FEWS Kenya Food Security Update: Jan 2001


1. Food Security Conditions and Prospects
The outlook for food security across the country’s livelihood zones continues to vary widely. Arable farm households in the southern half of Kenya, for example, have seen a marked improvement in their food-security prospects. The principal contributing factor has been the uncharacteristic extension of the 2000/01 short-rains into January, leading to improved output prospects after a delayed season onset. However, severe flooding in the districts fronting Lake Victoria has caused substantial damage to crops and displaced farm households. Nonetheless, current favorable conditions have formed a much-needed bridge to recovery in arable areas.

In contrast, pastoralists continue to suffer heightened food insecurity, attributed largely to the poor 2000/01 short-rains season (Figure 1), following an exceptional succession of four poor seasons. The outlook in both the pastoral and arable areas depends crucially on the outcome of the forthcoming long-rains season scheduled to begin in mid-March. Even so, pastoralists will require several successive favorable seasons before viable herd sizes can be achieved.

2. National Trends

Food security conditions are improving in all areas of the country with the exception of pastoral areas. Prolonged rainfall in arable areas has resulted in the expectation of a fair short-rains harvest in most areas, including the previously drought-affected marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province. Increased food supply from the just- concluded long-rains harvest (Figure 2) has not only halted the previous upward trend in maize prices, but has also stabilized food prices, including that of the key staple, maize.

However, food security conditions in the pastoral areas have continued to deteriorate, even during January. The continued absence of rainfall across most pastoral districts, with the exception of localized areas, has caused severe shortages of pasture, browse, and water. Livestock productivity (weight gain, calving rates, and milk production) has continued to decline, while pastoralists have deviated from their normal migratory routes with no visible pattern within and across the country’s borders in search of grazing resources. Increased banditry and ethnic conflict has in several instances precluded access to traditional dry-season grazing areas, further exacerbating food insecurity. Livestock prices are also moving downward, placing further pressure on pastoralist terms of trade (volume of food staples per animal). As availability of and access to food for livestock as well as pastoralists decline, rates of child malnutrition have increased alarmingly. However, relief interventions by WFP, UNICEF, the GoK, and NGOs have continued to mitigate rising food insecurity amongpastoralists.

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