FEWS Kenya Food Security Update 13 Aug 2003


July rainfall was concentrated in the lake districts and their surroundings, and in coastal areas, while most other areas remained dry.

Unseasonable early August rainfall is unlikely to significantly impact crop output in Eastern and Central Provinces, but it should benefit forage conditions in these regions and in localized pastoral areas.

2003 long-rains season maize output is projected to be 10 percent lower than average. This is attributed to mediocre production in the lowlands of Eastern, Central, Nyanza and Coast Provinces.

July cereal prices continued to rise. Although beneficial to producers, the sustained increases in maize prices are detrimental to the food security of the majority of Kenyans.

KFSSG-led rapid food security assessments reveal heightened food insecurity in pastoral Turkana, Marsabit, Baringo and West Pokot, and the marginal agricultural Kwale and Kilifi Districts.

Assessment teams emphasize that short-term food interventions, while necessary, are unlikely to reverse longer-term food insecurity.

1.0 National Trends

1.1. Agroclimatic Conditions

While many parts of Kenya received little rainfall during July, there were good rains in the west around Lake Victoria, including most of Nyanza and Western Provinces and the key growing districts of the Rift Valley Province, commonly referred to as Kenya’s ‘grain-basket’.

Figure 1 provides an illustration of the impact of these favorable rains on the season’s growing conditions using the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI), which can be used as an indicator of crop performance. The green areas show favorable crop conditions in the western, southwestern and central areas of the country as of 20 July 2003.

Although the WRSI for the highland areas of Eastern and Central Provinces indicates favorable crop conditions, the late start to the season delayed crop growth substantially and a significant proportion of that crop is unlikely to mature. Because the season is generally shorter in these areas, overall production is likely to be negatively affected during the current long-rains season.

The WRSI graphic also captures the generally poor agroclimatic conditions in the southeastern areas. These areas have experienced an exceptionally dry season interspersed with intermittent periods of poorly timed heavier-thannormal rainfall. The Coast Province remains an area of concern because the long-rains established there very late, during July, and are unlikely to support much crop production at this point.

Moderate and mostly unseasonable rainfall reported in eastern parts of the country during the first week of August has also probably come in too late for the crop.

Forage conditions have improved significantly in important livestock areas. Figure 2, which illustrates the forage status in the pastoral, agropastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country during July, suggests generally good vegetation across the northern and eastern pastoral areas, with the exception of significant parts of Marsabit District. However, poor forage conditions persist in the southern agropastoral and marginal agricultural districts of the Coast Province.

In summary, the western areas, many pastoral areas and a few areas around Mt. Kenya have had a good season, while the southern areas and a few pastoral areas have experienced a mediocre season.

1.2. Crop Production

Close to 80 percent of the early maize crop is now considered mature and ready for harvesting. The remaining 20 percent of the early crop is expected to reach maturity in late August 2003. The early crop is grown mainly in the lowlands and parts of the highlands of Central and Eastern Provinces, and in most of South Rift and Nyanza Provinces. This harvest accounts for 20 percent of the total long-rains crop. Long-rains maize output contributes 85 percent to the total annual national maize output. Harvesting of the early maize crop is already underway in South Rift and parts of Nyanza Provinces. The peak harvesting period for this crop is expected to be in late August, instead of the usual mid-July because of the reasons stated below.

Nearly 70 percent of the maize has tasseled, while 30 percent is approaching tasselling in most other growing areas, including the surplus-producing Western and the North Rift Provinces. Harvesting of this main maize crop should start in early November instead of the usual time in early October.

The main factors leading to the late maturity of the early maize crop, and hence the delay in the harvest, include late planting coupled with unusually wet and cold weather conditions during July. It is feared that the cold and damp conditions prevailing in Nyanza and South Rift Provinces will slow down the drying process and may increase pre-and post harvest losses. Late harvesting of the maize crop may also interfere with preparations for the 2003 short-rains season in Nyanza and South Rift Provinces, where the season traditionally starts in late August to early September.

An estimated 2 million MT of maize is likely to be harvested during the 2003 long-rains season, representing a 10 percent reduction in output relative to the long-term average. The reduction in output is attributed to poor production in the lowland areas of Eastern, Nyanza, Central and Coast Provinces. Figure 3 shows the mixed output prospects in the arable areas of the seven provinces.

The bean harvest is almost complete in South Rift and Nyanza Provinces, while 80 percent of the harvest has taken place in Western, North Rift, Central and Eastern Provinces. Normally the bean harvest is completed in all regions of the country before the end of July. An estimated 180,000 MT of beans will be harvested during the 2003 long-rains season, representing a 10 percent reduction in output, relative to normal.

1.3. Commodity Prices

Maize prices have continued to rise during July, as predicted, as domestic supplies tighten while the demand remains strong. (See Figure 4.) A 90-kg bag is retailing at an average of Ksh. 1,780 in the Western and Nyanza regions, Ksh. 1,550 in the "grain basket" districts of Western and Rift Valley Provinces, and Ksh. 1,500 in Nairobi and Mombasa. These prices are 50-70 percent higher than average prices in respective markets during a comparable period last year.

As domestic supplies tighten and prices continue to rise well-above normal levels, 91,000 MT of maize has already been imported, during the period running from July up to the first week of August, from South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Malawi. An additional 83,000 MT of maize imports from southern Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are anticipated before the end of September 2003.

Despite these recent imports, prices have continued to rise during July. These imports principally supplied millers and may not immediately reach the market. As reported above, the early crop harvest commenced later than usual and quantities have been minimal. When the early harvest peaks in September, prices may come down, but the drop is unlikely to be substantial.

The anticipated imports in August coupled with the continued supply from the early harvests may help relieve the upward pressure on prices. The imports will arrive at a time that may prove disadvantageous to producers, who have so far benefited from the high prices. The NCPB is selling its limited strategic grain reserve stocks at a high price of Ksh 1,440 per 90-kg bag, helping to maintain market prices at their current high levels.

The main crop expected in November should have a more pronounced downward impact on prices due to the high harvest volumes during this time.

2.0 Findings and Recommendations of Rapid Food Security Assessments

Reports from the KFSSG-led rapid food security assessments for pastoral Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, West Pokot and Baringo and the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern and Coast Provinces have now been completed. The objectives of these relatively brief assessments were to evaluate the impact of the long-rains season, to identify areas where high levels of food insecurity had persisted, and to recommend appropriate intervention options. The Turkana assessment report, completed earlier than the rest, was detailed in last month’s Kenya Food Security Update.

Both Marsabit and Isiolo Districts are considered predominately pastoral, however a little farming is practiced around Mt. Marsabit and the southern areas of Isiolo District. The assessment teams found that the 2003 long-rains season was substantially shorter than normal, and that rainfall was heavy though poorly distributed. Although livestock production indicators mainly forage and water sources, had improved, water pans, shallow wells and crops had been washed away in areas that had received abnormally heavy rains. The positive impacts of the brief long-rains season were far outweighed by the adverse impacts of the extended droughts of the past years, during which pastoralists lost significant herds. The assessment teams found that pastoralists had begun migrating unseasonably early, since current environmental gains are unable to sustain livestock production. Livestock banditry in both districts had also impeded the free movement of livestock and pastoralists and had moderated food security gains by limiting the pastoralists access to grazing resources and markets.

The assessment teams found that up to 124,000 persons, representing an estimated 52 percent of the total population of the two neighboring districts, were highly food insecure and had not experienced any significant recovery. The teams recommended scaling up the Food for Work (FfW) program, and recommended a general food distribution in the worst-affected areas, such as in Ileret in Marsabit District. In addition, water relief was recommended in Merti Division of Isiolo District, in order to avert potential livestock deaths. The teams also recommended the implementation of an effective conflict mitigation and prevention mechanism.

The food security status of the predominately pastoral households in Baringo District had been adversely affected by the negative impacts of the past three poor seasons, exacerbated by exceptionally heavy but late rains during the 2003 long-rains season. 80 percent of the population is considered pastoral and 15 percent agropastoral. Irrigated cropping is carried out by an estimated 5 percent of the population. The assessment teams found that although key production indicators such as water, pasture and browse had significantly improved, translating these gains into food security improvements at the household level would depend on several additional good seasons since it will take that long to restock herds and re-establish a viable asset base. Exceptionally heavy long rains had destroyed irrigation schemes as well as infrastructure such as roads.

Assessment teams also found that cereal prices had risen sharply, attributed to a combination of an anticipated poor harvest, the degraded infrastructure and high cereal prices nationally. In contrast, livestock prices had declined notably due to limited productivity and heavy rains, which had temporarily limited access to markets.

The assessment teams concluded that up to 78,000 persons, representing 40 percent of the district’s population was highly food insecure. The teams recommended an increase in the FfW program, immediate reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and restocking of the National Cereals and Produce Board, so as to stabilize cereal prices.

The northern portion of West Pokot District, representing 45 percent of the district, is pastoral; the central part of the district, which is predominantly agropastoral, represents around 30 percent of the district, and the southern quarter comprises a mixed farming livelihood zone. West Pokot had experienced agroclimatic conditions very similar to the neighboring Baringo District, including late and unusually heavy rainfall after an extended two-year long drought. The heavy rains had damaged roads and reduced access to markets and were principally responsible for dramatic increases in cereal prices (e.g. a 90-kg bag of maize retailed at Ksh. 2,700 as compared to a normal July price of 1,500). Although livestock conditions had reportedly improved, the improvements had only just begun and were unlikely to have any meaningful positive food security impact in the near term. Assessment teams concluded that 92,000 persons in West Pokot, representing 50 percent of the population, was highly food insecure and required similar interventions as outlined for Baringo District.

The assessment teams found that although the 2003 long-rains season was equally poor in the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern (Kitui, Mwingi and Makueni) and Coast Provinces (Kwale, Taita Taveta), the food security impacts of this shock varied widely. More than 40 percent of the long-rains crop has been lost in both provinces and forage conditions were especially poor in the Coast Province. While the Coast Province depends crucially on the long rains season and has experienced three poor years, the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province had fairly good short-rains seasons during the past two years. In contrast to the Coast Province, the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province derive only 30 percent of their annual crop output from the long-rains season.

Although the teams found that 30 percent of the farm households in the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province suffered moderate food insecurity, no immediate interventions were recommended. It should be noted, however, that current high cereal prices are likely to increase food insecurity among the worst affected farm households in the coming months and close monitoring of these households was recommended.

In contrast the assessment teams concluded that three successive drought years in Coast Province’s marginal agricultural districts of Kwale and Kilifi (the Taita Taveta report has not been finalized) had severely eroded the coping capacities of resident farm households. An estimated 240,000 persons in both districts, representing 25 percent of the total population, were considered highly food insecure. The teams recommended the immediate implementation of a targeted FfW Program and the expansion of the School Feeding Program, targeting schools in the worst affected areas.

The assessment teams have emphasized that these immediate interventions are unlikely to reverse the longer-term food insecurity in both the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. In the absence of multi-faceted long-term food security programs, chronic food insecurity will persist and be accentuated further each time there is an unfavorable season.

3.0 The Disaster Preparedness Fund

In response to continued food insecurity, activities under the fund for disaster preparedness, implemented by WFP in collaboration with the GoK, have progressed. In Mandera, Turkana, Isiolo and Marsabit Districts, there are currently a total of 115 Food for Work (FfW) projects, with 110 underway and 5 projects in Mandera District completed.

During July, 58,614 beneficiaries received 667.36 MT of food in Isiolo, Mandera, and Marsabit Districts. In addition to FfW commodities, Turkana has received a total of 200 MT of CSB for children under five, and pregnant/lactating mothers to address the high malnutrition rates in the district. An expansion of the 6118 project in Turkana has been agreed upon and Turkana District is expected to receive 3,100 MT of food and non-food items valued at $ 18,000.