Kenya Begins Slow Recovery From Drought

Published on 06 April 2010

 A farmer in southeastern Kenya admires her sorghum crop. (Copyright: WFP/Gabrielle Menezes)

The end of a long dry spell has brought hope to Kenyan farmers. But with food prices high and food production still patchy, many people still depend on food aid. WFP will continue supporting the most vulnerable while helping farmers boost production and cope with climate change.

NAIROBI - After an extended period of drought, the rains have arrived, easing water needs, turning yellow pasture green, and ensuring a strong harvest for Kenyan farmers. However, after four, and in some places, even five seasons of extended drought, the recovery process is very slow.

Kenyans are struggling to restore their livelihoods and build up their food reserves. Herders, who were hardest hit by the drought, also need time to re-stock their herds.

The aftermath

"People, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya, still can’t feed themselves.  While everyone welcomed the rains, it has been a mixed blessing for some farmers as most of their crops were still in the fields and are at risk of rot and moulds prior to the harvest. On grazing land, heavy rains have caused flooding and increased the likelihood of diseases amongst livestock," said WFP Kenya Country Director, Burkard Oberle.

At the height of the drought, WFP provided food assistance to 3.8 million people, but this number will gradually come down. Early indicators suggest that about 1.6 million people are still in need of food assistance.

As a consequence of drought, the harvest of the staple crop, maize, is expected to be 25 percent less than the four year average.

Staying fed

High food prices are preventing families from getting back on their feet as quickly as they could have. In many places, the market price for maize is still 70-80% above the long term average.

In urban areas, around 3.5 million Kenyans are struggling to pay for food available on the market. To help those most in need, WFP will provide some 2,500 families with 1,500 Kenya Shillings (around US $20) to buy food and basic necessities.

Cash handouts are an efficient way of helping the urban poor, without distorting the market, and at the moment, are a welcome assistance to people living on less than a dollar a day.

Planning ahead

WFP's top priority in Kenya remains long-term food security, a goal it hopes to accomplish through Food for Assets projects in arid parts of the country.

These projects help communities cope with the effects of climate change using water harvesting tools like terraces, water pans and small dams.

School meals also afford local communities with an important safety net. WFP Kenya is providing these nutritous lunches to over one million school children in arid, semi-arid and urban areas of Kenya.

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about the author

Gabrielle Menezes

Public Information Officer for Kenya

Gabrielle Menezes joined WFP in 2008 and is currently a public information officer for the organization in Nairobi.