential contraction to 1.0 percent, if COVID-19 related disruptions in economic activity last longer. However, it is expected that most sectors will be unable to make a full recovery within the scenario period and will be operating at below-average levels.
    • According to international forecasts and the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), La Niña conditions are expected to persist at least through April 2021 in the northern hemisphere. As a result, the October-December 2020 short rains in Kenya are expected to be 30-50 percent below average in northern Kenya coupled with above-average temperatures, while the rainfall in the southern parts of the country is expected to be 25 percent below average.
    • The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that national maize production for the 2020 long rains is projected to be 10-15 percent above the five-year average.  This includes the above-average main harvest from the high and medium production areas typically available from October.
    • According to the Desert Locust Global Forecast by FAO, a small third generation of breeding is likely to commence in October in Samburu County and other areas with residual swarms but may be limited by the forecasted below-normal October to December short rains that will limit the moisture needed for the hatching of laid eggs. However, 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. 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. Still, it will be less significant because of ongoing control efforts, fewer swarms present in the area, and the anticipated below-average rains constraining the laid locust eggs' hatching. Funding for surveillance and aerial and ground control of infestations across all affected areas is sufficient for control operations through March 2021.
    • A COVID-19 study by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust indicates that infections likely peaked in May 2020 in Mombasa and July 2020 in Nairobi. The analysis suggests that the fatalities will be much lower than initially projected. It is anticipated that the COVID-19 related restrictions like the nationwide curfew, mandatory testing at border points for truck drivers, halting all non-essential border-crossings  , enforcement of social distancing measures will remain in place through December 2020 and possibly into early 2021. These measures will continue to have a moderate negative effect on income-earning opportunities, revenues, and staple food supply chains.
    • Following international imports of approximately 4 million maize bags for human and animal consumption, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that Kenya's maize supply is to last through October. COVID-19 related control measures such as mandatory screening at the borders and border closures will continue to slow down the supply chain and reduce overall regional trade. Kenya's maize supply is expected to be adequate due to the above-average local and regional maize harvests. Kenyan local maize prices remain relatively higher than neighboring export countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, which is expected to continue attracting supplies filling any gaps. Maize prices are expected to remain within five-year averages but rise to above-average in May 2021. Bean prices are expected to drop driven by cross-border imports but remain above average due to the below-average long rains harvest and consequently limited supplies in the markets.
    • The below-average October to December short rains are expected to reduce crop production activities and demand for casual labor during the cultivation, planting, weeding, and harvesting stages in the marginal agricultural areas from October 2020 through February 2021. Due to the below-average casual labor opportunities, household income is likely to be moderately below average during this period.
    • Livestock prices driven by above-average rangeland resources are likely to follow seasonal trends and remain above-average due to favorable body conditions and limited supply to markets as livestock owners seek to restock their herds. However, with faster than normal depletion of rangeland in some localized areas in the eastern and northeastern pastoral areas and southern regions, along with increased prices of essential food and non-food commodities, and reduced income earnings due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, livestock owners may increase dependence on livestock sales and increase market supply slightly moderating prices.
    • Despite the forage and water resources currently being at above normal levels, the forecast below-average October to December short rains will likely result in only short-lived improvements of forage and water resources. An accelerated depletion will soon follow from late January/early February, driven by the forecast above-average temperatures. Localized desert locust infestations are also expected in the northern pastoral counties from November. Moderate to significantly below normal forage and water resources are expected through the scenario period.
    • The lifting of the restrictions will likely drive gradual improvements in household incomes and food access, particularly among the urban poor households, throughout the scenario period.
    • Humanitarian assistance is expected to continue in Nairobi as WFP continues to disburse cash transfers equivalent to 50 percent of daily kilocalorie needs to 70,500 households in Nairobi's informal settlements through November. It is anticipated that there will be additional funding to support food-insecure households in Mombasa with cash and nutrition supplementation. The 410,000 people in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee settlements are expected to continue receiving 70 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs through in-kind food assistance throughout the scenario period. Following the recently completed urban assessment carried out in the informal settlements of the major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, funds are likely to be mobilized to aid food insecure households to prevent worse food security outcomes. With the forecasted below-average short rains, additional vulnerable drought-stricken households in Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, and Wajir counties are likely to receive emergency cash transfers as part of the DFID-funded  Hunger Safety Net Program (HSNP) emergency scale-up from early February.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Urban area outcomes: While the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions is expected to drive gradual improvements in income and labor opportunities, the slow recovery pace will continue to drive significant income deficits among poor urban households. Although prices of staple food commodities are projected to be within the five-year averages, income deficits and eroded purchasing power will continue to constrain household access to food, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Poor urban households are likely to continue employing coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) such as borrowing cash from relatives, purchasing food on credit, reliance on formal and informal credit facilities, and selling productive assets such as bicycles and sewing machines. A smaller proportion of households are likely to continue engaging in coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4), such as engaging in risky illegal activities. Households targeted for humanitarian assistance are likely to be Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) at least through November 2020. In urban centers, COVID-19 control measures have restrained access to food, income, and poor households' health services. Acute malnutrition among the urban poor, especially the informal settlements in Nairobi, is expected to be Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) during the scenario period. The decline from the typical Acceptable (GAM <5%) levels is driven by reduced food and income access, coupled with a high disease burden of acute respiratory illnesses, cough, fever with chills, and watery diarrhea, that has been made worse by poor health-seeking behavior.

    Marginal agricultural area outcomes: Food stocks from the long rains harvests will likely sustain household food consumption through October. The forecast below-average October to December short rains will likely drive below average cropping activities and limit agricultural wage labor demand, reducing typical household income. Despite below-average household income, below-average staple food prices are driven by the above-average harvests from the unimodal high and medium production areas supporting average to above-average household food access for market-dependent households. Though below average, the short rains are likely to maintain near average forage and water conditions due to the lingering effects of consecutive above-average seasons on current forage and water conditions. Near-average livestock productivity will provide milk and income from sales at near average levels through January. In February, the below-average short rains harvest is expected to provide poor households with food through March. In April, households are expected to be dependent on market food purchases. Household income from crop production activities such as weeding and harvesting of the short cycle crops and crop sales will be below average, driving households to seek income from petty trade and charcoal and firewood sales. Staple food prices will likely increase from reduced market supplies, negatively impacting household purchasing power and food access. Households will gain some income despite below-average wage labor opportunities from May short-cycle crop harvest and intensify the application of consumption and livelihood coping strategies such as borrowing money, purchasing food on credit, spending savings, sending household members to eat elsewhere, and selling some female animals to meet food needs, driving area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through the scenario period. However, poor households with limited assets and unable to access adequate income earning opportunities will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Acute malnutrition is expected to worsen but remain Acceptable (GAM <5%).  

    Pastoral area outcomes: The anticipated below-average October-December short rains will drive below-average regeneration of rangeland resources but be mitigated by the existing atypical above-average conditions through December. From December, deteriorating forage and water conditions will drive atypical migration to dry-season grazing areas reducing household milk access and likely increasing resource-based conflicts, and livestock disease outbreaks as livestock congregate. Migration and below-average livestock productivity are expected to reduce household income, milk consumption, and livestock sales, increasing acute malnutrition in children under five years. Reduced income from milk sales and non-agricultural income sources such as construction labor, and below-average remittances from urban areas, will force households to seek additional income from petty trade and charcoal and firewood sales. Households are expected to intensify consumption and livelihood coping strategies such as selling more livestock than usual and reducing expenditure on health. The likely below-average March to May long rains will bring some relief from late-April as forage and water resources are partially regenerated. However, it is likely that only small stock (goats and sheep) will have recovered by May, and household milk production will remain below average. There will likely be improvements in household income in May, as market demand increases over the Ramadhan and Idd period. Through the scenario period, a majority of households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Still, households with limited livestock holdings and recovering from previous droughts and floods, or located in insecure areas, will likely be unable to meet their minimum food needs without applying unsustainable coping strategies and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


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

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalStricter COVID-19 related restrictionsIn the event of a second wave of the pandemic, the government is likely to impose stricter restrictions that may include the return of movement restrictions, increased curfew hours, reduced business hours, and in the most severe case, cessation of movement in COVID-19 hotpots. These restrictions will likely constrain income-generating activities across the country and further impact the transport, tourism, hospitality, farming, and manufacturing sectors. Food insecurity will likely increase as household incomes become constrained. More households will likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in rural and urban areas.
    Average 2021 March to May long rains Average March to May long rains would provide relief to households in marginal agricultural and pastoral areas following the below-average October to December short rains, mitigating the poor season's effects. In pastoral areas, average March-May long rains will boost livestock productivity, especially small stock that can recover quickly and provide milk and income. More households would be expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the marginal agricultural areas, following below-average short rains, the March to May long rains would provide more agricultural wage-labor opportunities and improve household food access. In May, average harvests of short-cycle crops will likely improve household food availability and consumption, with more households improving to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 


    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 Map of Desert locusts in Kenya from September 28 to October 11, 2020. Desert locusts are only in Samburu, Kenya.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FAO

    Map of satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) indicates that greenness remains primarily above the 1

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Graph of the wholesale price of 90-kilogram bag of white maize, Nairobi urban reference markets. The price of a 90 kg bag pea

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.

    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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