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ASALs face 50pc fall in food supply

delayed rains
This year’s crop will be affected following delayed rains. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A drought agency says half of the counties, mainly in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), will record a decline of 50 percent in food production in the current crop season, highlighting the impact of delayed rains on this year’s main season.

National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says 23 counties in the ASAL regions will face a sharp decline in production of food because of erratic rains witnessed in the first quarter.

“Given the delayed season onset and below average rainfall performance, which has resulted to a reduction in area cultivated, crop production is expected to be at least 50 percent below average,” says NDMA in May report.

“Considering the late onset and likelihood of insufficient rainfall during the March April May season, farmers are advised to plant drought tolerant or early maturing crops,” added the report.

The agency says besides the delayed onset of March to May long rains and the poor rainfall performance, shortage of water and pasture has had an adverse effect on farming across ASAL counties.

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By the end of April the number of counties in the alarm-drought stage had increased to 10 from five in March. Another 11 counties are currently at the alert drought level. Counties classified in the alarm drought phase include Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Tana River, Samburu, Kilifi and Baringo.

NDMA says milk production in most ASAL counties is currently below the long-term average (LTA) which is attributed to poor availability of water and pasture. In Tana River, for example, average milk produced per household per day is 48 percent below the LTA for the month.

The government last week said it had sent field officers in the farms in Uasin Gishu and North Rift to assess the extent of crop failure following the late onset of rains.

The Ministry of Agriculture said the officials are assessing the performance of the crop and are expected to come up with a report that will inform policy decisions.

The government has already warned that this year’s crop will be affected following delayed rains that saw most of the crop that had been planted earlier fail to germinate. The report assessment will give a true picture of germination in the fields and also the state of fall army worm invasion on this season’s crop.

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