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Oct-Dec short rains 55-70% lower as Kenya enters 5th drought season

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CSIRO ScienceImage 4421 Tribesman guarding cattle in Kenya Africa 1981

By George Munene

The 2022 October to December short rains were the fifth consecutive below-average rainy season as Kenya’s historic drought persists. 

According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), at the end of November, cumulative rainfall is less than 70 per cent of the 30-year average across most of the country, with large areas of the Northwestern, Northern, and Eastern pastoral areas and the marginal agricultural areas recording less than 55 per cent of the 30-year average.

According to USAID’s  Acute Food Insecurity Index:

From November 2022 to January 2023 Turkana and Marsabit are identified as the only counties at risk of famine with Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, and Garissa forecast to make this list by the end of February-May 2023.

Between November of this year and May next year Kitui, Tana River, Makueni, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Samburu, Baringo, and West Pokot are listed as emergency counties.  

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Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Kajiado, Narok, Embu, and Mombasa are identified as stressed counties with the rest of the counties at minimal risk of being acutely food insecure.

The drought situation is also predicted to precipitate a human displacement crisis from November 2022-January 2023, with some from neighbouring Somalia fleeing to Mandera, Wajir, and Isiolo Counties majorly in search of pasture. 

However, in Western Kenya, rainfall is average to above average, supporting agricultural production.

Although the short rains led to improved vegetation and water conditions across pastoral areas of Northern Kenya, measured vegetation greenness was less than 60 percent of the 10-year average. 

Despite the rains providing limited stabilisation in water and pasture conditions, monitored water points remain well below median levels, resulting in trekking distances ranging from 8.6 to 17.6 kilometers, at least 38 per cent above the three-year average.

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The poor vegetation conditions and long trekking distances are maintaining widespread poor livestock body conditions and well below average milk production.

As the hot and dry month of January comes to view the Kenya Meteorological Department forecasts the vast majority of the country to be sunny and dry through January 2nd of next year. 

Rainfall is forecasted in limited regions– highlands west of the Rift Valley, the Lake Victoria Basin, South Rift Valley, highlands East of the Rift Valley, South-eastern lowlands, North-eastern Kenya, & parts of the Coast.

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