Kenya Country Update 11 Aug 2000: Kenya suffers its worst drought in 40 years

WFP Horn of Africa Alert: Kenya People affected by drought 3.3 million

  • People assisted by WFP aid 3.3 million
  • Funds required by WFP US$102 million

Risks to Food Security

Climate: recurring droughts in northern and eastern regions; flooding during rainy seasons.

Poor infrastructure: affects humanitarian access to affected areas. Damaged by El Nino rains in 1997-98.

Environment: deforestation; desertification; soil erosion.

Food Production

Background: Kenya’s countryside, still home to three-quarters of the population, keeps 75-80 percent of the total workforce employed in agriculture. But intense competition for arable land is driving ever more people to the cities. Agriculture accounts for 29% of Kenya’s GDP. In 1998-99, El Nino rains destroyed crops.

Main products: coffee, tea, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs.

Land use: Arable land = 7%, Permanent crops = 1%, Permanent pastures = 37%, Forests = 30%, Other = 25%

The failure of the 2000 long rains (March-May) has plunged Kenya into its worst drought in 40 years.

With these rains usually accounting for some 80 percent of Kenya’s total annual maize output, reports are even being received of hunger in traditionally food surplus areas.

The worst hit areas lie in the Rift Valley, North Eastern, Eastern and Coast Provinces. In Turkana district, in the northwest, an estimated 250,000 people are at risk.

Even before this year’s drought, these areas were reeling from the effects of three droughts (1991-2, 1996-97 and 1998-9) and devastating floods in 1997-98.

In arid and semi-arid parts of the country, the previous droughts have severely undermined the capacity of farmers to cope with food shortages -- many had already lost all or much of their livestock and crops before the current crisis.

Their families have already consumed 1998-99 food stocks and many are coming to rely on food aid for survival.

The prospects for the immediate future remain bleak. 70 percent of the staple crop production in Kenya occurs during the main rainy season, March to May. It can take years for herders to replenish their livestock.

It is anticipated that during the October 2000 rains (short rainy season) many farming households in the drought-affected areas will have no seeds for planting purposes.

Map courtesy of National Geographic

WFP Appeals

The failure of the 2000 long rains has exacerbated an already serious drought in areas which were already receiving WFP emergency food aid.

To meet the increased needs, WFP has expanded its relief effort. 2.2 million people will receive general food distributions in 19 districts throughout Kenya. A further 1.1 million school children in 12 drought-hit districts will also receive school meals for six months.

Schools across the country are reporting high student drop-out rates in drought-affected areas, especially among girls. All too often, they are forced to leave school in order to get the jobs that help feed their families. WFP-supplied school meals are a major incentive to poor families to keep their children in school.

From August until December, the planned requirement for WFP general distributions is around 30,000 tons per month to feed the 3.3 million targeted drought victims. The ongoing emergency operation (July to December) has been 34 percent funded.

Copyright © 2000, World Food Programme