In Kenya, approximately 80% of lands are classified as arid and semi-arid (ASAL), based on the relatively low amounts of annual rainfall received. These covers 23 counties, 9 of them are classified as arid receiving an annual rainfall of between 150 mm and 550 mm and 14 as semiarid receiving between 550 mm and 850 mm per year. These counties are particularly susceptible to droughts and flooding, and with increasing impacts from climate change, these areas are considered to be at risk of desertification. Moreover, a large percentage of ASALs have been degraded from deforestation and overgrazing, which further reduces the productivity of these lands, threatening food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.
The IPC June update projection for the Kenya’s ASAL region, covering the March to June period indicated that the expected March-April-May seasonal rainfall amount received across most livelihood zones was below the long-term seasonal averages and exacerbated by poor spatial distribution. Resource-based conflicts coupled with rising food commodity prices due to depressed crop production that coincides with the peak lean season for most ASAL counties. Overall, these factors indicate an increase in the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity to 4.1 million, over the 3.5 million initially projected over the same period last year. The upsurge in food commodity prices due to depressed crop production shows the county’s dependence on imports. For example, wholesale maize prices in April in the urban reference markets were 41%– 46% above the five-year average linked to lower production. In addition, the Ukraine/Russia conflict has negatively affected fuel prices and as well as the prices of essential food commodities.
Community livelihoods are likely to be further impacted, compounding the food insecurity situation, as forecasts are still predicting that the food insecurity will last at least until December 2022. This will result in the adoption of negative coping strategies like selling productive assets to meet food, health, and other basic needs. Education is also likely to be disrupted as families pull their children out of school. Pastoralist communities have begun experiencing poor terms of trade as food prices increase against reducing livestock prices due to diminishing body conditions of cattle. The above is further supported by FEWS NET’s Kenya food security outlook update-Feb-Sept 2022, that indicated that maize prices are expected to increase to 9-30 percent above the five-year average from May through September and are expected to rise to 3,000-4,650 KES, due to dwindling local stocks and increased dependence on higher-priced supplies from neighboring countries. The loss of livestock and below-average milk production will continue to cause a variation in the availability and prices of the dairy products. the commodities.
The resulting drought has affected the majority of the country, with 3.5 million people currently estimated to be facing acute food insecurity. On top of this, prices for essential commodities have increased rapidly over the last months. The prices for the staple commodities in the food basket used to compute inflation by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, such as maize flour, wheat flour, Irish potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, kale and cooking oil, rose by an average of 20% in January 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Against this backdrop, Cash and Voucher assistance (CVA) is a crucial tool to limit the negative impact of the drought, but is hindered by a shortage of funding and resources. A stronger understanding of the current degree of market functionality and Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) composition is thus crucial to make sure CVA interventions are evidence-based and as impactful as possible, as well as able to reach the populations most in need. In Kenya, there is a lack of harmonized, regular, and standard market monitoring that keeps track on the functionality of markets, prices and availability of commodities in the local markets. MEB Workstream of the Kenya Cash Working group proposed to conduct a Joint Market Monitoring Initiative in a bid to provide a regular and harmonized market monitoring in Kenya. This will aid in making informed decisions for CVA programmes. The research is designed to harmonize data collection efforts and combine resources of humanitarian actors and the Government throughout the ASAL counties which will lead to greater coverage, effectiveness and operational applicability for market monitoring systems.