UN World Food Programme

Kenya Grapples With Failed Maize Harvest

For many families in southeastern Kenya the maize harvest has failed.

(Copyright: WFP Gabrielle Menezes)

In the fields of Kenya's coastal southeastern region, withered, yellow-brown husks of maize are drying out in the sun instead of being harvested. The maize crop is pitiful.

The failure of the October to December short rains, coupled with high food prices and a general shortage of maize, have thrown parts of Kenya into a food crisis. Children are being sent out to work to earn money to help buy the single meal that many families eat in a day. Girls like Lazuwa Nyamawi have to break stones so their families can earn extra cash. 

WFP estimates that it may need to almost triple the number of people it feeds from 1.2 million to 3.2 million Kenyans.

WFP currently feeds 763,000 children at school, but is preparing to increase that number by an additional 850,000 children. School feeding helps keep children in school during times of crisis because parents know at least they will be fed.

Copyright: Gabrielle MenezesIn addition to giving out emergency food assistance, WFP is trying to ensure that people have the ability to feed themselves for the future. WFP gives people food in return for building projects such as 'water pans'. These are  mini reservoirs dug to catch and store rain water, and communities that have them are protected from the worst effects of the drought.

"At least we don’t have to walk miles in search of water," said one woman in Kenango, filling a large yellow jerry can with drinking water for her family.

In Tita, in south Kenya, an area also affected by the crisis, WFP has helped rehabilitate an irrigation scheme. The maize here is lush and green, and the 500 families, who took part in the project, have grain stores full of the newly harvested crop.

“We haven’t been affected by the drought, my children don’t go hungry,” said Grace Dal, a widow with five children.