Kenya Food Security Report, May 2004

Flooding along the Victoria Basin causes displacement.

GoK and NGO humanitarian assistance in Marsabit and Turkana Districts mitigates food insecurity in the short to mid-term.

Crop prospects favorable in key production areas but still uncertain elsewhere. Staple price increases undermine household food security. Overall national food supplies are expected to improve in coming months.

1.0 Flooding displaces over 3,000 people; rains in central areas are poor

Exceptionally heavy rains in the highland areas of western Kenya fell during the last week of April, causing severe flooding in the Lake Victoria basin. In Nyando, Migori and Rachuonyo Districts an estimated 3,250 persons have been displaced and 3,500 hectares of crops destroyed. District officials indicate that the situation is likely to worsen in coming days, following sustained rains in the first week of May. The Climate Prediction Centre forecasts suggest that heavy rains over western Kenya are likely to continue, which may result in additional flooding.

Less severe flooding occurred in Busia, Kisumu and Homa Bay Districts and the eastern pastoral districts of Garissa and Tana River. The GoK is distributing 1,611 MT of maize, beans and vegetable oil to affected populations in all districts mentioned above. The Kenya Red Cross Society, the Ministry of Health, World Vision and AMREF are providing non-food assistance.

MAP - Figure 1: Cumulative Rainfall April 1-30, 2004 as a Percent of Normal

The long rains had spread throughout most of the country by the last week of April. Figure 1 illustrates that so far the long rains have been poor along a central corridor of Kenya, from the north (covering pastoral districts) through to the central (covering the cropping districts) and southern (Maasai rangelands) areas. The north pastoral Marsabit District, in particular, remains an area of serious concern due to already heightened food insecurity. In other parts of the country, including parts of the coastal regions and the western pastoral areas, rainfall has been up to three times heavier than normal. Overall, temporal distribution of the long rains has so far been poor, with exceptionally heavy rains occurring in the span of a few days, and little rain falling during the rest of the month.

2.0 GoK and NGO interventions expected to help address food insecurity in Marsabit and Turkana Districts

Following recommendations of the Kenya Food Security Steering Group, the GoK, WFP and NGOs have embarked on a program to address the severe food shortages among pastoralists in Marsabit and Turkana Districts. These shortages resulted from successive droughts which precipitated a critical loss of livestock, the mainstay of livelihoods in these areas, as detailed in the Kenya Food Security Update of April 6, 2004. A total of 7,800 MT of food commodities will be distributed to 230,678 people in both districts from April to July, at a 50 percent ration.

The GoK is currently distributing food commodities in Marsabit District through general food distributions and limited Food for Work (FfW). From May through December 2004, WFP, in collaboration with the GoK, will initiate the Food for Assets (FfA) program. The FfA program is intended to supplement relief efforts and primarily supports the development of community assets that enhance coping capacities of households, while increasing resilience against future poor seasons. Approximately 938 MT of food will be distributed to 17,400 beneficiaries in the May to December FfA program. The GoK has pledged 500 MT of maize to WFP's Marsabit operation for the Jan-March 2005 lean season.

The GoK is finalizing an agreement with World Vision International (WVI) to distribute food to 10 divisions in central and southern in Turkana District from May to July. WFP will also initiate Food-for-Assets programs in selected central and southern divisions starting in May 2004. The GoK is expected to pledge 3,000 MT of maize towards WFP's Turkana operation. Approximately 1,500 MT of maize will be distributed in 2004 and 1,500 MT retained to cover the Jan-March 2005 lean season. WVI is likely to be the implementing partner.

OXFAM/GB is distributing food to an additional four divisions of north eastern Turkana District over a three month period using a GoK food donation and a DFID cash donation. Cash-for-Work activities will be implemented as food insecurity lessens.

Prospects for improved food security among eastern pastoralists and agropastoralists in western Kenya are improving following favorable rains during most of April. Water, browse and pasture availability has significantly improved in these areas. Pastoralists have started their expected seasonal migrations to traditional homes in the wet season grazing areas.

Key pastoral indicators, including livestock prices, household milk consumption and terms-of-trade, were stable during April and are expected to improve with the current rains. While food insecurity in the northwest remains precarious, particularly in Marsabit and Turkana Districts, favorable rains in 2003 enhanced the recovery process in the eastern pastoral districts. According to the Arid Lands Resource Management Program, this recovery is supported by the fact that rates of child malnutrition in the eastern pastoral districts have been declining since late 2001.

3.0 Crop prospects favorable in key areas but uncertain elsewhere

Land preparation has now been completed in all areas of the country except for the Coast Province, where only about half of the available area has been prepared because of a poor season onset.

Planting delays were reported in the main early planting areas of Nyanza, coast and parts of the south Rift, where up to 30 percent of the crop has not been planted yet. These planting delays are expected to push back the harvesting date by one month, from early July to early August. This delay is particularly undesirable because it was hoped that the early crop would dampen rapidly rising local maize prices. In addition, much of the late-planted crop in Nyanza Province is unlikely to mature unless the season extends uncharacteristically beyond the first week of June.

Although the marked delay in long rains planting in the Coast Province will have limited impact on national level output, farm households at the local level, who are already coping with food shortages, will likely see their situation worsen.

Fig 2: Comparative long-rains Maize Output By province

Overall, one million hectares of the long-rains maize crop had been planted by the end of April, representing 80 percent of expected area. Nearly 60 percent of that crop is at the 45 cm stage, while it should be closer to the tasselling stage at this time of year. The remaining 40 percent is at the post-germination stage but should be at the 45 cm stage.

Nevertheless, the MoA projects that 2.3 million MT of maize will be harvested during the 2004 long-rains season, just over 10 percent higher than the 1993-2002 average output. The increase in output is attributed to expected favorable rains in the main producing Rift Valley and Western Provinces, in addition to improved incentives from higher-than-usual maize prices. Figure 2 shows projected maize output by province for the 2004 long-rains season compared with the 1993-2002 averages. The most significant output reductions are expected in the Coast and Nyanza Provinces.

Maize stocks at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) have fallen from a level of 135,000 MT in March to 108,000 MT in April. An estimated 18,000 MT of the remaining quantity is likely to be sold to markets and institutions in Western Province in a bid to address maize shortages in that region.

4.0 Rising maize prices pose threat to food insecure households

Maize prices began to rise in April after remaining largely stable in March due to the short rains harvest. The MoA estimates that the country is facing a 100,000 MT deficit until the beginning of the harvest in early August. The price effects of this shortfall are already visible across the country. As shown in Figure 3, maize prices are highest in pastoral districts and have started increasing in all other areas. The purchasing power of households in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas have been worsening over the past year due to the concurrent rise in grain prices and decline in livestock prices.

Fig. 3: Maize Price Trend Across Production Systems

Maize prices are expected to rise even further before the August harvest, barring large scale imports. The GoK is unlikely to waive the 25 percent duty on imported maize three months away from the beginning of the harvesting period. While surplus producers in the Rift Valley Province are benefiting from favorable prices, which provide them with incentives to expand production, up to 60 percent of Kenyans are net consumers and these increasingly prohibitive maize prices pose a threat to their food security.

5.0 Conclusion

The food security situation for the majority of Kenyans hinges critically on the outcome of the 2004 long-rains season. Favorable rains across most of the country, including some of the worst-affected pastoral, agro-pastoral and marginal agricultural districts, should improve production prospects during the long-rains season. Although good long rains may have only limited long terms effects on the highly food insecure pastoral households in Marsabit and Turkana Districts, a good long-rains season in the key growing areas will improve the national supply of cereals and improve the purchasing capacities of the majority of households. A favorable long-rains season would also accelerate the tenuous recovery process in the pastoral districts.