FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has released two updated country briefs for Africa south of the Sahara. The country brief series provides information regarding countries’ current agricultural season and harvest prospects for main staple food crops, as well as estimates and forecasts of cereal production, cereal imports, and food prices and policy developments. This latest round of updates includes new information for Kenya and Senegal.
In Kenya, below average production is estimated for “long-rains” season crops in the southeastern and coastal regions of the country. These crops are harvested in September-October and typically account for around 30 percent of local annual production. Unfavorable weather – notably delayed and then poor rains – is to blame for the low yields. In the western regions, harvesting of the “long-rains” crop was delayed due to late planting, but production in this area is forecast to be near average despite a prolonged dry spell in May and June.
Poor rains in Kenya have also disrupted livestock production, with low rainfall characterizing this year’s rainy season (March-May). While some regions received increased rainfall in July and August that helped minimize the damage, pasture conditions in general throughout the country are expected to continue deteriorating through October, when the next rainy season is expected to begin. Rainfall and pasture conditions until the end of the year are still in question, however, particularly if the La Niña weather cycle (which typically brings increased precipitation) does not occur.
The effect of the dry weather on both crops and livestock has impacted the food security of many Kenyan households. According to GIEWS, the latest national food security assessment places the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance at 1.25 million, up significantly from February. The report also cites that many households will likely deplete their cereal stocks earlier than usual, leaving them to depend on the markets until the next harvest in January-February.
In Senegal, irregular and low rainfall delayed planting and harvesting of coarse grains. According to GIEWS, while precipitation increased in July, these rains will need to continue through the end of October in order to help grain crops recover their entire growing cycle. Despite problematic weather, however, the 2016 coarse grain crop is expected to be above average, in part due to the government’s provision of seeds and fertilizers to support the agricultural sector.
Coarse grain prices in Senegal have remained generally stable compared to year-earlier levels. The country’s food security outlook is also generally stable, according to GIEWS, reflecting bumper harvests in 2015 that have helped protect vulnerable rural households against this year’s more unfavorable weather.
GIEWS has also released the latest list of countries in need of external food assistance. In Africa south of the Sahara, food aid needs are being driven mostly by unfavorable weather and ongoing conflict.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI