FEWS Kenya Food Security Update: 09 Apr 2002


Improved food security conditions have been reported across the country’s worst-hit livelihood zones, attributed to a combination of fair 2001/02 short rains and increased supply of maize in deficit markets.

However, initial indications suggest that surplus producers in key growing areas will respond to lower-than-breakeven prices during the past five months by significantly reducing their area put to maize.

Pastoralist food security in the northwestern districts is expected to benefit from unseasonable March rainfall, which has somewhat compensated for a truncated 2001/02 short-rains season.

Nevertheless, continued pastoralist recovery, which is only barely underway, will critically depend on a successful 2002 long-rains season.

The World Food Program is currently running two key drought intervention programs - the general food distribution program set to continue through October 2002 and the Food for Work program targeting an estimated 284,000 beneficiaries in 9 drought-affected districts.

1. Food Security Conditions and Prospects

Food security conditions have improved significantly during March as harvesting of the 2001 long- and short-rains crops concludes. Increased availability of food at the household level has significantly mitigated previously rising food insecurity, especially among deficit food-crop producers in the marginal agricultural, pastoral, and agropastoral areas of the country.

The current beneficial impact of increased national maize availability on food security may, in fact, be short-lived. Rising food supplies have resulted in dramatic reductions in maize prices, leading to significantly reduced returns for key producers. Initial indications from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) suggest that area put to maize in the main growing areas during the current long-rains season may be reduced substantially, leading to possible shortfalls and increased prices in the future.

Pastoralists in parts of Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, and Garissa have also benefited from unseasonable rains during March. This early rainfall has brought widespread relief to pastoralists after a shortened 2001/02 short-rains season. March rains helped to regenerate pasture and browse, as well as replenish water sources, stabilizing livestock conditions.

Nevertheless, most pastoralists are hoping for a favorable 2002 long-rains season, set to begin during the first week of April, to improve their prospects of sustained recovery. Most of Mandera District, parts of Turkana and Wajir Districts, and the hinterland areas of Tana River District remain of concern.

2. National Trends

2.1. Agroclimatic Conditions

The 2002 long-rains season has faltered following an unusually early start to the season during the first dekad of March in most parts of the country. Rainfall was mostly below normal during the last two dekads of March, causing widespread concern among arable farmers. The disruption in the expected rainfall pattern comes as a result of Indian Ocean cyclones during the second and third dekad of March, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD). The KMD expects an additional disruptive cyclone during the first dekad of April.

The KMD used the results from the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum to further refine the country’s March-May rainfall prognosis. Figure 1 illustrates the expected rains during the 2002 long-rains period. The areas shaded in yellow - Turkana, northern West Pokot and eastern Marsabit - depict an enhanced probability of "near-normal" rainfall with slight tendencies toward "below-normal" rainfall. The two areas shaded in light green - most of Coast, Western and Nyanza Provinces, the northern agropastoral districts including Baringo, Koibatek and Laikipia, the pastoral Samburu, Moyale, Tana River, most of Marsabit, eastern Isiolo and southern Garissa and the marginal agricultural Kitui and Mwingi Districts - depict an enhanced probability of near-normal rainfall. The dark green color bisecting the country and including the pastoral Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Central, and the upper areas of Eastern Provinces as well as the agropastoral Narok and Kajiado districts depicts an enhanced probability of near-normal to above-normal rainfall.

See Figure 1 Revised Rainfall forecast for Kenya: March - May 2002

2.2. Crop Production

Initial prospects for the 2002 long-rains cropping season are gloomy, due mainly to erratic rainfall during the season onset coupled with indications that key producers in northern Rift Valley Province may reduce maize production in response to poor prices over the past year. Meanwhile, prospects elsewhere are brighter. The progress in long-rains land preparation and planting is encouraging in Nyanza, Western, and the southern parts of the Rift Valley Provinces, where rainfall was timely and generally well distributed. However, these areas are not surplus-producing in normal years.

The start of the 2002 long-rains season in early March caught producers in Central and Eastern Provinces unprepared. Farmers found themselves having to harvest their short-rains crops, prepare the land, and plant their long-rains crop at the same time. The unexpected rains meant the quality of land preparation was severely compromised. Although rainfall has been favorable in a few areas around Mt. Kenya, an extended dry spell (coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures) during the third dekad of March has resulted in severe crop moisture stress in most other areas and is expected to result in germination losses, should the dry spell persist.

The region of most concern remains the key grain-producing districts of the Rift Valley Province where the same unexpectedly early rainfall caught farmers unprepared and where key producers are reluctant to sow maize. The MoARD has estimated that only half of the land has been prepared so far, with only patchy planting undertaken. Farmers in the Rift Valley Province have been forced to sell their maize output at prices below break-even levels and apparently are limiting potential losses by reducing area put to maize. However, because the long-rains season is an extended season in the Rift Valley Province, it may be too early to draw conclusions about farmers planting decisions. The Rift Valley Province accounts for close to 60 percent of long-rains output and more than 50 percent of national maize output. A significant reduction in maize output in Rift Valley would have serious implications throughout the country. Preliminary MoARD projections indicate that 1.2 million hectares should be put to maize across Kenya and 2.34 million MT harvested; these projections will have to be revised should key producers opt to reduce production.

The Government of Kenya (GoK) has set aside Ksh. 1 billion for the purchase of 90,000 MT of maize to replenish the strategic grain reserve. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is currently holding just over 380,000 MT of maize - an estimated 135,000 MT of commercial stocks and 245,000 MT of GoK stocks. On-farm stocks remain substantial due to the simultaneous but unusual harvest of both the short- and long-rains crops in recent months. However, the Larger Grain Borer remains a continuing threat to stored grain as illegal and ineffective pesticides continue to be sold to unsuspecting farmers.

2.3. Commodity Prices

The price of the key staple, maize, remains unusually low entering April. In the main markets, prices declined in March for the fourth month in a row. Maize prices in Eldoret and Kitale are particularly low, at an estimated Ksh. 400 per 90-kg bag. At this level, the retail price is less than half of their respective average production costs. Harvesting of the 2001/02 short-rains maize crop is complete in the marginal agricultural districts as well as the 2002 long-rains crop in most of the key supplying ‘grain basket districts’ of the Rift Valley Province. Substantial carryover stocks at the start of the consumption year in July 2001, coupled with abundant on-farm supplies from both the short- and long-rains harvests, are expected to further depress prices until the end of this marketing year in June 2002.

The supply of maize is currently abundant and the MoARD projects a surplus of 630,000 MT by the end of June. The favorable outlook will be beneficial to consumers but is a great disincentive to producers who are apprehensive of further declines in maize prices. As the long-rains planting season begins, prices are expected to fall even further in the coming months as farmers sell their maize to buy farm inputs, meet production costs, as well as raise school fees for the next term. Figure 2 is an illustration of these relatively low prices in Eldoret market in the heart of the ‘grain-basket’ zone.

2.4. Pastoral Food Security

Earlier-than-expected March rainfall has substantially eased the pressure on the pastoralists’ grazing fundamentals - water, pasture, and browse - in some northwestern areas. The March rainfall was especially beneficial, after a truncated 2001/02 short-rains season in most pastoral districts.

Figure 3 shows the improving welfare conditions in Wajir District exhibited by declining rates of child malnutrition during the latter part of 2001 and early 2002. Nevertheless, pastoralists’ welfare and recovery prospects remain under significant pressure, following a succession of poor production seasons, and depend heavily on good rains during the 2002 long-rains season.

The Arid Lands and Resource Management Project (ALRMP) has reported that livestock physical conditions ranged from fair to good in most pastoral districts with the exception of Mandera District. Improved livestock conditions and reduced mortalities come as a result of the fair short rains after an extended three-year drought across most pastoral districts. However, productive capacities of livestock are likely to take a much longer time to return to normal levels and depend on a favorable 2002 long-rains season. Further, significant areas remain in poor condition, such as much of Mandera District and parts of Turkana and Tana River and Wajir Districts (after an influx of pastoralists from Mandera and Gedo Region, Somalia).

Improving pastoralist terms-of-trade - kilograms of maize per goat - have also been reported across most of the pastoral districts as pastoralists hold back their livestock from markets in anticipation of enhanced recovery during the 2002 long-rains season. However, the ALRMP in Samburu District has reported that continued livestock susceptibility to disease, particularly the Contagious Caprine Pneumonia and the Foot and Mouth Disease, has tended to reduce their market value, thus compromising their terms-of-trade.

Livestock raiding continued during March in the pastoral districts of northern and eastern Kenya. Although calm has been reported in Tana River, Moyale, and Isiolo Districts, a violent raid was reported in the pastoral northwest along the border between Turkana and West Pokot Districts, where several people lost their lives and thousands of Turkana animals were carried away. Apart from disrupting production patterns and reducing access to markets and humanitarian interventions, the continued raids have disrupted a vital pastoralist coping strategy - mobility - in the middle of one of the most severe droughts in Turkana District. The clashes have also quickly eroded the beneficial effects of good rains in northern parts of Tana River District by an influx of displaced persons from the southern parts of the District, further complicating the pastoralists’ recovery.

3. Ongoing National-Level Interventions

3.1. Emergency Operation for Drought-Affected People

In view of the partial recovery in the pastoral areas, the Emergency Operation (EMOP) is being scaled down. Provided the long rains do not fail, it is hoped that free food distribution can be halted in October 2002. Part of the exit strategy is to replace general food distribution with Food for Work programs. The EMOP also has a school feeding component. As agreed by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group, (KFSSG), there has been a gradual phasing out of these emergency operations and a reduction of beneficiary and ration levels. In March, 964,136 beneficiaries received a total of 9,095 MT of general food distributions, compared to almost 1.5 million beneficiaries at the end of 2001. Three districts (with a fourth to be announced shortly) will be phased out from the EMOP general distribution program. On the recommendations of the joint short rains assessment team, Baringo, Samburu and West Pokot Districts will move from General Food Distribution to Food for Work.

Implementation of the Food for Work (FfW) program continues in nine districts. The FfW initiative aims to help communities develop productive assets that improve food security and mitigate the effects of future droughts. FfW represents the transition from relief food assistance to the utilization of food as a mechanism for rehabilitation and development. Since July 2001, 522 FfW projects with an estimated 284,000 beneficiaries in nine districts have been implemented. A total of 11,963 MT of food aid has been committed to these projects, over half of which have concentrated on rehabilitating roads that were destroyed by the El Niño rains of 1997/98. Other projects implemented under the EMOP FfW include construction and desilting of dams, soil conservation, irrigation, terracing, and soil conservation projects. Women comprise at least 50 percent of the membership of the FfW Rehabilitation Committees that decide on the type of FfW projects needed, organize the implementation of the projects, and manage the distribution of the food aid.

Distribution plans are being developed for food allocation in school Term II under the Global School Feeding Initiative. Term II begins on May 6. During Term I, which ended on March 28, 18,166 MT of food were distributed to 1,330,911 primary school children.

The current resource position of the Emergency Operation is critical, especially for maize. Given the favorable domestic supply situation, donors with funding flexibility are urged to provide cash resources so that maize may be procured locally to support the EMOP. Local purchase in Kenya will help farmers who have difficulties selling their surplus maize and reduce logistics costs.

3.2. The Refugee Operation

The Kenya Refugee Operation still faces a resource shortfall of 10,927 MT of food until the end of 2002. Urgent pledges are needed to ensure that beneficiaries in both Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps receive an adequate diet. WFP plans to purchase locally almost 18,000 MT of maize using a recent Japanese donation as the source of funding. This volume will be sufficient to cover maize requirements for the refugee operation until the end of this year.

Approximately 2,850 MT of food were distributed to 221,189 beneficiaries in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in March. With the presence of wheat grain in the food basket, the daily intake of beneficiaries at Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps is expected to increase from 1,400 kilocalories in February to 1,900 kilocalories following the March distribution.

WFP is pre-positioning food from all available commodities to Dadaab refugee camp before the expected onset of rains makes access by road difficult and food aid hard to deliver.