FEWS Kenya Food Security Report - 5 Mar 2004


  • The Kenya Meteorological Department has released the 2004 long-rains season forecast, which predicts near normal rainfall for most of the country.

  • The short rains maize harvest is underway in Eastern and Central Provinces; meanwhile, long rains planting is taking place in Nyanza, Western South Rift and parts of Central Rift.

  • Total national maize output for the 2003/04 marketing year is estimated to be 90,000 MT short of the national demand for that period.

  • Unusual increases in maize prices have continued. Prices are 20-30 percent higher than in December and 25 percent higher than their 5-year averages.

  • Field assessments coordinated by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group have confirmed substantial food insecurity resulting from consecutive years of poor rainfall, declining income options, depletion of livestock herds, and increased staple prices.

  • Results from the assessments are expected to form the basis of the national intervention and contingency plan, aimed at addressing current food insecurity and improving households' resiliency to future shocks.

1.1 Favorable rainfall prospects in select key cropping and drought-affected areas

Regional climate and food security experts held their bi-annual meeting in late February to develop the climate outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa for the March -- May 2004 period. The Kenya Meteorological Department used input from the regional forecast to develop a more detailed Kenya-specific forecast for the 2004 long rains, presented in Figure 1, below.

Fig. 1: The 2004 March-May Rainfall Forecast for Kenya

The map highlights two distinct areas. First, the green shading indicates areas where there is a greater probability of near normal rainfall, with a slight tendency toward above normal rainfall. In the green areas, there is a 40-45 percent likelihood of higher than normal rainfall, 30-35 percent likelihood of normal rainfall and 25 percent likelihood of lower than normal rainfall. These areas include the 'grain-basket' districts; the drought-affected western agro-pastoral districts of Narok, Baringo, Koibatek and parts of West Pokot; and the drought-affected lakeshore and coastal districts. These favorable rains, if they occur, are expected not only to improve crop output in key areas but to also improve grazing resources. If rains are much heavier than normal, the meteorological department is not ruling out floods in some of the areas shaded in green.

Second, the yellow shading indicates areas where near normal rainfall is expected, with slight tendencies toward below normal rainfall. In the yellow areas, there is a 25 percent likelihood of higher than normal rainfall, 40-45 percent likelihood of normal rainfall and 25-30 percent likelihood of lower than normal rainfall. Northwestern pastoral districts, included in this group, have experienced poor seasons throughout 2003 and existing food insecurity in these areas would be exacerbated by a below average long rains season.

The unseasonable rainfall that began in January continued through the third week of February in the southeastern and western districts, and in some northern and eastern pastoral districts. The rains have proven especially useful to herders in these areas, who are now confident that pasture, browse and water will last until the beginning of the long rains in early April.

1.2 Short rains harvesting and 2004 long-rains planting taking place concurrently

Harvesting of the 2003/04 short-rains maize crop has been completed in Nyanza, Western, South Rift and Coast Provinces. The harvested crop represents about 60 percent of expected national short-rains output. Harvesting has also begun in Eastern and Central Provinces. The total national short-rains maize output will be 360,000 MT,which is slightly below average.

Almost 80 percent of the land preparations for the 2004 long-rains season have been completed in Nyanza, Western, South Rift, and Coast Provinces. Meanwhile, food crops are being planted in these areas, with about 80 percent of the planting completed in Nyanza, Western and South Rift Provinces, and only about 10 percent completed in the Coast Province.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimates that 1.2 million hectares of maize will be planted and 2.25 million MT harvested, which is 11 percent higher than the 1993-2003 long rains average output of 2.02 million MT. The higher output is predicted on the basis of the favorable rainfall probabilities in key growing areas, combined with the incentive effects of current high maize prices.

1.3 The rise in maize prices reinforced by NCPB's increase in purchase price

Maize prices have continued to climb, rising by 20-30 percent between December and February in all key markets, except Nairobi (see Figure 2). Maize prices remain 25 percent higher than the respective 5-year averages in major reference markets. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) decided to increase its purchase price to an unprecedented season high of Ksh 1,400 per 90-kg bag, which has contributed rapid tightening of the domestic market. The NCPB has revised its purchase price four times during the past four months.

The NCPB is holding an estimated 120,000 MT of maize for the GoK's Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) and famine relief stock. The GoK is unlikely to substantially improve its SGR level despite the new prices.

The high maize prices are expected to reduce further the purchasing power of drought-stricken households. In the absence of improved domestic supply, prices are unlikely to drop substantially until the next harvest, which will not hit the markets until late July.

Maize prices in local markets near short-rains harvesting areas in Western and Nyanza Provinces have declined slightly; maize prices are also expected to decline in Eastern and Central Provinces after the harvest in March. The decline is expected to be smaller and of a shorter duration than during normal seasons.

2.0 Food security assessments reveal continued food insecurity despite unseasonable rains

The Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG)-co-ordinated a series of short-rains food security assessments which were intended to clarify the food security situation of drought affected households. These assessments have confirmed that households in the coastal districts, marginal agricultural households of Eastern Province, as well as in southwestern agro-pastoral districts continue to face food shortages. The findings, by province, are summarized below.

Coast Province's Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta and Malindi Districts all suffered exceptionally poor rains in 2002, followed by similarly poor rains in 2003. Unseasonable rains in January were largely beneficial to herders but had little impact on crops, since most of the short-rains crop had already wilted. In addition, there was wildlife damage to crops in Kilifi and Taita Taveta Districts, ruining an estimated 25 percent of the short-rains crop in Taita Taveta. In these areas the 2003/04 crop output falls well short of normal production (see Figure 3). The assessment teams also found little or no household food stocks in all the areas visited. At the same time, with many households reverting to the market, food prices were well above average. One kilogram of maize was retailing for Ksh 19.5, compared to the normal February price of Ksh12. These high maize prices were also attributed to reduced supply from northern Tanzania, following similarly poor seasons there.

Charcoal production is a typical option used by households to increase their incomes during times of drought. The assessment team found that the price of charcoal had fallen from Ksh200 per bag to Ksh60, providing both evidence that (1) more farm households are being forced to resort to charcoal selling because of the drought, and that (2) the income they are able to generate on these sales translates into less food than normal because of the drop in charcoal prices and the increase in maize prices. As a result, households have been reducing the number of meals they eat from two to one per day, and are migrating in search of labor.

Although availability of water, pasture and browse had improved during the first two months of 2004, livestock productivity remained low. The price of livestock was well below normal; in Kwale market in February, cows normally retailing for Ksh 2,000 were fetching only Ksh 7,000.

Detailed nutrition assessments in Kwale District, conducted by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, show that Global Acute Malnutrition rates and prevalence rates for underweight children were within normal ranges. However, the stunting rate in Samburu and Kinango Divisions of 44.7 percent, indicating chronic malnutrition, was worrying and significantly higher than the 35.6 percent for the provinces as a whole.

The marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province, namely Makueni and Kitui, also experienced poor long and short-rains seasons in 2003, although they saw good rains in 2002. Since the short rains season contributes up to 70 percent of the annual production in these two districts, the impact of a poor short -- rains season on households is greater here than in other parts of the country. Due to the poor rains, only about half of the normal short-rains maize output is expected in these two districts. Crop losses due to wildlife damage in areas close to the game park were also reported in Makueni District.

As expected, prices of major food commodities were well above normal, with the February price of maize at Ksh 18 per kg instead of the normal Ksh 12. Households normally seek wage labor to compensate for losses in their own crop production, and those with livestock sell animals to generate income. This year, however, the supply of labor has far outstripped the supply, resulting in serious reductions in the daily wage rate, from around Ksh 200 per day to Ksh 70. In addition, assessment teams found that livestock prices were 40-50 percent of their normal levels, further reducing income earning opportunities. Households in the worst-affected areas of Eastern Province are at particular risk of increased food insecurity since the next significant harvest is not anticipated until February 2005. Farm households were found to have adopted coping strategies similar to those in the neighboring Coast Province.

The largely agro-pastoral Bomet, Kajiado and Narok Districts, situated in the Rift Valley Province, have had a succession of poor seasons, since the droughts of 1997, resulting in substantial livestock losses. Although the spatial distribution of rains has varied from one season to the next, overall short and long rains have been poor through 2003, undermining household food security. Only Kajiado District benefited from the unseasonable rains in January and February. Assessment teams found that herders in Narok District were still trekking up to 15 kilometers in search of water, pasture and browse. In addition, an unusual 75 percent of the livestock had migrated to the hill masses. In both Kajiado and Narok Districts, declining livestock prices and increasing maize prices mean that pastoral households received only 10 percent of the normal amount of grain from their livestock sales. The higher-than-normal maize prices are attributable to a mediocre harvest, compounded by crop destruction by wildlife and a reduced supply of maize from Tanzania. Since the majority of households are now depending on market purchases to meet at least part of their food needs, these high prices will only increase household food shortages.

The Kenya Food Security Steering Group expects to finalize the consolidated national food security report at the end of March. Preliminary conclusions from the report indicate that an estimated 1 million persons in Turkana, Marsabit, West Pokot, Isiolo Narok, Kajiado, Baringo, Koibatek, Bomet, Kwale, Kilifi, Malindi, Taveta, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, and parts of Nyeri Districts may require food intervention. The KFSSG will likely recommend that a significant proportion of the 1 million persons receive relief food through Food-for-Work programs, rather than as direct relief. Of these districts, Turkana and Marsabit will require immediate relief assistance in the form of general relief, supplementary feeding and therapeutic feeding.

The KFSSG is also cognizant that short-rains harvesting has begun in some of the worst-affected areas such as in Makueni, Kitui, Machakos and Nyeri Districts. This will impact any decisions on food aid distribution, as the KFSSG seeks to avoid disrupting production and markets. Other interventions recommended by the field teams included: de-silting and rehabilitation of water sources; resolution of the wildlife -- human conflict; construction of water points in game parks; provision of certified seeds for 2004 long-rains planting; and the continuation and enhancement of the School Feeding Program. The final KFSSG report will form the basis for the national contingency plan and will be used in conjunction with the 2004 long-rains season climate outlook results.