Over 3 million Kenyans among the 11 million in East and Horn of Africa have been impacted by the ongoing severe drought.
According to ReliefWeb, the UN, the Red Cross and regional governments, have taken steps to alleviate the situation.
The National Treasury has allocated Ksh 7.3 billion while the county governments have provided Ksh 2 billion for doubling of food rations and cash transfers among other measures.
However, the drought has resulted into the price escalation of agricultural commodities is also triggering inflation.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) consumer prices increased 6.99 percent year-on-year in January, following a 6.35 percent rise in December. It was the highest inflation rate in one year, mainly boosted by higher prices for food, caused by drought.
Subsequently, the cost of living is bound to soar after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) raised prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene in its monthly retail guidelines for the month of February to March hitting KSH 100. These are the highest since September 2015 when the cost of petrol hit Sh102.55 per litre in Nairobi.
“The effect of the latest ERC move will have a direct impact on the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (18.30% weight); transport (8.66% weight) and indirectly affect the 36.04% weighted food & non-alcoholic beverages in the upcoming headline inflation numbers,” says Genghis Research.
The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) in a statement said the long rains (March-May) outlook that food growing areas of Western and Nyanza would have near-normal rain.
“The expected poor temporal distribution of the seasonal rainfall is, however, likely to negatively impact most agricultural areas. “Food security is expected to deteriorate over most parts of the country and more so the northern areas of Kenya,” KMD said in a statement.
Depressed rainfall is expected over most parts of the country, especially the Eastern sector, during March-May 2017 “Long-Rains” Season. pic.twitter.com/4Iz5ta6Gyx
— Kenya Met Department (@KenyaMetService) February 13, 2017
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) warns that a sharp increase in food prices could lead to renewed hunger in the region.
“Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity,” Mario Zappacosta, FAO senior economist, said in a statement.
“Maize prices increased in January by 9-14 percent in most monitored markets, as the output of the short rains harvest, currently underway in eastern and coastal lowlands, was sharply reduced due to insufficient rainfall. Prices of maize in January were 20-30 percent higher than 12 months earlier in several markets, also as a result of a below-average long rains harvest, recently completed in high potential western areas of the Rift Valley,” according to FAO’s monthly report on food price trends for Kenya.
This has been driven by the fact that the Eastern and coastal lowlands as well as some western areas of the Rift Valley continue suffering below-average rainfall. Maize prices are currently up by around 30 percent from the normal prices and the country is now depending on imports from Uganda.
In drought affected coastal counties, sharper year-on-year price increases are recorded, and in December 2016 prices of maize in Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taraka Nithi and Embu counties were up to 40 percent higher than a year earlier.
Prices of beans are also at high levels and in January they were up to 40 percent higher than their year-earlier levels. Most pastoral areas were affected by drought, and prices of livestock declined in recent months as animal body conditions deteriorated. For instance, in Marsabit, Mandera, Garissa and Tana River counties, prices of goats in December 2016 were 15-30 percent lower than 12 months earlier.
FAO indicated that local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals are near or at record levels in swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Inadequate rainfall in most areas of the sub-region has put enormous strain on livestock and their keepers. Poor livestock body conditions due to pasture and water shortages and forcible culls mean animals command lower prices, leaving pastoralists with even less income to purchase basic foodstuffs.
Cereal prices across the East African Region continued to surge as the output of the ongoing harvests was sharply reduced by a poor October-December rainy season. Pastoralists are reducing herd size due to lower water and pasture availability to mitigate potential losses and increase their ability to sustain the remaining animals. As a result of higher supplies of low quality animals in the market, livestock prices have sharply declined.
The trends in East Africa, where prices of staple cereals have doubled in some town markets, stand in marked contrast to the stable trend of FAO’s Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of traded food commodities.