The much awaited, albeit delayed, 2000/01 short-rains season has begun. Low and poorly distributed rainfall has been the key feature of the short-rains so far, particularly in the severely drought affected eastern and northern districts of Kenya (Figure 1). Although late, an improvement in the rainfall’s spatial and temporal distribution, should mitigate food insecurity amongst the short-rains dependent and severely drought affected marginal agricultural households of Eastern Province.
However, little relief is expected for the worst affected northwestern pastoral districts of Turkana, Marsabit and Samburu (Figure 2) that do not depend on the short rains in any case. The continued absence of significant rainfall has eroded the capacity of pastoralists there to cope with four successive unfavorable rainy seasons. Already, over 40 percent of the cattle and 10-20 percent of the small stock have been lost during the current drought, according to the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP). Subsequently, rebuilding herds will take substantially longer than usual. Worsening food insecurity exhibited by ‘unacceptably high’ rates of child malnutrition requires concerted redress, according to UNICEF. Continued appropriate and timely interventions are imperative - at least through mid-June, assuming a favorable long-rains season in 2001 - to avert an irreversible loss of livelihood for some pastoralists.
WFP’s EMOP has continued effectively targeting households situated in 19 of the worst affected districts. On-going interventions have moderated food insecurity in these districts. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group, in collaboration with WFP, has developed preliminary estimates of needs for January-June 2001 that expand the coverage of the present EMOP from 2.89 million people to 3.2 million. Once finalized, these estimates should form the basis for the extension of the EMOP.
Domestic maize supplies have increased markedly during October, due to the long-rains harvesting in the ‘grain-basket’ districts of the Rift Valley Province. However, the 2000 long-rains maize harvest will be only 64 percent of the 1991-98 average. Subsequently, supplies at the household level remain low, particularly in the worst affected districts, further accentuating food insecurity. Maize prices have declined by close to 20 percent in the ‘grain-basket’ districts, but remain higher than the 1994-98 average by a similar margin (figure 3). Poor market integration continues to impede the transmission of lower prices to the severely drought-affected marginal agricultural, pastoral and agropastoral areas.
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