FEWS Kenya Food Security Update: 08 Mar 2002


The prognosis for the 2002 long-rains season is favorable in most parts of the country except for Turkana, western Marsabit, northern coastal districts and areas around the shores of Lake Victoria.

The country’s current maize glut, coupled with additional February harvests, is likely to exacerbate the downward pressure on maize prices.

Most pastoral production systems are likely to rejuvenate should the 2002 long-rains season forecast hold true.

However, the pastoral districts of Turkana and western parts of Marsabit Districts are likely to face another poor season. Carefully monitoring of these two districts is critical.

The World Food Program is finalizing its budget revision for extension of the Emergency Operation Program, set to continue through September. A substantial maize shortfall remains.

1. Food Security Conditions and Prospects

1.1. Food Security Situation and Outlook

The food security situation of pastoral and farm households improved considerably during February after a favorable 2001-02 short-rains season in substantial areas of the country. Improved grazing fundamentals in several pastoral areas have resulted in favorable livestock body conditions, increased calving rates, and improved milk output - together bringing marked improvements in pastoralist food security.

The food security outlook for the drought-affected marginal agricultural households is encouraging thanks to a fairly successful 2001-02 short-rains season. However, good harvests are likely to be compromised by the greater grain borer, which has already caused severe losses of previously harvested crop in storage.

Nevertheless, significant areas of pastoral and coastal districts remain highly food insecure after a mediocre short-rains season there. Localized areas of continuing concern include most of Turkana, Mandera, and parts of Marsabit Districts. Pockets of growing food insecurity remain in pastoral and coastal districts after poor long and short rainy seasons in 2001.

Localized food insecurity in certain areas should continue to be mitigated by lower-than-normal maize prices in the key growing and supplying areas of the Rift Valley Province. Ironically, the lower prices may discourage farmers from planting as much maize or using as many inputs during the coming 2002 long-rains season.

2. National Trends

2.1. Agroclimatic Conditions

National, regional, and international climate and food security experts met in February to work out the climate outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa region for the March to May 2002 rainfall period. Figure 1, the climate outlook for Kenya, shows enhanced probability of near-normal to above-normal rainfall in most areas of the country except for the northern coastal areas, the northwest (Turkana and western Marsabit Districts) and areas around the shores of Lake Victoria, where rainfall is likely be normal or below normal. Climate scientists continue to emphasize that an enhanced probability of above-normal rainfall does not preclude the possibility that rainfall could be normal to below normal.

Favorable long rains in the pastoral districts should consolidate the recovery that began during the 2001-02 long rains. However, the enhanced probability of normal to below-normal rains in areas already severely affected by drought - the pastoral districts of Turkana and western Marsabit and the marginal agricultural lakeshore districts in particular - makes consistent monitoring of the 2002 long-rains there a priority.

2.2. Crop Production

Early rains during February caught farm households in the arable areas of Central and Eastern Provinces unprepared. Normally, long rains begin mid-March in most cropping areas of the country. Largely due to the late harvesting of the 2001 long-rains crop, land preparation had already been significantly delayed even in the key growing areas of the Rift Valley Province. Unusual, though localized, February rainfall interrupted harvesting in Central and the higher elevations of Eastern Provinces.

Harvesting of the remaining short-rains season crops in the higher areas of Eastern and Central Provinces should be completed by mid-March in readiness for the 2002 long-rains season. Final Ministry of Agriculture estimates for 2001-02 point to a short-rains output of 360,000 MT of maize in addition to a 2001 long-rains output of 2.34 million MT. Cumulative long- and short-rains production would thus be close to 7 percent higher than the 1991-2000 average maize output. The maize large maize surplus expected at the end of June 2002 - estimated to be 630,000 MT - has caused significant concern among key producers in Rift Valley Province in particular. The glut in the maize market has driven prices down to levels far below average prices for the past 10 months. Because lower maize prices will reduce expected net returns, producers might forego recommended agronomic practices and reduce area planted.

Of the estimated 333,000 MT of maize stocks held by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at the end of February, 189,000 MT is current-year purchases by the NCPB on behalf of the government and 144,000 MT is NCPB’s commercial stock purchased during the 2000 long-rains season.

2.3. Commodity Prices

The price of maize remained seasonably low into March in key reference markets and is expected to remain depressed during most of 2002, unless some can be exported. As maize harvesting continues in both the high-potential areas of Rift Valley Province and the marginal agricultural districts, dramatic though localized price reductions are appearing, especially at the farm gate. The favorable outlook for the March to May rains suggests that long-rains maize output will also be high, if key producers maintain their usual production levels. As a result, maize prices are likely to remain low well into 2003.

Livestock prices continued to vary widely in pastoral districts during February. The key determinants of livestock prices are body condition and productive capacity of the livestock, the proximity of pastoralists to local markets, accessibility to key markets, the number of pastoralists willing to sell animals, the influx of livestock into local markets from other areas, and the outlook for the 2002 long-rains season. Figure 2 illustrates the trend in goat prices in Wajir District. Higher than average prices during most of 2001 and January 2002 are attributed to significantly improved livestock conditions following favorable short-rains in most of the pastoral districts, coupled with a reduction in the number of animals available after a three-year drought. The low average prices reflect depressed livestock prices during the previous three drought years.

2.4. Pastoral Food Security

The Arid Lands and Resource Management Project (ALRMP) has reported that the water and forage situation remains good in localized areas of Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, and Tana River Districts where January showers occurred. However, environmental conditions declined markedly during February in several pastoral districts, particularly those where the 2001-02 short rains were poor after four previous poor seasons. These areas include Mandera and parts of Isiolo and Moyale Districts, where most livestock remained outside normal grazing areas during most of 2001, due to the succession of poor seasons. Figure 3 illustrates vegetation conditions, based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), in the pastoral districts of Samburu and Turkana. The generally near-normal conditions in Samburu District contrast with significantly below-average vegetation in Turkana District.

The emerging recovery in the pastoral areas will be consolidated further should the March to May above-normal rainfall forecast hold true; most pastoral areas, except for Turkana and western Marsabit District, expect normal to above-normal rainfall.

The ALRMP has reported that the livestock raids that characterized the pastoral areas during most of the past two years have subsided considerably, except in Turkana District, where serious raids were reported during February. Over the past year local nongovernmental organizations, the Government of Kenya and religious organizations have been active in peace-building activities that may have contributed to the lessening of tensions. However, these clashes are difficult to predict and could flare up with little notice.

3. National Ongoing and Proposed Relief Interventions

A subgroup of the Kenya Food Security Steering Group has revised estimates of food needs for 2002. The World Food Program’s Emergency Operation Program (EMOP) is now scheduled to continue through September, assuming that the 2002 long-rains season will be normal. General food distributions will be confined to an estimated one million persons in nine pastoral districts: Garissa, Isiolo, Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Moyale, Tana River, Turkana, and Wajir. Some 85,708 MT of food will be required for April to September 2002 (58,049 MT for general distribution, 8,419 MT for supplementary food, and 19,240 MT for the Food for Work program). This represents a shortfall of an estimated 77,396 MT - mostly maize. In its budget revision, WFP has asked donors to pledge cash rather than food to enable WFP to purchase maize locally, in turn avoiding adding more maize to an already saturated market. Figure 4 shows planned food distributions and number of beneficiaries for the period February to September 2002.