Kenya + 8 more

Greater Horn of Africa Food Security Bulletin, May 2005


The majority of households in most GHA countries will be experiencing the hunger period in the coming 3-4 months. During this period, access to food from markets will be critical until the next major harvests between July and December. The food supply is currently weak, and prospects for the next harvest are poor, due to late and poorly distributed rainfall, causing food prices to rise in most pastoral, agropastoral and marginal agricultural livelihood zones of GHA. High prices have been observed in most urban markets in the region.

The dry spell observed between March and mid April further deteriorated pasture and water availability for livestock. This, together with the unfavorable terms of trade between livestock and cereal prices, led to declining food security for pastoralists and disrupted their recovery. The return of rains at the end of April has rekindled hopes for a short-term improvement in pastoralist food security across the region. These rains will benefit the late-planted March-May crops, but harvest prospects remain poor in areas where crops had already experienced severe moisture stress.

The unfavorable climate conditions will likely increase the size of the population at risk of food insecurity in the region, currently estimated at 15.7-17.5 million people, and will further justify new interventions. Due to uncertainty about the production prospects, it is still too early to estimate the exact number of people that will need relief assistance. The national food security networks need to conduct timely food needs and vulnerability assessments in June and July to determine the magnitude of food insecurity. These assessments would support contingency planning for early responses and mitigation for the affected populations.


Regional crop production for the 2005 March-May season expected to be below average

The prospects for a good production this season are in jeopardy as most crop activities were affected by the mixed performance of the 2005 March-May rainfall. Between March and end of April, the rains were disappointingly low for crop production in the equatorial sector of GHA. The poor rainfall distribution, compounded by a late start of the season, is reported to have reduced acreage planted. The late start of season could shorten the growing period if seasonal rains end as normally expected in May or early June. Prolonged dry spells during March and April caused moisture stress and wilting of crops in some areas dependent on the March-May rains (Figure 1). The areas where crops suffered severe moisture stress include marginal agricultural and agropastoral areas of eastern and southeastern Kenya, the agricultural areas of Juba and Shabelle basins in Somalia and the agropastoral areas in northern Tanzania. Unfortunately, these same areas have experienced a series of poor rainfall seasons. Another crop failure will worsen their food insecurity and prolong the period when humanitarian assistance is needed.

Figure 1: Soil Water Index (SWI) as of May 20, 2005

Source: FEWS NET

In the southeastern lowlands of Kenya, southern Somalia and northern Tanzania, crop production is important, and this season's poor rainfall in amount and distribution will reduce yields. Crop production prospects are poor, particularly for maize, the most widely cultivate crop and highly susceptible to moisture stress. Reduced harvests will affect the supply of maize to markets. Consequently, food prices will rise sharply, thus limiting access to food, particularly for poor households.

Poor pasture conditions in key livestock areas

The drier than normal conditions during March and April are also blamed for declining pasture and water availability in the pastoralist livelihood systems in southern and southeastern Ethiopia; as well as northern, eastern, northeastern and southern Kenya., The Livestock Early Warning System (LEWS) reports that forage conditions in parts of the countries covered are worsening (Figure 2). The LEWS product does not cover Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda, southern Somalia and Sudan. The absence of adequate pasture has heightened food insecurity and extended the hunger period for those family members who do not normally migrate with livestock, as the herds will not be brought back soon to their normal grazing areas. The return of rains at the end of April improved the availability of pasture and water for livestock, and revived optimism for short-term food security relief among pastoralists. These include the pastoralists in Eritrea, the Afar Region in Ethiopia, southern Kenya, the Sanaag and Sool Plateaus in Somalia and agropastoral areas in northern Tanzania and the Karamoja Region of northeastern Uganda. Still, the sustainable recovery of these pastoralists is unlikely because the cumulative effects of recurring droughts have severely undermined their livelihood base and survival options.

Figure 2: Forage Conditions as of May 20, 2005


The diminishing food availability is reflected by rising food prices. The food prices in most food insecure areas, in particular in the pastoralists' livelihood systems, are higher than at the same time in 2004 and the five-year average (2000-04), and rising. Garissa District, a pastoralist area of northeastern Kenya, is an example where the comparative terms of trade illustrates the difficulty of accessing food among pastoralists (Figure 3). In Garissa, prices of maize between January and March this year are higher by 22-24 percent and 30-39 percent compared to the same period in 2004 and the five-year average, respectively. Although the prices of small livestock (goats and sheep) are rising compared to previous years, the terms of trade between goat sales and cereal purchases are unfavorable and have worsened since 2004. The terms of trade have fallen 12-17 percent and 4-21 percent below those of 2004 and five-year average, respectively. Similar conditions are reported among other pastoralists in northern and southern Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and central and northern Somalia. These conditions, in part resulting from successive droughts, have increased the pastoralists' vulnerability and undermined their resilience to food insecurity threats. On a positive note, the terms of trade between livestock and cereal prices in Garissa market improved in March. The improvement in pasture and water following good rainfall in May are expected to improve livestock body conditions, thus enabling them fetch higher prices. Depending on the stability of food prices, this may further improve the terms of trade.

Figure 3: Terms of Trade in Garissa Market, Kenya -- Source: FEWS NET

Needs assessments required to support contingency planning

The cumulative hazards, which include repeated droughts and rising food prices, and even conflict in some areas, will increase the need for continued humanitarian assistances to the previously food insecure populations. The hazards are also likely to make additional interventions for food insecure households necessary. Therefore, the national food security networks should conduct the timely food needs and vulnerability assessments in June and July that will underpin contingency planning in order to respond to the affected populations. The needs assessments should differentiate the chronic food insecure from the transitory food insecure households and for each category determine their location and duration of relief need. This information assists donors and humanitarian agencies in planning for proper targeting and best use of the limited available resources.


Functional trade and markets play a significant role in ensuring food access. Because current cereal demand exceeds supply, it is crucial in both urban and rural areas that held food stock are released, and food moves from surplus to deficit areas within countries or across borders through formal and informal trade. In order for the existing trade networks to help meet household food requirements, adequate trade and market information on market trends and the sources and prices of food commodities is needed.

The Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (RATIN) had significantly contributed to provide good market information, enhancing cross border food movements in the East African countries. RATIN has established that between July 2004 and April 2005, Uganda exported maize estimated at 71,000 MT and 17,000 MT to Kenya and Rwanda, respectively. Similarly, Kenya imported some 70,000 MT of maize from Tanzania during the same period.

Expected sources of food supplies between May and September

During May to September, the main sources of food crops for deficit areas in the region will largely be found in surplus producing countries, particularly those where harvesting will be taking place during this period, including Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda. In central and southern highlands of Tanzania, the harvest is ongoing. The cereal output from these areas constitutes about 60 percent of annual national harvests and 20 percent of the amount produced in East Africa in a year. In Tanzania, yields this year are expected to be below the level of previous seasons due to poor rains. However, even in a bad year, the southern highlands of the country produces approximately 100,000 -150,000 MT of surplus maize. Most of this surplus usually finds its way to markets in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Zambia. In the coming 2005/06 marketing year, domestic production in Malawi and Zambia is not going to meet the countries' own consumption requirements, subsequently attracting imports from Tanzania. Although this would increase competition with Kenya thus inducing consumer prices to rise, it will benefit producers in southern Tanzania whose maize prices were the lowest in East Africa during the 2004/05 marketing year. A second season harvest occurs in Rwanda from May to July and in Uganda from August to September. The supply of beans from the expected good harvest in Rwanda will be important in offsetting deficits in Kenyan markets. Harvests from the August-September major season in eastern Uganda, will contribute significantly to improved food access in Kenyan markets and may bring prices down. Donors and relief agencies are encouraged to plan cereals and pulses purchases from surplus areas in Tanzania and Uganda for their humanitarian purposes to support farmers. Local purchases will improve the incomes of producers and boost local and regional markets. Harvesting of maize is ongoing in South Africa and surplus maize nearing 4.0 million MT is anticipated this year. Kenya is a big importer of South Africa maize, importing over 130,000 MT during the 2004/05 marketing year. The timely availability of South African maize would help bridge the shortfall between July and September.


Vedasto Rutachokozibwa / Epitace Nobera
Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET
E-mail: /

Gideon Galu / Hussein Gadain
United States Geological Survey (FEWS NET/USGS)
E-mail: /

Dr Wilbur Ottichilo
Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)

Mehari Tesfayohannes
Desert Locust Control Organization, Nairobi

Prof. Laban Ogallo / Zachary Atheru
Drought Monitoring Centre -- Nairobi (DMC-N)

World Food Programme (WFP) -- East and Central Africa Bureau, Kampala

Prof. Jerry Stuth / Robert Kaitho
Livestock Early Warning Systems (LEWS/GLCRSP)

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More on the GHA Food Security Bulletin...

This bulletin draws from the FEWS NET regular monthly reports, with additional contributions from network partners whose names and logos appear at the bottom of the first page. Please consult for in-depth analysis of the countries where FEWS NET has a national representative: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The World Food Programme provides the information on Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and northern Sudan