FEWS Bulletin: East Africa 26 Mar 1997

Originally published

Good Rains Over Kenya and the Horn

Good rains fell over much of eastern Africa during late March and early April, signaling the beginning of a critical rainy season (figure 1). The rains were especially welcome in the unseasonably dry pastoral zones of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and southwestern Somalia, where they are improving pasture conditions and replenishing waterholes. Widespread planting is under way in most agricultural areas.

Country Updates


The rains in most of Kenya signal a break from the prolonged dry spell of the past few months. According to Meteosat rainfall estimates and ground observations, rains were above normal during late March and early April in most of the country (figure 1).

The onset of the long rains has motivated widespread planting in most agricultural areas. Up to 80 percent of Kenya's maize is produced during the long-rains season, and up to 70 percent of this production comes from the western part of the country. Unfortunately, the start of season in Nyanza Province, in the Lake Victoria region, was delayed by 1 to 2 months, which will result in significant delays in harvesting. Domestic food availability is therefore likely to remain constrained until at least late August or early September.

Maize prices remain very high throughout Kenya -- nearly twice their levels of 1 year ago in the lake region -- making it difficult for the poor to purchase staples. Pastoralists and farm families in the marginal agricultural areas have disposed of weakened livestock at low prices to purchase expensive cereals, thereby eroding their food security position. Although the condition of livestock is poor and animal prices are low for this time of year, pastoralists' situation should improve if the rains continue. The onset of the rains has replenished waterholes and improved pasture conditions in the drought-stricken pastoral areas of the north and south. Relief food allocations continue in the pastoral districts, and coordination between the Government of Kenya and nongovernmental organizations has improved the allocation of resources and reduced duplication of efforts. The Government of Kenya's relief program, now covering 51 of the country's 63 districts, has allocated 31,410 MT of maize for distribution during April.