Kenya’s Pastoral Areas to Continue Facing Acute Food Insecurity until October
By Vera Shawiza / September 1, 2017
Food insecurity continues to worsen in the pastoral areas as livestock productivity and prices continue to decline, constraining income and food availability.
Low milk production and poor dietary diversity are intensifying already high malnutrition outcomes.
According to the Food Security Outlook Update by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), the majority of poor households in Kenya are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but some of the most vulnerable households in Turkana, Marsabit, and Isiolo are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes between August and September.
In the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, the long rains harvest has temporarily improved household food availability and income, though at below-average levels. As food stocks atypically decline at the end of August, the majority of poor households are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but additional households in Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta will likely move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
The update notes that despite availability of marginal harvests and international and cross-border imports, maize availability remains low at the household and market level across the country. Staple food prices remain 33 – 65 percent above average across urban markets and 18 – 47 percent higher in rural retail markets due to reduced supply against sustained demand. Elevated prices continue to constrain food access for most poor households.
Nationally, there has been a slight increase in staple food availability across markets as the marginal harvests became available in July, but it remains atypically low due to below-average long rains crop production. According to the findings of the July 2017 Long Rains Assessment carried out by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG), 800,000 people are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and 2.6 million are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. KFSSG indicated that the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) population is likely to move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) over the next few months.
Due to reduced crop production and maize export restrictions, imports from Tanzania have fallen by 54 percent compared to the four-year average, reducing the availability in local markets. International imports from South Africa, Zambia, and Mexico have atypically increased and are expected to increase local maize availability as part of the Government of Kenya’s maize flour subsidy program.
The State Department of Agriculture (SDA) reports also indicate availability of other staple foods like beans, wheat, and rice through September, taking into consideration ongoing harvests, imports, and crops in the field. Wholesale maize prices in the main consumption markets across the country are following seasonal trends, but in July remained 37 – 53 percent above five-year averages due to the relatively low volumes available from imports from Uganda and local harvests.
Following the mostly peaceful August 8 general elections, business and humanitarian activities still remain slow, affecting livelihood activities and food access, but are gradually resuming.