According to international, regional and national forecasts, there is a high probability of below-average precipitation during the short rains from October to December in northern and eastern Kenya. Analysis of analogous years indicates that precipitation will likely be less than 60 percent of the Horn average. Additionally, historical analogues of the ebbing La Nina events suggest that the long rains of March-May 2023 are also likely to be below-average, potentially six consecutive below-average seasons. The continuation of drought into 2023 is expected to result in further sub-par harvests in marginal agricultural areas and further degradation of already sub-par grazing and water resources in grazing areas, making pastoral livelihoods increasingly unviable.
In pastoral livelihood zones, crisis (IPC phase 3) and emergency (IPC phase 4) episodes persist, with severe (GAM 10–14.9 percent) to extremely critical (GAM ≥ 30 percent) prevalence of acute malnutrition. In August, selling one goat in the northern and eastern pastoral zones can buy 16-43 kg of corn, enough to feed a family of six for four to 12 days if they only ate corn. As a result, household access to food remains below average, and many households are turning to increasingly strict coping strategies, such as selling more animals than usual to generate income or selling their last female pet to fill gaps in food consumption . As pasture and water resources continue to decline, pastoral households are increasingly relying on income and sustenance from causal work, self-employment, national safety nets, and humanitarian food assistance to meet their nutritional needs.
Preparation and planting for the short rainy season from October to December has yet to start in the marginal agricultural areas. Poor households are increasingly relying on market purchases as household food supplies are significantly lower after the below-average rainy season. However, access to food in most marginal agricultural areas remains constrained by below-average purchasing power due to above-average prices and significantly low incomes from crop sales and agricultural wage labor opportunities. Households are increasingly relying on income from agriculture to buy food. Overall, most marginal agricultural areas are stressed (IPC phase 2), but in Meru (Meru North), Kitui, Makueni and Tharaka Nithi at least one in five households is affected by crises (IPC phase 3).
Across Kenya, staple food prices remain high due to low local availability after consecutive underperforming harvests, high demand, high inflation rates and high transportation costs. National food inflation was 15 percent higher in August 2022 than in 2021, according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics. The high prices are reducing household purchasing power and restricting household access to food. In August, corn prices were 30 to 60 percent above the five-year average in Narok, Kajiado, Kilifi, Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and Tana River, and around 70 to 120 percent above the five-year average in the rest of the markets monitored. Similarly, retail beans sold nearly 20 to 75 percent above the five-year average in monitored markets. In August, however, the price of an adult medium-sized goat was 10 to 45 percent below the five-year average due to deteriorating body conditions, but prices in Garissa, Samburu, Tana River Baringo and West Pokot are on average almost 20 percent above the average on the Laikipia Market due to fair to good carcass conditions and high demand.
On October 3, 2022, the government approved the cultivation and importation of genetically modified crops and animal feed after technical reports on the introduction of biotechnology. This will likely make it easier and cheaper for Kenya to import white corn for human consumption and yellow corn for animal feed when there is a production deficit. The primary goal of lifting the ban is to boost local agricultural productivity to plug Kenya’s corn deficit. Farmers are likely to have better access to bioengineered drought and pest resistant seed varieties in the coming years, which is likely to improve agricultural production once bioengineered seed markets are fully developed.
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