FEWS Kenya Food Security Warning 20 Jan 2005 - Food insecurity precarious

Food insecurity precarious in the Maasai rangelands and southeastern districts, despite improvements in northeastern pastoral districts

Food security declined markedly in Kajiado District during December and January. The district experienced exceptional rainfall deficits during the season, receiving less than 20 percent of normal rainfall for the entire 2004 short-rains season. Pastoralists are trekking more than 20 kilometers, even into Nairobi, in search of water instead of the three to five kilometers that they normally would. Livestock mortalities have risen dramatically in the pastoral areas of Mashuru, Central, Namanga and Loitokitok. The price of an average bull is now Ksh. 500, relative to Ksh. 8,000 during a normal season; in the worst-affected areas, pastoralists are receiving payments only for the hide and skin. Subsequently, pastoral and agropastoral households are increasing the production and sale of charcoal so as to mitigate declining livestock productivity coupled with falling casual labor wages. Moreover, near total crop failure is likely in the agropastoral areas of the district.

Northern pastoral households, especially those in the eastern districts, have experienced a relatively favorable short-rains season. However, the dry season has now set in and the steep rise in temperatures will likely accelerate the depletion of water, pasture and browse. Already severe water shortages have been reported in the northern and eastern pastoral Marsabit and western Mandera Districts. Scarcity of water in Mandera District has precipitated clashes that have claimed over 20 lives.

In most other pastoral areas, household food security is improving. Milk yields have increased, though most households report that total quantities are lower than at a comparable time during a normal short-rains season. The low milk availability is attributed in part to significant livestock mortalities in the eastern pastoral districts as well as the low calving and kidding rates this season. Livestock mortalities have resulted from a combination of drought, before the short rains set in, and the inability of the weakened animals to withstand the cold conditions, once the short rains began. However, the ALRMP has reported that rates of child malnutrition rates, measured using the Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC), have declined for the second consecutive month, attributed mainly to improved milk availability and access to substantial quantities of food through WFP's emergency operation (EMOP). Livestock prices have also improved. Pastoralists have reduced the supply of livestock to markets in order to rebuild herds. After the peak in November, the price trend will likely be downward, at least until the long-rains season begins in March.

Short-rains crop production has been poor in key areas. A 330,000 MT maize deficit is expected following a reduction in expected short-rains output and lower than expected cross-border and offshore imports. The worst-affected short-rains dependent southeastern marginal agricultural districts have suffered the greatest losses. (See Figure 1). The Ministry of Agriculture has revised downward the expected 2004/05 national short rains maize output. An estimated 270,000 MT of maize should be harvested during the short-rains season instead of the 450,000 MT that was originally expected. Subsequently, cumulative national production for both the long and short-rains seasons is 2 million MT of maize, compared to the 10-year average of 2.61 million MT.