FEWS Kenya Food Security Update 19 Feb 2003


  • The 2002/03 short-rains harvest should begin at the end of February.
  • In general, the short-rains season has improved the short-term food security of both pastoral and arable farm households.
  • Nevertheless, overall long-term food security prospects for pastoralists remain precarious, requiring several more good seasons to move closer to a firmer footing.
  • In particular, heightened food insecurity is reported in Baringo, West Pokot, lower areas of Koibatek, southern Turkana and pockets of Kajiado and Samburu Districts.
  • Food security assessments are planned during February in some of these areas of continuing concern.
  • Maize production estimates for the season are close to average, and prices have remained stable. Domestic maize supplies are expected to last through June 2003.

The Disaster Preparedness Fund, implemented by the Office of the President in collaboration with UN agencies and NGOs, is now underway. Food for Work/Assets activities have been started in the drought-affected pastoral districts.

1. National Trends

1.1. Agroclimatic Conditions

The 2002/03 short-rains season (late October - late February) has been varied in quality this year. For instance, while rains have been favorable in the eastern and northern pastoral districts, they were poor in the northwestern agro-pastoral districts.

Although January is typically dry, significant rains were reported during the first week of the month in important short-rains areas of the southeastern and central parts of the country. The rains were particularly critical in the key arable short-rains districts of Eastern and Central Province, where erratic rains occurred during most of November.

Poor rains continued in the pastoral areas of Baringo, West Pokot, lower areas of Koibatek, southern Turkana and pockets of Kajiado and Samburu Districts. The 2002 long rains were also poor in these perennially drought-affected pastoral districts. The Kenya Food security Steering Group (KFSSG) plans to carry out rapid food security assessments in these districts during February. The food security assessments should clarify better the cumulative impact of poor rains on the food security situation of these pastoral households.

1.2 Crop Production

The 2002/03 short-rains maize harvesting period will begin towards the end of February, which is later than normal. The delay is caused by the late season onset. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoALD) is optimistic that high temperatures will accelerate the harvesting process, giving farmers sufficient time to prepare their land for the beginning of the important long-rains season in mid-March.

The MoALD has made no changes to the crop production estimates reported during January for the 2002/03 short-rains season; final production estimates remain as follows: 450,000 MT of maize and 117,000 MT of beans.

Although the cumulative short-rains maize harvest is close to average, this total masks localized shortfalls, such as the mediocre production in the lowland districts of the Coast Province, parts of Mwingi, Makueni and Machakos Districts. Several of these areas overwhelmingly depend on short-rains output and will suffer significant food security consequences as a result.

The Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI), which provides an additional indication of possible crop performance by measuring the amount of rainfall to date against soil types and the varied water requirements of specific crops, also depicts mixed conditions. As seen in Figure 1, the western and central arable areas of the country experienced good to very good crop conditions. However, parts of the marginal agricultural districts of Mwingi, Machakos, Makueni and the lowland coastal districts show poor crop conditions.

The MoALD anticipates that cumulative national maize stocks will be sufficient to meet the country's needs only through June 2003. This heightens the importance of a favorable long-rains season: national stocks will deplete at the same time as the new harvest from the early season areas begin to come into the market.

1.3. Commodity Prices

During January, maize prices fluctuated only slightly. In most major markets, the average wholesale price for a 90-kg bag ranged between Ksh. 850 and Ksh. 1100. In Eldoret and Nairobi, prices have increased by one and six percent respectively, while in Mombasa and Kisumu they declined by one and four percent respectively. However, maize prices are significantly higher than the depressed levels of the same period last year, especially in the "grain basket" districts of the Rift Valley. This is attributed to the reduced national maize supplies, as NCPB stocks have been drawn down since mid 2002.

Maize supplies have been low because the short-rains harvest has not started yet, and inflows from the neighboring countries have been minimal. Some producers and traders have also been withholding maize in anticipation of better prices in the second quarter of the year. There is little activity in the markets with only NCPB and a few traders purchasing stocks. Most millers are now processing stocks purchased earlier.

With the start of the short rains harvest in late February, prices are likely to decline. In addition, producers may release maize for sale to pay for school fees, due at the beginning of January, and to purchase seeds in preparation for planting in March and April.

1.4. Pastoral Food Security

The Arid Lands and Resource Management Project (ALRMP) reported that pasture, browse and water conditions were much better this January compared to the previous four years at the same time. Nevertheless, there are still areas of serious concern, including West Pokot, Baringo, and parts of Mandera, Samburu, Koibatek, Marakwet, and Kajiado Districts. These particular pastoral communities have had little respite from the drought that begun in 1999. Although West Pokot pastoralists have used their clan relationships to keep a large proportion of their livestock in Uganda, most of them have in addition to suffering livestock losses, also had their coping mechanisms such as selling firewood and charcoal, consuming the doum plant and basket weaving largely eroded. Food security assessments planned for February are expected to clarify the impact of successive poor rains on the food security of these households.

Both the camel and goat/cattle keeping pastoralists migrated to the dry season grazing areas confined within the district during January. Movement into neighboring Eastern Province's dry season grazing areas by the goat/cattle keeping pastoralists has been limited by insecurity in that region.

As is normal in January, when rain-fed pastures decrease, milk availability has declined. This decline is most significant among the sedentary household members following the seasonal migration of pastoralists to the dry season grazing areas. This migration has often been limited by insecurity - for instance, cattle, goat and camel keepers in Wajir are unable to access tradition dry season grazing areas in Isiolo District during the current season. The Arid Lands and Resource Management Project is optimistic that permanent water sources, pasture and browse in Wajir and across most of the pastoral districts will be sufficient to meet the livestock grazing requirements up until the beginning of the important long-rains season in March.

Livestock prices have remained strong during January. This is in spite of an increase in the numbers of livestock offered for sale in January as pastoralists seek to pay school fees. Figure 2 illustrates this point, and clearly shows that the price of cattle over the past year has been higher in most months than the average price in Wajir District. As the dry season intensifies, prices traditionally decline - this is expected to be the case during February.

Although this year's favorable conditions have clearly benefited pastoralists, the 2003 long-rains season is viewed as critical in consolidating the food security gains attained since 2002. It will take several good seasons for pastoral communities to recover a viable asset base after the losses experienced in the past few years.

2. Ongoing Programs and Activities

2.1 Disaster Preparedness Fund

The Disaster Preparedness Fund, currently being implemented by the Office of the President, WFP and other partners, is making considerable progress. The project, which has as its main focus Food for Work and Food for Assets activities, is active in Isiolo district. Work in 11 projects, seven on irrigation and agriculture and 4 on water projects will begin in February.

In Turkana and Mandera Districts, projects are expected to begin in March. Agreements have been signed with implementing partners and the food monitors will be trained in the middle of February, to be followed soon after by project identification. The four other districts under the Fund - Marsabit, Garissa, Ijara and Wajir - are expected to begin by the end of February. The Implementing Partners (IP) has already been identified by the District Steering Groups (DSGs), except for in Ijara and Wajir where nominees for the IP are yet to be received.

2.2. Perkerra Irrigation Scheme Disaster Assessment

Perkerra Irrigation scheme is located in the semi-arid area of Marigat Division in Baringo district and directly supports 4,000 families by providing employment through revenue generated from the scheme and by enhancing business activities around the town and its environs. The region is largely dependant on irrigation for successful agriculture and water is diverted to the scheme through an intake weir constructed across Perkerra River.

On December 21, 2002, the Perkerra experienced heavy flooding and broke its banks, causing loss of human life, livestock and other property. About 300 houses were completely destroyed and 1700 houses submerged in water. Pit latrines were swept away raising fears of an outbreak of water borne diseases. The flood also destroyed and swept across the river most of the 55m weir, cutting off the supply of water to the scheme and destroying crops.

The District Disaster Management committee mobilized the community and coordinated relief and response activities. In mid-January, a team comprising officers from the Office of the President, Ministry of Agriculture, UN agencies, USAID and Kenya Red Cross visited the scheme to assess the damage caused by the floods. Among the recommendations of the team were the reconstruction of the damaged weir and construction of a permanent dyke to allow for agricultural activities to resume as soon as possible. The response to the affected populations should continue and relief food and supplies should be provided for at least the next six months as they recover. The Ministry of Health will also monitor any possible disease outbreak.