A prolonged drought in Kenya has killed livestock, withered crops and left nearly 4 million people at risk of hunger. People living in the Northern and Rift Valley regions have been especially hard hit.
The majority of Kenyans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and survival. However, the high cost of inputs and fuel coupled with consecutive seasons of erratic rainfall have driven down annual maize production, making it difficult for the country to replenish its cereal stocks.
The failure of the 2009 “long rains” was especially disastrous, with widespread crop loss reported in several parts of the country.
El Niño rains towards the end of the year – and subsequent flooding – could make the situation worse, destroying crops and damaging infrastructure and livelihoods.
Outbreaks of animal diseases, the increased frequency of drought and competition over scarce water resources and grazing lands have left pastoralists living in semi-arid and arid regions even more vulnerable.
Post-election violence and high food prices
Riots broke out in various parts of the country following the results of the 2007 election, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Many of the displaced were farming families from the Rift Valley, the country’s grain basket. The country’s food deficit rose as many farmers were unable to plant in 2008.
Food and fuel prices are still high in Kenya, making it difficult for poor urban and rural communities to access the food they need. In June 2009, the price of maize, the country’s most important staple, was nearly double of what it was two years earlier.
European Union Food Facility
Strengthening the ability of small-scale farmers and pastoralists to cope with climate-related shocks is crucial to making Kenya more food secure.
In June 2009, FAO launched a two-year project to help the government of Kenya enhance livestock production in an effort to ease the burden of high food prices on vulnerable communities.
Funds from the European Union worth nearly € 4 million are being used to restore and improve the production capacity of livestock producers and to increase the availability of livestock products in the market.
The project is supporting small-scale dairy producers in high potential areas in western Kenya and livestock producers in the semi-arid and arid regions of northern Kenya.
FAO will provide drought-tolerant grass seeds to irrigated fodder production sites in Mandera, Garissa, and Turkana districts.
The project is promoting community involvement in the management of seed bulking and seed multiplication through the expansion of the Pastoral Field School (PFS) approach. Local entrepreneurs are being encouraged to participate in fodder production and seed bulking to help ensure sustained access to fodder seeds.
Improving livestock marketing infrastructure, including holding grounds and water points, and livestock marketing information systems are also part of the project. Producers will be trained in the use of new information and communication technology equipment.
Small-scale dairy producers will receive support in vaccinating and treating livestock for such diseases as foot-and-mouth and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.
They will also be trained on animal health, with a focus on milk-related diseases, and on the use of feed formulation and alternative feed crops. Assessments of and trainings on dairy marketing information and best practices in dairy hygiene are to be carried out.
Since 2008, FAO has supported a number of projects to help the Kenyan government reduce the combined effects of high food prices, drought, animal disease and post-election violence on vulnerable households.
FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project worth USD 500 000 in July 2008 to provide agricultural inputs and livestock vaccines. A portion of the funds was used to jumpstart rice farming in the Ahero Irrigation Scheme in the Nyanza province in western Kenya in September 2008. Working closely with the National Irrigation Board (NIB), the Ministry of Agriculture, Agriculture Finance Cooperation and a local NGO, FAO distributed high quality rice seeds, fertilizers and pesticides to around 540 vulnerable rice farmers. Production per acre nearly tripled over previous years’ harvests, helping to boost local incomes and the economy.
FAO Kenya’s overall emergency operations portfolio from 2008 and 2009 is over USD 15.3 million, including: USD 3.1 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to ease the burden of high food prices; USD 791 000 from ECHO within the regional drought preparedness programme; €1.5 million from the European Development Fund in response to post-election violence; €1 million from Spain in response to drought and soaring food prices; and funding from other donors.
Funds have been used to provide quality inputs – seeds, fertilizers, tools and pesticides – to farmers in an effort to boost their production. Attention has also been given to improving small-scale irrigation systems and water access, boosting livestock production through access to enhanced livestock feed and disease control and strengthening the resilience of drought-affected pastoralists in arid and semi-arid areas.