In 2015, models by metrological agencies globally, including the Kenya Metrological Department (KMED), predicted a 90% probability of El Niño conditions1 during the "short rains" of the October, November, December (OND) season. The forecasts predicted above average rainfall in parts of Kenya and an approximate 80% chance of the El Niño conditions lasting into early 2016. The impacts were expected to vary geographically, with some areas experiencing seasonal flooding and others experiencing just good rainfall for agricultural production.
Based on these predictions, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) implemented an El Niño preparedness and response project that included flood preparedness in 16 at risk counties. Another component was a forecast-based intervention in Kitui County, which aimed to harness the potentially positive impacts of the enhanced El Niño rains in communities who frequently experience drought and food insecurity. The rationale was that a potentially bumper harvest could help address food insecurity and enable families to cope better with the risk of a drought in the following season which, even in a normal season, would be dry and might be worsened by a La Niña effect. The main element of the intervention was the distribution of high quality hybrid maize seeds to 21,035 households in Mwingi Central, Mwingi West and Kitui West sub-counties in October 2015. Households were also provided with training in post-harvest management and marketing, to ensure that the harvest was stored properly for future consumption or trade.
Post-harvest meetings with farmers conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and KRCS in April and May 2016 indicated that farmers had gained a better than normal harvest due to the enhanced rains during the OND season. Building on this dialogue, this review gathered farmer and stakeholder feedback on what worked and what did not work well, aiming to draw out lessons and recommendations to inform future work in forecast based programming in Kenya and beyond. The study also captured KRCS decision-making and management processes, with a view to identifying areas for improvement. This report was partly driven by the KRCS Disaster Management (DM) Strengthening Initiative, where one objective is to increase sharing and learning from KRCS preparedness and response operations. The review was jointly researched by KRCS and British Red Cross (BRC) in May-June 2016.