By George Munene
According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Kenya food prices remain at a record high after a fifth consecutive below-average rainy season has led to high levels of acute food insecurity
While annual food inflation eased to 13.8 percent in December 2022, staple food prices in monitored markets remain unseasonably high, driven by four successive below-average production seasons, high fuel and transportation costs, high local demand, and reduced cross-border imports from Uganda and Tanzania.
Water sources are drying up in the pastoral areas of Kenya following the end of the fifth consecutive rainy season. National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) sentinel sites report livestock body conditions are largely poor to very poor, with livestock deaths due to the drought continuing to be reported.
In the marginal agricultural areas, crop failure is being reported across Kitui and Meru counties and in parts of Kilifi and Kwale following the below-average October to December short rains.
Across the marginal agricultural areas, the maize crop is unlikely to reach maturity following the cessation of rainfall in late December and inadequate soil moisture to support growth.
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A below-average harvest of green grams, cowpeas, and beans is also underway in most areas, with the early consumption of green produce, especially beans.
Overall, households remain atypical reliant on market food purchases due to a lack of stocks from the below-average March to May 2022 season.
The 2022 long rains maize harvest is almost complete in the North Rift, the higher altitude regions in Nakuru, and parts of the central region.
The short rains harvest is ongoing in Nyanza and parts of Western Kenya.
Across central and western Kenya, the current dry conditions benefit harvesting and drying activities and greatly reduce the possibility of post-harvest losses to moisture damage.
People travel three to 17 kilometers to access water, while livestock trek 10 to 33 kilometers due to limited water access. Livestock milk production, a key source of food and income, remains well below normal, with livestock producing zero to 0.9 liters per household per day.
Overall, the ongoing drought continues to severely hinder household access to food and income, resulting in widespread Crisis and Emergency outcomes.
Households rely heavily on off-own farm activities such as selling charcoal, firewood, and petty trade to earn income. However, increased competition is limiting earnings as food prices remain above average. Household food access is impacted by below-normal purchasing power, driving widespread Stressed and Crisis outcomes.
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In December, dry maize grain prices ranged from 35-140 per cent above the five-year average, with most monitored markets reporting prices around 70 to 100 per cent above the five-year average.
However, in Eldoret, maize prices were almost 140 per cent above the five-year average due to the National Cereals and Produce Board offering Sh4,500-5,300 per 90-kg bag.
Similarly, dry bean prices in December were around 50-85 per cent above the five-year average.
Overall, the high cost of food continues to limit household purchasing power and impact household food access.