Poor Rains, Low Productivity Leave 2.6M Kenyans Food Insecure

By David Indeje / December 8, 2017

Cost Of Unga To Rise By Next Week as Subsidy Program Ends

The need for food assistance in Kenya remains high, even as a report shows 2.6 million people are severely food insecure.

The Crop Prospects and Food Situation report from United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) say crop production and livestock have been affected following the negative impact of the poor 2016 “short-rains” and below-average 2017 “long-rains” on agricultural production and pastoral Livelihoods.

The affected population is located in eastern, southeastern and coastal areas.

Kitui is prone to droughts and is a marginal producing area. Lodwar market is located in Turkana, a highly food insecure pastoral district which is poorly integrated with other markets. Mandera is a food insecure area and cross border market with inadequate trade infrastructure. Marsabit is a conflict affected area that is highly food insecure and poorly integrated with other markets. – Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET.

Kenya has been categorised among 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

“Persisting conflicts continue to be a key driver of severe food insecurity, with weather shocks intensifying the fragile conditions in some countries. Production shortfalls due to unfavourable weather have also adversely impacted food availability and access,” notes FAO.

The report collaborates recent findings from the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development that Kenya is among African countries with high serious hunger rates at 29.1 per cent against global index of 18.2 per cent.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and FAO forecasts the country’s maize output at about 25 percent below average in the main growing areas of Rift Valley and Western provinces.

“The “long-rains” were characterized by a late onset and a prolonged dry spell in June, which caused moisture stress and crop wilting. Improved rainfall between July and September partly offset the moisture deficits, however, some damage to the maize crop was irreversible.

In addition, unseasonal rainfall in October and early November hampered harvesting and drying operations, causing further crop losses,” it notes.

Further, it says the Fall Armyworm infestations in parts of western and southeastern Kenya, have constrained yields especially where appropriate control measures have not been implemented.

In July, Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) report noted that “ Fall armyworm infestations affecting maize and wheat crops pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops.”

In February, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the ongoing drought in the country a national disaster.

The drought resulted in the price escalation of agricultural commodities 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.

According to data from the KNBS, Consumer Price Index (CPI), measured as the weighted average of prices of goods and services, increased by an average of 0.75 per cent between April and May 2017 with food and non-alcoholic beverages CPI dramatically shooting up by 21.5 per cent between May 2016 and May 2017.

Between May 2016 and May 2017, the price of sugar soared from KSh110 to KSh170 per kilo; milk from KSh50 to KSh65 per 500ml packet and maize grains from Sh85 to KSh130 per 2kg container.

Since 2015, Kenya has experienced shortages of the staple food, maize, and other basic commodities such as sugar. The annual food inflation rate stood at 18.6 percent in March, forcing households to tighten their belts.

“In Kenya, maize prices decreased by 25-45 percent between May and October. However, prices in October remained up to 16 percent higher than one year earlier due to tight domestic supplies, despite sustained imports and the introduction of a new price subsidy programme for maize grain imports and domestic maize flour products,” says FAO.

In November, data from KNBS, Consumer Price Index (CPI), on a month on month basis, seasonal vegetables such as cabbages, carrots, spinach, kales and tomatoes declined by 7.20 percent, 10.52 percent, 5.35 percent, 5.84 percent and 5.96 percent respectively.

“Easing food prices remains the key driver to disinflation primarily attributable to improved weather conditions and complemented by the government’s maize subsidy program,” Notes analysts from Commercial Bank of Africa Limited.

About David Indeje

David Indeje is a writer and editor, with interests on how technology is changing journalism, government, Health, and Gender Development stories are his passion. Follow on Twitter @David_Indeje David can be reached on: (020) 528 0222 / Email: [email protected]

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