- Several parts of Kenya are experiencing a deteriorating food security situation, in particular affecting western pastoralists and farm households in coastal marginal agricultural areas. In other parts of the country, however, a favourable rainy season has created optimism.
The cumulative rainfall for the 2003-04 short-rains season has created a pattern of great differences in Kenya. Most of the country's southern, costal and central areas have received well below average rains this season, while several of the eastern pastoral districts along the Somali border have receive well above average rains.
The effects of the poor 2003/04 short rains in the affected areas were made worse by a delayed onset to the season, and compounded by similarly poor rainfall in the previous two to three seasons, according to a new monthly Kenya report released by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS).
The 2003/04 short-rains agricultural season is well underway in Eastern, Central, Nyanza and Coast Provinces, FWES reports. However, since close to 60 percent of the maize is grown in the lowlands, and these areas received late and poorly distributed rains, only around 80 percent of the expected area was planted.
- The major concern at the moment is the seriously retarded stage of crop development, following a three week to two month delay in the start of season, according to the FEWS report. "In addition, the crop in most of Coast Province and the marginal agricultural districts of Nyanza Province has been seriously affected by prolonged dry conditions."
The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture still projects that the short rains season will yield 360,000 metric tons of maize - compared to the average output of 450,000 tons. However, this figure is likely to be revised downwards toward the end of January after the impact of this month's rains is more accurately determined.
Nearly all the 2003 long-rains maize crop has now been harvested. A relatively good overall harvest of 2.19 million tons - exactly at the Kenyan 1992-2001 average - is contributing to a favourable food security situation in most parts of the country at the moment. However, also this production had been poor in the lowlands of all marginal agricultural areas.
While the food security for pastoralists in the north and eastern areas of the country eas said to be satisfactory, "most areas of the western pastoral districts have suffered yet another poor season, heightening already precarious food security," FEWS warned.
Deteriorating food security here is chiefly attributed to the effects of successive poor seasons in addition to the poor 2002/03 short-rains season. Water has also now become increasing scarce and the Arid Lands and Resource Management (ALRMP) has reported that trekking distances of livestock - an indicator of water scarcity - have increased drastically.
The Kenayan government has continued relief food interventions that began in October in the worst-affected pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. An estimated 1.2 million people - about 15 percent of the country's population - are now being targeted in these pastoral districts.
According to FEWS, an estimated 3,660 tons of maize, beans and vegetable oil valued at US$ 270,000 is being distributed by the Kenyan government during January. "Unfortunately, the impact of this distribution is severely limited by the lack of precise targeting," the US agency comments.
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