, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – Some improvements in rangeland recourses are expected in the last quarter of the year with the onset of short rains in October.
According to the latest food security prognosis by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the rains are expected to improve livestock body conditions as well as milk production and livestock sales which will enhance the food security situation in pastoral households in counties classified as Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL).
The authority however recommends a number of mitigation strategies to cushion some 3.5 million Kenyans at risk of starvation even with the anticipated availability of short cycle crops in the period leading to December.
“The onset of the short rains is expected in October, after which there will be modest improvements in rangeland resources, livestock body condition, milk production, and livestock sales, temporarily improving household food security,” the food security outlook for August 2017 – January 2018 reads in part.
“Food security is expected to improve slightly with the short rains but not sufficiently to change the food security phase,” the report however cautions.
NDMA projects stagnated stable food prices amid low incomes as a result of the suppressed production of animal products, particularly milk with affected households expected to resort to a number of coping strategies which could have an impact on the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate.
In pastoral north-west counties of Marsabit, Samburu and Turkana, the poor performance of long rains, resource-based conflict, insecurity, and cattle rustling have been identified as factors that have worsened the food security situation in the three counties with flash floods, armyworms, high food prices and low water access fuelling the situation as well.
The pastoral north-east cluster of Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Wajir and Mandera are also expected to remain largely food insecure despite 50 to 75 per cent of normal rains having been received in the recent past.
Eastern parts of Garissa also received a substantial amount of rain at 90 to 110 per cent of the projected rainfall.
Resource-based conflicts and insecurity in counties bordering Somalia and fall armyworms and crop pests in Tana River and Isiolo could also lead to the escalation of food scarcity.
Late onset of long rains in April and June in Agro-pastoral households in Baringo, Laikipia, West Pokot, Kajiado, Narok and Kieni in Nyeri County is expected to haunt residents with the food situation currently classified as stressed.
Other than depressed rainfall, the cluster has also suffered a major impact on the production of maize with cases of conflicts arising from in-migration of livestock from neighbouring counties to Baringo and Nyeri escalating conflicts.
In other cases, restricted access to pasture was reported in West Pokot and Baringo, human wildlife conflicts in parts of Laikipia, Kajiado and Narok as well as fluctuation of temperatures in parts of Laikipia which led to hailstorms and widespread loss of crops.
The coastal marginal consisting of Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu and Taita Taveta county a number of factors ranging from late rains, curfews as a result of terror activities in Lamu and invasion of farmlands in Taita Taveta could largely drive food insecurity despite a trend of near normal rainfall in most of the counties.
Five per cent of children in the region are said to be at risk of malnutrition.
An almost similar situation is expected to obtain in South-east marginal agricultural counties of Kitui, Makueni, Meru (Meru North), Embu (Mbeere) and Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka).
NDMA recommends close monitoring of food prices, livestock health and mortality, resource-based conflicts and insecurity, effects of armyworms on production, a potential fall-out from the 2017 general elections as well as the performance of the short rains from October for an appropriate response to be mounted to avert acute hunger among ASAL county populations.