Kenya Food Security Outlook Update, December 2019 – May 2020

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Near-average short rains cereal production expected as high area planted offsets crop losses


• In December, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist due to ongoing recovery from the 2018/19 drought and the negative impact of recent floods and landslides on household food and income sources. From October to December, Kenya experienced one of the wettest short rains seasons on record, with rainfall totals ranging up to 400 percent of average. A second round of floods and landslides in November caused the death of 132 people, displaced 17,000 people, and affected approximately 330,000 people, primarily in West Pokot. Disruptions to critical transport infrastructure and ongoing delays in the unimodal harvest have reduced the availability of food in markets, sustaining high food prices. In localized areas, crop and livestock losses have been reported.

• Staple food prices remained atypically high in November, driven by low market supply resulting from the delayed unimodal long rains harvest in western Kenya, a decline in cross-border imports, and below-average bimodal production in late 2018 and early 2019. Disruptions to trade flows from heavy rain are likely exacerbating this trend. In comparison to the five-year average, maize prices ranged from 14 to 41 percent above average and bean prices ranged from 9 to 25 percent above average, with few exceptions. Bean prices in Nairobi were exceptionally high, at 58 percent above the five-year average.

• In pastoral areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes remain prevalent. However, the replenishment of rangeland resources has reduced livestock trekking distances and driven migration to wet season grazing areas near homesteads, leading to better body conditions, milk productivity, and sale values. Rising goat prices are counterbalancing the impact of high food prices, and household purchasing power is gradually improving in most areas. As households transition to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in early 2020, the population in need of livelihoods support is expected to be atypically high given that many poor households continue to have below-normal livestock assets.

• In marginal agricultural areas, above-average rainfall has led to mixed effects on short rains crop production, which is most likely to result in a near-average harvest on aggregate in January. In many areas, area planted is above normal, cropping conditions remain favorable, and agricultural labor demand is at typical levels. However, excess soil moisture and flooding in some coastal and southeastern areas is expected to result in below-average, short-cycle legumes production and localized maize losses. In early 2020, the availability of the short rains harvest and labor income earned in the 2020 long rains season are expected to lead to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in some areas.
However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will likely be sustained in areas that are currently experiencing localized crop losses. Overall, the population experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is expected to remain atypically high through May.