A recent report from the Kenya Food Security Steering Group found that at least 1.4 million people in the country are facing acute hunger, based on the country’s 2020 Short Rains Season Assessments. The government and World Food Programme attribute the risk of starvation to low levels of rainfall resulting in poor harvests and declining livestock conditions, according to All Africa.
The United Nations in Kenya states that the country has experienced resilient growth over the past several years, but climate change and rural infrastructure exacerbates concerns about poverty and food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic is also to blame.
“The COVID-19 control measures continue to impact income-earning opportunities for both urban and rural poor households,” the report states.
For those who work in rural areas, the pandemic has resulted in increased transportation costs, a reduction in the supply chain, and reduced payments for work.
The increasing number of reports of desert locust invasions, land desertification, and droughts in East Africa has led to more people relying on food aid. Raychelle Omamo, Kenya's cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, said food security is one of four priorities being pursued by the Kenyan government, according to the UN.
She also stated that the country is shifting how it approaches development.
“However, we are doing this in the face of growing climate-related and environmental challenges in our region,” Omamo said.
Climate change has compromised several aspects of the food system in Kenya. A decline in the availability of land with good pasture conditions has caused animals to trek farther, reducing the production of milk. It has also resulted in an increase of livestock disease due to overcrowding and competition for resources.
Several counties are reporting high cases of hunger in Kenya, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions where there is a water shortage. Alex Leseketet, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) coordinator in Samburu County, said that desperate families are trekking for long distances looking for food, water, and pasture.
"The situation is getting worse,” Leseketet told Nation.Africa. “Pastoralists have been hit by water shortages and pastures have been exhausted.”
The report estimates that typical acute malnutrition levels, including those marked as “critical” in pastoral areas, are likely to be sustained through September.
To address the rise in food insecurity in Kenya, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) said it will buy $36 million worth of maize from last year's crop to replenish stocks at the National Food Reserve. The move will benefit farmers who have asked the government to purchase stock from them to relieve some of the economic stress.