According to international, regional, and national forecasts, there is a high likelihood of below-average rainfall during the October to December short rains across northern and eastern Kenya. Analysis of analog years indicates rainfall is likely to be less than 60 percent of the average across the Horn. Additionally, historical analogs of waning La Nina events indicate that the March to May 2023 long rains will likely also be below average, potentially six consecutive below-average seasons. The continuation of the drought into 2023 is expected to result in another below-average harvest in marginal agricultural areas and the further deterioration of already below-average pasture and water resources in pastoral areas, making pastoral livelihoods increasingly unviable.
In pastoral livelihood zones, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist, with Serious (GAM 10 – 14.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (GAM ≥ 30 percent) prevalence of acute malnutrition. In August, the sale of a goat in northern and eastern pastoral livelihood zones can purchase 16-43 kg of maize, enough to feed a family of six for four to 12 days if all they ate was maize. As a result, household food access remains below average, and many households are increasingly engaging in more severe coping strategies like selling more animals than usual for income or selling their last female animal to fill food consumption gaps. With pasture and water resources continuing to decline, pastoral households are increasingly relying on income and food from causal labor, self-employment, national safety nets, and humanitarian food assistance to meet their food needs.
In the marginal agricultural areas, land preparation and planting for the October to December short rains season is yet to begin. Poor households are increasingly relying on market purchases due to significantly low household food stocks following the below-average long rains harvest. However, food access in most marginal agricultural areas remains constrained by lower-than-normal purchasing power due to above-average prices and significantly low incomes from crop sales and agricultural waged labor opportunities. Households are increasing their reliance on off-own farm income to purchase food. Overall, most marginal agricultural areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but in Meru (Meru North), Kitui, Makueni, and Tharaka Nithi, at least one in five households is facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
Across Kenya, staple food prices remain high due to low local availability following successive below-average harvests, high demand, high inflation rates, and high transportation costs. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, national food inflation in August 2022 was 15 percent higher than in 2021. The high prices are reducing household purchasing power and limiting household food access. In August, maize prices were 30 to 60 percent above the five-year average in Narok, Kajiado, Kilifi, Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, and Tana River and around 70 to 120 percent above the five-year average in the rest of the monitored markets. Similarly, beans retailed nearly 20 to 75 percent above the five-year average in monitored markets. However, in August, the price of a mature medium-sized goat was around 10 to 45 percent below the five-year average due to declining body conditions, but prices are average in Garissa, Samburu, Tana River Baringo, and West Pokot, and almost 20 percent above average in the Laikipia market due to fair to good livestock body conditions and high demand.
On October 3, 2022, the government authorized the cultivation and importation of genetically modified crops and animal feeds following technical reports on the adoption of biotechnology. This will likely make it easier and cheaper for Kenya to import white maize for human consumption and yellow maize for livestock feed when there is a production deficit. Primarily, lifting the ban is geared at increasing local agricultural productivity to plug Kenya’s maize deficit. Farmers will likely have increased access to bioengineered drought and pest-resistant seed varieties in the coming years, which will likely improve agricultural production once the markets for bio-engineered seeds are fully developed.