For a moment put aside the traditional images of Kenya as a relatively stable democracy with an extensive tourism industry, and reflect on the droughts that, in recent years, have swept across the Horn of Africa into the north and east of the country. In that part of Kenya it literally hasn't rained for years, and with water in short supply, inevitably crops have failed and scores of animals have died creating a serious food shortage that is affecting millions. Other animals that have survived such as cows are either too thin to sell or are unable to produce milk with the typical price of a cow dropping from about 40,000 Kenyan shillings (257UK) to 5,000 KSH (32UK) in just four months. In October 2021 the United Nations reported that it expected about 2.4 million people across Kenya's arid and semi-arid counties will struggle to find food up from 1.4 million earlier in the year.
Kenya's staple food is maize but the droughts have lead to a 50% fall in production with some areas experiencing a total crop failure. Whilst this is devastating for the farmers themselves and their families, it is also having a knock on effect on those in urban areas with prices for what scant food is available increasing sharply having a serious adverse effect on those who are already struggling as a result of the pandemic. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) noted in 2021 that parts of northern pastoral counties reported an acute malnutrition prevalence higher than 15% not just due to Kenya's food shortages but the absence of milk for infants. There have also been reports of conflicts breaking out over access to grazing lands with a water supply.
Kenya's food shortage is also having an effect on its ability to look after the 490,000 refugees in the country, including over 264,000 from Somalia and a further 122,000 from South Sudan who are mainly hosted in camps in Turkana and Garissa counties. Turkana as received only 10% of its usual rainfall over the six months between June - November 2021 and most water sources across the county are water stressed with over 80% of water pans/rock catchments having dried up and traditional river wells becoming harder to obtain water from. The World Food Programme based in Lodwar in Turkana County recently reported, "It's estimated about 600,000 members of the population in Turkana County are in need of food or cash assistance". The situation in Garissa County is not quite so dire however there are still severe vegetation deficits and December 2021's rainfall was at 42mm compared with a long term average of 50mm.
Climate change means the dry spells in this part of northern Kenya are likely to be ongoing, more frequent and worse. Although the area is home to Lake Turkana, that is a saltwater lake meaning its water is undrinkable. Instead locals, in the absence of any meaningful rainfall, have to rely on boreholes for their water but, with no real irrigation systems, that cannot sustain food production and the water table continues to shrink. With a growing population in Kenya there will be even less water available in future years. Ironically the aridness of the soil has led to flash floods as when rain finally does fall, the land cannot absord the water, destroying what few crops are growing at this time, stoking up more problems for the years to come. The map above shows the pending food crisis across the Horn of Africa with much of the area being defined as 'stressed' or in 'crisis' while the video below explore s the issue of fod shotages in Kenya in more detail.
Kenya Food Shortage: Volunteer in Kenya
Kenya Food Shortage: Life In Kenya
Kenya Food Shortage: Child Sponsor Kenya
Kenya Food Shortage: Kenya Country Profile
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