The Drought situation in Kenya started in October 2016 following the prolonged drought situation which was characterized by successive poor rainy seasons. Localized off-season showers had little impact on environmental conditions. The impact of the poor rains negatively affected livestock conditions as they had to travel long distances to access water and grazing/pastures, leading to further falls in productivity and in the purchasing power of pastoralists.
The drought situation continued to worsen by February 2017, with over 15 counties (Baringo, Isiolo, Kilifi, Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Wajir, West Pokot, Narok and Kwale) in Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) 3 – Crisis.
The severe drought resulted in loss of vegetation, reduction in water levels, decrease in pasture negatively affecting the health of livestock and consequently milk productivity. The drought also saw, reduced crop production. The impact on water sources forced humans and livestock to travel, long distances in search of water, increase in return distances from grazing.
Unfavorable terms of trade were observed with high prices of food products were relatively expensive. The affected counties were reporting an increase in malnutrition among children.
The government declared the drought a National Disaster in 2017 following worsening drought situation that left approximately 3.5 million people in acute food insecurity.
The crisis had evolved as follows;
In August 2016, the long rains assessment carried out by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) identified 1.25 million people in need of food assistance and this was a result of poor performance of March-AprilMay of 2016 rains.
The poor performance of the October-November-December (O-N-D) of 2016 increased short rains pressure on communities, and when the short rains assessment was done in January 2017 by the KFSSG, the population requiring food assistance had increased to 2.7 million people.
Following the poor performance of the long rains March-April-May (MAM 2017), the Mid-Season Long Rains Assessment carried out in May indicated that the population affected by drought had increased to 3.5 Million People. This included 2.6 million people facing severe food insecurity, of these 500,000 people already were in Emergency Status (IPC Phase4), and 800,000 people were considered Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and were expected to fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) level between August to October 2017.
The Kenya Meteorological Department’s (KMD) short rains (O-N-D) assessment for 2017 indicated poor performance of the rains. The assessment reports presented in December 2017 recommended extension of all ongoing relief operations in 10 counties including those in IPC 3 Crisis i.e. Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Tana River, Kajiado and Kilifi as well as those in IPC 2 stressed i.e. Mandera, Marsabit, Kitui and Taita Taveta counties until April 2018.
The short rains of 2017 (October through December), brought significant improvements in some counties targeted by this Emergency Appeal including Laikipia, Baringo, Lamu, Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot and Kwale. Despite the improvement, an alert was issued by KMD indicating a high likelihood of occurrence of Heat Waves in Northern Counties including; Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, Mandera and Wajir. This heatwave resulted in the counties experiencing some level of stability but only in the short term.
During March – April - May 2018, most Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties recorded enhanced rainfall that was also fairly distributed both in time and space. In a number of counties, the cumulative amount of rainfall received in May 2018 was above normal. Some counties; Kwale, Kilifi, Makueni, Marsabit, Garissa, Baringo and Turkana the rainfall exceeded 110 percent of the long term mean for May. The good rainfall performance during the long rains season impacted positively on crop and livestock performance in most ASAL counties. In the pastoral counties, livestock body condition improved significantly as a result of availability of forage and water which saw increased milk availability and household income from higher livestock prices. In the marginal agricultural counties, improved crop performance had started.