FEWS Kenya Food Security Update: May 2001



Kenya this month saw an unexpected reversal in its food security fortunes up to now, particularly in the marginal arable lands, and agropastoral and pastoral areas.

  • In particular, the absence of seasonal rainfall during May has placed northwestern pastoralists’ recovery in jeopardy, while conditions in eastern pastoral areas may deteriorate further.
  • Nevertheless, food security remains favorable in central and western Kenya’s high potential and largely arable lands.
  • Prices of maize declined marginally during May in key reference markets. The expected adverse impact of poor May rains has not yet been transmitted to these key markets.
  • WFP’s EMOP is scheduled to continue into February 2002. Anticipated cereal pledges are encouraging, while a shortfall in pulses and supplementary food remains worrisome.

1. Food Security Conditions and Prospects

Although the food-security situation has remained fair during May in most areas outside the pastoral areas, uncharacteristically poor agroclimatic conditions have raised serious concerns of deterioration in future food security, especially in the pastoral, agropastoral, and marginal agricultural areas.

1.1. Current Food-Security Situation

Food security remained fair in several areas of the country outside the eastern pastoral districts during May. Favorable short-rains harvests in the arable areas, particularly in the drought-affected marginal agricultural areas, have continued to mitigate previous food insecurity largely through a fair supply of cereals and pulses at the household level. Food prices have also remained fairly stable in the se areas during May resulting in generally affordable purchases by the hardest- hit deficit producers. Livestock body conditions have also improved significantly in several parts of the western pastoral and most agropastoral districts. However, the adverse impacts of the prolonged drought on livestock productivity have reduced the availability of significant milk quantities. In contrast, the food security of pastoralists residing in eastern Kenya continues to deteriorate, following generally poor rainfall during most of the 2001 long-rains season. The most affected areas are found in Mandera, Wajir, northern Garissa, Turkana, and parts of Tana River District. The absence of rainfall during May has exacerbated conflicts over use of common resources, as livestock cluster around areas of good pasture, browse, and water.

1.2. Kenya’s Food-Security Outlook

Kenya’s food-security outlook is less optimistic than it was last month, largely as a result of an unseasonable, critical absence of rainfall in most areas outside the western arable districts, central districts, and the coastal strip. The impact of poor May rainfall in the pastoral areas is twofold. In the western pastoral districts of Marsabit, Moyale, and Samburu, the ongoing recovery will likely be halted unless the long-rains extend uncharacteristically through June. In the eastern pastoral districts as well as in the northwestern pastoral Turkana District, severe food insecurity is the likely outcome of the continued absence of rainfall. Renewed, serious conflict over grazing resources (usually between resident and outsider pastoralists), even in areas outside of normal wet-season grazing areas, is evidence of increasing scarcity of resources and points to the growing severity of the problem in coming months. The food security outlook for farm households in the arable lands areas is mixed. The outlook is generally favorable in the high potential ‘grain-basket’ districts of the Rift Valley and most of Central Province where rains generally have been near normal during the 2001 long-rains season. Nevertheless, food security in the key grain-producing districts remains contingent upon continued good rains at least through August, due to the extended long-rain season in these areas (normal long-rains begin in mid-March and conclude in November). However, poor rains in most of the rest of the arable lands have lessened prospects for a favorable long-rains output. A significant part of the maize crop is severely moisture-stressed and causing fears of possible crop failure - barring the resumption of rainfall in June - particularly in the drought-prone marginal agricultural area of Eastern Province.

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