FEWS bulletin - June 26, 1997

Across much of Kenya, above-average rainfall in April was followed by uncharacteristically dry weather in May. If dry conditions continue in June, maize yields will be low in some areas, leaving the country with a significant maize deficit for the long-rains season. Because of reductions in area planted, maize production will probably be at least 10 percent below average.

The dry spell touched all long-rains agricultural areas except Western and Coast Provinces, Kericho District in Rift Valley Province, and the more elevated, highly productive districts of Nyanza Province, where crops are in good condition . In most of the affected areas, the maize crop can recover if rains pick up in June. In the important Rift Valley maize-producing districts of Nandi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, and Trans Nzoia, however, early planted maize will have lower yields because dry conditions prevented farmers from applying fertilizer at the appropriate time.

In the less elevated areas of Mwingi, Makueni, and Kitui Districts in Eastern Province, drought stress has been harsh enough that a significant reduction in output is likely, especially for late-planted maize. Farm households in these districts are already dependent on outside assistance, and they will require continued support if production is significantly below average.

Although it has not rained in the northern and eastern pastoral districts since the first week of May, pastures and water availability remain good. Maize prices have fallen following relief maize distributions by the Government of Kenya and by nongovernmental organizations, and livestock prices have risen as pastoralists offer fewer and healthier animals for sale. Terms of trade for pastoralists thus continue to improve.

In the southern pastoral districts of Narok and Kajiado, the weather has been unfavorable and pasture conditions are poor. Goat and cattle prices are less than one-half and one-fourth their respective average levels, which has greatly reduced pastoralists' purchasing power.

Although there has been a clear improvement in conditions in some pastoral areas, recovery from droughts in the three previous seasons is far from complete, and ongoing relief interventions are still warranted.