Kenya Food Security Update, May 2007

Situation Report
Originally published


This report covers the period from 4/10/2007 to 5/9/2007

The 2007 long-rains season is now underway after a tentative start in the eastern pastoral areas and in the coastal and southeastern cropping lowlands. The long rains are critical and are the best possible opportunity available to consolidate the beginning of the recovery process for pastoralists and marginal agricultural households that started toward the end of 2006. However, for rains to benefit the recovery process, the Government of Kenya (GoK), donors and NGOs need to activate concurrent multi-sectoral mitigation and resilience-building interventions proposed by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG). Until this happens, pastoral and marginal agricultural livelihoods will not be able to withstand the next shock or hazard in spite of recent substantial improvements in short-term food security. Already, renewed flooding around Lake Victoria and the Coast has displaced households and disrupted livelihoods as critical dykes that broke during the October-December short rains remain in disrepair. The prognosis in key cropping areas looks promising, and a good long-rains harvest is anticipated in these areas beginning in October. The overall national food supply remains favorable and the country is well supplied with grain through the start of the first long rains harvest in July.

Rains increase in April but remain erratic Most parts of the country received substantial amounts of rainfall in April, after a poor start in the eastern pastoral areas as well as in the coastal and southeastern cropping lowlands. In these drought and flood prone areas, rains began in mid-April, about two weeks late. The lateness of the rains is of more concern in the cropping areas that require a systematic rainfall regime, including the southeastern and coastal lowlands, where crop production is the key livelihood. While the long rains are the minor season in the southeastern and coastal districts, they nevertheless contribute an estimated 30 percent of the local annual crop output, regenerate vegetation and recharge water sources.

In contrast, the Rift Valley, western and central highlands have received fair rains. The one to two week delay in the onset facilitated short-rains harvesting, land preparation and planting for the long rains, after the short rains extended uncharacteristically into February. Unusually heavy rains in the adjacent highland catchments resulted in renewed flooding in the lowland areas around Lake Victoria. The perennially flood-prone Budalang'i Division is the worst-affected, mainly because the dykes that were destroyed during the October-December floods were not repaired. An estimated 4,000 persons were displaced as a result of the flooding during the last week of April and more recently, an estimated 2,000 persons along the coastal strip.

While rains have been favorable in the key cropping areas situated in the Rift Valley and western highlands, the season is still in its early stages and significant changes could occur. However, continued good rains should ensure another favorable season as long as the intensity is not extreme. The International Research Institute has indicated that forecasting signals are generally neutral at the moment, limiting the ability to provide an unambiguous prognosis of probable rainfall trends.