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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Kenya

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Kenya
Dec 2012

Humanitarian needs remain in Kenya as a result of conflict, natural hazards (drought and flooding), instability in neighbouring countries and outbreaks of human and livestock diseases. Violence linked to competition over scarce resources, the March 2013 election and the country’s military involvement in Somalia has heightened insecurity in communities still recovering from the 2010/11 drought that affected much of the Horn of Africa.

A massive influx of refugees from Somalia and South Sudan has exacerbated existing tensions – Kenya currently hosts over 660 000 refugees with tens of thousands more expected in the first half of 2013. Despite this, the country has made considerable progress in consolidating the gains made by humanitarian investment over the last decade. However, an increased focus on building resilience is critical to ensure that relatively minor shocks do not lead to major emergencies.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Between October 2011 and October 2012, the number of food-insecure people in Kenya declined from 3.75 million to 2.1 million, largely as a result of improved food production. While this may drop to 1.8 million people by December, many challenges remain. The lasting effects of the drought, high post-harvest losses and potential market disruptions in the run-up to the elections could seriously affect food production and access in 2013. Persistently high maize prices and localized flooding during the 2012 short rains (October to December) could further reduce food security.

Kenya is particularly vulnerable to recurrent natural hazards, which have increased in intensity and frequency over the last two decades, mainly due to the effects of climate change. The 2011 drought across the Horn of Africa left many people unable to rebuild following crop failure and livestock deaths. A third successive failed or poor season following erratic rains during the 2012 long rains season resulted in a nearly 25 percent rise in food insecurity in southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas. The 2012 short rains are expected to be good across the country, which will help boost production. However, localized flooding in some areas could disrupt markets.

Post-harvest losses are a major contributor to food insecurity in Kenya. In recent years, traditional grain storage structures have disappeared from many parts of the marginal agricultural regions as drought and other disasters left farmers with little grain to store. Massive losses have been recorded – up to 50 percent of grains – owing to pest damage and contamination by the aflatoxin fungus, which poses a serious health risk. Given that high humidity and warm conditions during harvesting are particularly favourable to the development of the aflatoxin fungus, expected enhanced rains and flooding in late 2012 could result in substantial crop losses. A new disease – Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease – is also threatening the production of maize (particularly in high and medium potential areas), a staple food crop.

In the past three years, Kenya’s pastoral regions have experienced two successive poor rainy seasons, which seriously affected livestock herds. Water points have dried up and, since January, pastoralists have had to travel twice as far (from 20 to 50 km on average) to reach remaining water sources. The concentration of herds around limited water points has led to overgrazing, land degradation, the spread of livestock diseases, livestock rustling and intercommunal violence.

Poor livestock-grain terms of trade and high food prices meant many herders were unable to meet their most basic needs, forcing some to adopt negative coping mechanisms – like charcoal burning – which undermine the already degraded resource base. While good 2012 long rains have meant a decline of about 20 percent in the food-insecure population in pastoral areas and will likely considerably replenish water sources and grazing areas, pastoralists continue to face significant challenges rebuilding their livelihoods.

Kenya’s urban populations – particularly those living in informal settlements – are also affected by high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Maize prices – although declining – remain above the five-year average and any continued decline could be slowed by potential maize hoarding as families prepare for uncertainty during the election period. Vulnerable urban families spend nearly 50 percent of their income on food meaning that high prices, combined with limited and unstable employment opportunities, force many to skip meals, forgo non-food expenditures or enter into child labour or prostitution.

FAO response

With donor support, FAO will continue linking emergency response with longer-term development assistance, enabling vulnerable families to quickly restart food production while building their resilience to future crises.

FAO proposes to use cash-, voucher- or food-for-work interventions to help vulnerable families meet their immediate needs (food, health, education, etc.), while building or rehabilitating vital agricultural infrastructure, such as soil and water conservation structures, water harvesting facilities and community-based agroforestry and seedling nurseries.

In marginal agricultural areas, where erratic rains, crop disease and post-harvest losses have severely constrained food availability, FAO intends to promote crop diversification and improved post-harvest storage. Farmers will receive essential inputs (drought-tolerant seeds, fertilizer, tools, etc.) alongside training on cultivation techniques and linking to markets.

Government and NGO extension agents will be trained as trainers on post-harvest handling and on raising community awareness of the dangers posed by aflatoxin. Surveillance studies will also be conducted to determine the impact and coverage of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease. Metal silos will be promoted as a means to protect harvested grains at household and community levels, and local artisans will be trained in their production.

Efforts to address longstanding food insecurity and vulnerability in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands require the availability of quality early warning and food security information. As co-lead of the Agriculture and Livestock Sector, FAO will support local and national food security information systems by training government and NGO staff on the collection, analysis and dissemination of information.

With donor funding, FAO will help drought-affected men and women to protect and rebuild their livestock assets by providing emergency animal feed and water, together with pasture seeds and training in fodder production and rangeland management. Increased disease surveillance and control will contribute to better livestock health, while destocking and restocking activities will enable herders to meet their immediate cash needs and rebuild their herds. Vulnerable pastoralists will also be encouraged to pursue alternative livelihoods through training.

Legend: FAO funding requests for Kenya from 2008 to 2013

By promoting small-scale urban agriculture, focusing mainly on women and young people in informal settlements, FAO intends to increase their access to nutritious food and new sources of income. Seeds, tools and training in vegetable production will be provided, along with awareness campaigns on hygiene and nutrition.