Kenya + 3 more

FEWS Bulletin - March 26, 1998

Originally published

Mostly dry conditions throughout February in Kenya’s northern and eastern pastoral areas led to sharp decreases in livestock mortality from diseases. However, total mortalities during the period of heavy rains, from October through January, were among the highest on record. In North Eastern Province, Provincial Livestock Office surveys indicate that approximately 200,000 sheep and 520,000 goats - that is, 53 percent of small stock - were lost (figure 2). The decimation of herds, reduced availability of milk, and poor livestock-to-cereal terms of trade have left most pastoralists in northern and eastern Kenya highly food insecure. The current WFP Emergency Operations Program is addressing immediate needs, but longer term interventions will be necessary to prevent large numbers of pastoralists from becoming destitute. NGO’s working in pastoral areas report an influx of destitute pastoralists into towns.

Drier conditions in pastoral areas have restored road access to markets in Isiolo, Marsabit, and Moyale Districts in Eastern Province; Mandera District in North Eastern Province; Samburu District in Rift Valley Province; and the whole of the coastal strip, but northern Garissa and southern Wajir Districts in North Eastern Province and much of Tana River District in Coast Province remain cut off. Even where roads are now passable, conditions are very poor, increasing transport time and costs for both commercial and relief food deliveries. Because of poor road conditions, WFP continued airlifts of relief supplies to Mandera and Wajir Districts in February.

Harvesting of pulses is complete in the short-rains pulse production zones, which are in Central, Eastern, and Nyanza Provinces. Estimated short-rains bean production is 47,773 MT, less than 20 percent of Ministry of Agriculture production targets. The quality of much of the bean harvest is very poor because many farmers harvested prematurely during a break from heavy rains in mid-January. Total short-rains maize production is slightly above average. Relatively dry conditions from mid-February to mid-March facilitated maize harvesting in lower elevation, short-rains production zones, but renewed rains at higher elevations in Eastern and Central Provinces will delay harvesting. Planting of long-rains crops, which normally begins in March, cannot start until fields are cleared of short-rains crops. In Kenya’s principal long-rains production zones, in Western and Nyanza Provinces, relatively dry conditions in the second half of February facilitated land preparation.

Availability of pulses and maize from the short-rains harvest has improved the food security of farm households in short-rains production zones. In marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province, however, cash-strapped farm households are selling much of their harvest. If the upcoming long-rains season is poor, these households may face difficulties later in the year.


Across much of Tanzania, relatively dry conditions in February provided relief from the heavy rains that had predominated since November. In bimodal areas, drier conditions facilitated harvesting of vuli (short rains) crops and land preparation and planting of masika (long rains) crops. In unimodal areas, they facilitated harvesting of the bean crop planted in November, planting of the second bean crop, and weeding of other crops planted in November and December.

In February, the FAO-WFP crop and food supply assessment mission published its initial estimate of vuli production, putting total production at 1.1 million MT: 620,000 MT of cereals, 430,000 MT of root crops, and 52,000 MT of pulses. The mission estimates this year’s harvest in most areas at levels well above last year’s drought-affected output. February was too early in the season to quantify masika production in unimodal areas, but the assessment mission reports that if rainfall levels are normal through April, production of maize, rice, and root crops should be well above average. Production of sorghum and millet will be below average because of seed shortages at planting time. In bimodal areas, where land preparation and planting of masika crops are in progress, area planted will depend largely on whether conditions remain dry enough in March for farmers to work their fields.

Availability of food from vuli harvests in bimodal areas and from harvests of early maturing crops in unimodal areas is improving food security in most of the country. Damage to transport infrastructure has hampered relief distributions to some areas that experienced drought-induced harvest losses in 1997, but there have been no reports of people resorting to extreme coping activities, such as sales of productive assets. Targeting for further distributions will be based on assessment missions planned for March through June.

In pastoral areas, milk supplies are abundant because of excellent pasture conditions and water supply. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives reported incidences of Rift Valley fever among livestock in February in parts of Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions. The affected areas have been put under quarantine. At present, the outbreak is minor, but if the disease spreads or the quarantine is maintained for a long period, there could be an adverse impact on pastoralists’ welfare.


The February FAO-WFP crop and food needs assessment estimated that this year’s season A agricultural production in Rwanda was 14 percent greater than last year’s and approximately 94 percent of the season A average for 1989 through 1993 (figure 3). Better field maintenance resulted in a 25-percent increase in this season’s banana production over last year. This increase does not translate into a 25-percent nutritional gain because of the low protein and energy value of bananas relative to cereals and pulses.

Responding to reports of food shortages, high food prices, and localized crop losses, the Government carried out rapid assessments in Butare, Byumba, Gikongoro, and Umutara Prefectures in late February and early March in collaboration with FEWS, the European Union, FAO, and Save the Children Fund-United Kingdom. In early March, the assessment team called for an immediate 1-month food aid intervention to assist 14,000 households in Gikongoro Prefecture, where the this year’s season A harvest was 22 percent below last year’s and where the large food-for-work program had been suspended due to food aid transportation problems. This relief will be targeted to approximately 70,000 persons, or 30 percent of the total population of the seven affected communes. The assessment team called for strengthening capacities for multiplying sweet potato and cassava cuttings and increasing rural employment through labor-intensive projects in Gikongoro and the other Prefectures visited. Based on this and additional in-country assessments, the National Food Committee agreed that the national food aid requirement for January through July should be increased to 102,000 MT from the 82,000 MT of cereal equivalents estimated by the FAO-WFP crop and food needs assessment mission.

Farmers are currently planting season B crops. Increased soil moisture following months of heavy rains should provide favorable crop conditions. As in recent seasons, the campaign to distribute agricultural inputs to needy households has been largely unsuccessful due to a lack of funding and to poor road conditions. Almost no inputs had been distributed as of the early March deadline for completing the campaign.

Pastoral conditions are very good, and reports from the important livestock areas of the north and southeast indicate that animals are in good health.


High humidity accompanying the above-normal rains that fell in Uganda during the first 6 weeks of this year (figure 4) hampered the drying of harvested cereals and decreased the overall production of cereals and beans. Although lower cereal production will reduce incomes, most households in Uganda depend primarily on their own production of crops, such as cassava, sweet potatoes, and matoke (plantains), for their food security. These traditional food crops produced well in the high rainfall of the second season of 1997 and should permit most farm households to meet their food needs in the upcoming season.

A return to seasonably dry conditions in late February and early March dried out previously flooded feeder roads, increasing the flow of cereals to markets and contributing to the gradual decline of maize, millet, and sorghum prices since their May-July 1997 peak. Beans remain in short supply, and bean prices are about 50 percent above the 1991-97 average for this time of the year. The second season’s poor maize and bean crops will likely result in rising prices for these commodities until the next harvest, in June and July.

WFP and NGO’s working in Gulu and Kitgum Districts in northern Uganda report that civil insecurity has increased since early February, and they estimate that the number of internally displaced persons has risen from 250,000 to 400,000. WFP’s current emergency program for those Districts - based on the lower target population - has received pledges for about 40 percent of the 21,000 MT of food requested. Transportation bottlenecks in Tanzania and Kenya have reduced available supplies and forced WFP to suspend food deliveries for rehabilitation and construction activities.

The FEWS bulletin is published for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Africa Bureau, Office of Sustainable Development, Crisis Management Response Division (AFR/SD/CMR) by The FEWS Project.

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