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3.4m face hunger in expected rain failure

A pastoralist feeds his animals. There have been inadequate rains in parts of country. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A pastoralist feeds his animals. There have been inadequate rains in parts of country. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The acute shortage of food that has gripped millions of Kenyans since the beginning of the year is expected to persist in the coming months, a government agency said Tuesday, citing inadequate rains in large parts of the country.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said an estimated 3.4 million Kenyans risk starvation in the coming months and will require humanitarian assistance.

The agency said in a report that assessed the impact of the 2017 March-May long rains in arid and semi-arid (Asal) counties that the figure represents a significant increase on the 2.6 million identified by the 2016 short rains survey that was released in February.

Out of the 3.4 million facing starvation, 2.6 million are experiencing “crisis” levels while an estimated 800,000 are in “stressed” levels with the likelihood of deteriorating into crisis.

The NDMA report came even as the weatherman predicted that the October-December short rains will cease at a critical stage when the maize crop will be flowering, signalling fresh food shortage.

The Kenya Meterological Department (KMD) report released on Tuesday said short rains in North Rift counties are expected in the second week of October to the second week of December.

Growers reckon cessation of rains in the middle of December will have a negative impact on development of grains in the short crop, which normally supplements harvests from the main season.

Last year, the short crop planted in October failed which resulted in a rally of flour prices with the cost of a 2 Kg packet hitting a record Sh153, compelling the government to intervene through a subsidy program that lowered it to Sh90.

“Projections by KMD that short rains at Kenya’s bread basket end in mid-December mean that the rains will stop when most crops are flowering and are at a vulnerable stage,” said Anthony Kioko, the Cereal Growers Association chief executive.

He said flowering maize crops require a lot of water and that farmers should plan to grow drought tolerant and early maturing crops to shield themselves.

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