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GIEWS Country Brief: Kenya 19-October-2021

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FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  • Below average 2021 “long‑rains” main season harvest due to poor rains

  • Poor rangeland conditions affecting pastoral livelihoods

  • Prices of maize at low levels in key producing areas and in capital, Nairobi

  • Deteriorating terms of trade constrain food access for pastoralists

  • Food security situation deteriorated over last 12 months

Below average 2021 “long‑rains” main season harvest due to poor rains

Harvesting of the bulk of the 2021 “long‑rains” main season cereal crops has recently started in major uni‑modal rainfall growing areas of Central, Rift Valley and Western provinces. Cumulative seasonal rains were average to above average but had an erratic temporal distribution. Below‑average precipitation amounts in March, which forced several farmers to re‑plant, were followed by above‑average rains in April and May, and by poor rains during most of June, which affected maize during the critical flowering stage. Subsequently, improved precipitation between July and September lifted crop prospects, but some damage was irreversible. As a result, maize production is officially forecast at 8 percent below average.

More substantial output contractions were recorded in bi‑modal rainfall southwestern and southeastern agro‑pastoral areas as well as coastal marginal agriculture areas, where crops were harvested in July and August. The March to May rainy season was characterized by a delayed onset, below‑average cumulative amounts and an early cessation, with a negative impact on yields. According to official estimates, maize production in these areas is about 0.4 million tonnes, 35 percent below average, with a dismal performance reported in coastal areas (ASI map) due to prolonged dryness and Fall Armyworm infestations.

The total “long‑rains” maize production is officially put at 2.88 million tonnes, 5 to 10 percent below average.

According to the latest weather forecast by the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF), rainfall amounts are expected to be below average between October and December 2021. This may have a negative impact on the performance of the 2021 secondary “short‑rains” crops to be harvested at the beginning of 2022.

Aggregate cereal production in 2021 (including an average output of the “short‑rains” harvest) is tentatively forecast at about 4.3 million tonnes, some 12 percent down from 2020 and about 3 percent below the average of the previous five years.

Poor rangeland conditions affecting pastoral livelihoods

Grazing resources in most northern pastoral areas and central and southern agro‑pastoral areas have been severely affected by two consecutive poor rainy seasons since October 2020. As of September 2021, drought conditions have been reported in several counties, with particular concern for Marsabit County in the northwest and Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo and Wajir Counties in the northeast.

Rainfall deficits during the March to May rainy season severely constrained the regeneration of rangeland resources, resulting in a fast depletion during the June to September dry season. In several counties, livestock trekking distances to watering points from grazing fields have increased in recent months and, in August 2021, they were 25 to 55 percent longer than average. Livestock body conditions are below average and herd sizes have significantly declined due to decreased animal births and distress sales. Milk production has declined to low levels in pastoral and agro‑pastoral livelihood zones, where in August it was about 25 and 45 percent below average, respectively.

Prices of maize at low levels in key producing areas and in capital, Nairobi

In key producing areas and in the capital, Nairobi, prices of maize remained mostly stable in recent months and, in September, they were at the same levels of one year earlier. Prices were kept at low levels by adequate domestic availabilities mainly due to stocks from the above‑average 2020 cereal production and sustained imports from Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. By contrast, in Mombasa, a large urban centre located on the coast, prices of maize surged by about 25 percent in September, mainly due to the particularly poor performance of the “long‑rains” harvest in coastal areas.

In pastoral and agro‑pastoral areas, prices of livestock declined by 10 to 30 percent between August 2020 and August 2021 as the poor performance of the last two rainy seasons had a negative impact on livestock body conditions. The sharpest price declines are recorded in northwestern Turkana, Samburu and Marsabit counties and in northeastern Garissa and Wajir counties, which faced the most severe and prolonged drought conditions. In these areas, maize prices in August were 5 to 25 percent above their year‑earlier levels, mainly due to a poor performance of the local “long‑rains” harvests, coupled with sustained demand for animal feed due to pasture shortages. As a result, the terms of trade for pastoralists deteriorated over the last 12 months and, in August, they were 10 to 45 percent lower than one year earlier. For example, in Wajir County, the equivalent in maize of a medium sized goat declined from 71 kg in October 2020 to 46 kg in October 2021.

Prices of milk in August were on average about 80 percent higher on a yearly basis due to reduced supply.

Food security situation deteriorated over last 12 months

In the 23 counties classified as rural Arid and Semi‑Arid Lands (ASAL), covering about 80 percent of the country, about 2.1 million people were estimated to be severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3 [Crisis] and Phase 4 [Emergency]) in the July to October 2021 period. This figure, which includes about 1.8 million people in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 355 000 people in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency), is three times the estimate of the same period in 2020. The areas most affected by food insecurity are northern and eastern Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River and Baringo counties, which are regions with predominantly pastoral livelihoods, where between 20 to 40 percent of the population is severely food insecure.

The deterioration of the food security situation is mainly due to the negative impact of two consecutive poor rainy seasons since October 2020 on crop and livestock production and on on‑farm income‑earning opportunities. The impact of the measures implemented to curb the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic on economic activities exacerbated food insecurity. Movement restrictions measures affected farming activities through reduced availability of labour and agricultural inputs, also constraining cross‑border trade and off‑farm income‑earning opportunities including petty trade, charcoal and firewood sales.

The food security situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming months, with 2.4 million people estimated to be severely food insecure in the November 2021 to January 2022 period, under the assumption of the forecasted below‑average October to December “short‑rains”.