The 2008-2009 Short Rains Season Assessment Report


A collaborative report of the Kenya Food Security Steering Group: Office of the President (Ministry of State for Special Programmes); Ministries of the Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands; Agriculture, Livestock Development, Fisheries Development, Water and Irrigation, Public Health and Sanitation, Medical Services, Education; ALRMP; WFP/VAM; FEWS NET; UNICEF; FAO, Oxfam GB; UNDP; with financial support from the Government of Kenya, UNICEF, WFP; World Vision, FAO and OCHA.

1.0 Executive Summary and Key Recommendations

1.1 Introduction

The steep deterioration in food security over the past four months or so has resulted from subjection of fragile livelihoods to a multiplicity of shocks over a short period of time. While the GoK and development partners have implemented substantial food interventions and generally less significant non-food interventions especially during drought emergencies, food insecurity is increasingly entrenched. The inability of the food insecure to recover fully from recurrent shocks and hazards would suggest that a mix of immediate and medium term food and non-food interventions that seek to mitigate urgent needs while concurrently restoring livelihoods and building their resilience is prerequisite. The unfortunate reality is that intervening organizations tend to respond to emergency food needs fairly quickly and have less enthusiasm for funding and implementing non-food interventions that are at the minimum, mitigative in nature. However, the current downward spiral in food insecurity in urban, pastoral and marginal agricultural livelihoods, in particular, suggests that unless urgent sustainable measures are taken, these livelihoods may no longer be sustainable. The comprehensive 2009 short rains assessment report covering crop and livestock production; markets and prices; urban, pastoral and marginal agricultural food security; impacts of rainfall; disease and conflict; and the evolution of coping strategies provides recommendations that are intended to forestall the growing proportion of the Kenyan population that is unable to meet basic food needs.

1.2 Summary of Key Findings

The food security status of an estimated 2.5 million pastoralists, agropastoralists and marginal agricultural farm households has deteriorated to critical levels, following the failure of the short-rains season in December 2008, compounded by adverse impacts of high food prices, conflict and livestock disease. An additional 850,000 school children(1) are to be included in the expanded School Feeding Programme; 150,000 persons displaced by the post-election crisis and at least 4.1 million urban dwellers are extremely food insecure and are having difficulty meeting their food needs on a predictable basis. The GoK has estimated that an additional 1.9 million persons are food insecure due to adverse impacts of HIV/AIDs.

Worst-affected rural areas

The current downward spiral in food security is a combination of a succession of poor and mediocre seasons and several compounding factors. The worst affected areas where food security has declined markedly include identified locations in the marginal agricultural livelihoods in Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Mbeere, Machakos, Malindi, Kilifi, Kwale, Tharaka, Meru North and the central lowlands; and parts of the pastoral areas of Marsabit, Isiolo, Tana River, Kajiado and Baringo. However, food insecurity has eased in parts of the pastoral districts of Marsabit, Turkana, Wajir, Garissa and Ijara following fair and earlier-than-usual short rains. However, improvements in livestock fundamentals in many pastoral areas have been overtaken by high and rising food prices, thus moderating significant improvements in food security.

The worst affected households in the pastoral, agropastoral, marginal agricultural and urban areas are reporting an acute food and livelihood crisis that has resulted from an extended period of poor seasons, combined with debilitating conflict in northwestern pastoral areas. Other hazards include decimation of the small stock especially in the northwest, due to endemic livestock disease, most notably the PPR; loss of crop and productive assets in the Lake region and coastal areas due to floods; the impacts of HIV/AIDS both in rural and urban areas; eroded coping capacities due to the increase in food and non-food prices among pastoralists, agropastoralists, marginal agricultural farm households and urban dwellers, the majority of them net purchasers of food commodities. If proposed interventions are not quickly adopted for the worst-affected households, food insecurity could deteriorate to the emergency status.

Worst-affected urban areas

A complementary food security assessment in urban areas focusing on informal settlements, commonly referred to as slums, in Nairobi and Mombasa, has confirmed pervasive food insecurity that is rapidly entrenching itself among nearly 7.6 million persons, that reside in informal settlements, countrywide. While most food commodities are readily available in the market, access to food is compromised by heightened food and non-food prices. For example, the price maize has risen by up to 130 percent in Nairobi and 85 percent in Mombasa over the past year; cooking fuel prices by 30-50 percent; and the cost of water by 90-115 percent. Purchasing capacities are constrained further by lingering impacts of the post election crisis, where several businesses that offered employment to the population in informal settlements failed to reopen or operate at previous capacities. In contrast, wage rates have remained largely static, in spite of sustained inflationary trends for most key food and non-food commodities.

Heightened food insecurity in high density urban centers is exhibited in rising rates of global acute malnutrition which were not problematic, previously. Unsurprisingly, the composition and frequency of meals has declined precipitously, with many households reporting that the number has reduced to only one meal per day in up to 37 percent of households, including restricted food consumption for adults. Increased indebtedness; migration of some household members in search of alternative income opportunities and sale of household goods are coping strategies being applied in low income urban areas. An estimated 3.5-4.1 million persons in urban centers across the country are suffering from an acute livelihood crisis, with a likelihood of a significant proportion deteriorating into a humanitarian emergency, if current trends continue.

Impacts of HIV/AIDs

The national HIV prevalence among adults is estimated at 7.8 percent (KAIS 2007), translating into 1.54-1.87 million persons who are over age 15 and approximately 140,000 – 170,000 children aged 15 and under living with HIV/AIDs. (UNAIDS, 2008). There is marked variation in the disease prevalence between rural and urban residents, with 70 percent of HIV-positive adults residing in rural areas. Prevalence remains highest in Nyanza Province at 15.3 percent. The next highest prevalence is Nairobi at nine percent, Coast at 7.9 percent and Rift Valley at seven percent, all significantly contrasting with the North Eastern Province at one percent. The number of HIV-positive adults in Rift Valley (estimated 322,000) is greater than in Coast (estimated 135,000) and Nairobi (estimated 176,000) combined. Gender disparities are also observed with women having higher prevalence (8.7 percent) than men (5.6 percent). Approximately 11 percent of Kenyan children below 15 years of age (2.4 million) are orphans. Out of these, 1.1-1.3 million children are orphaned by HIV/AIDs.

Effects of HIV continue to be experienced at household, community and national levels. Productivity among the people affected by HIV is affected negatively, particularly in communities that are highly dependent on labor as a source of income. Household's ability to produce and buy food is compromised due reduced labor that would otherwise be engaged in agricultural production or in earning an income. In addition, HIV disease increases health expenditure. Therefore, the household capacity to obtain an adequate amount and variety of food, and to adopt appropriate health and nutritional responses to HIV/AIDs, especially for the already vulnerable ones, is grossly reduced.