Kenya and Uganda are on a list of 29 African countries that face severe food shortage and insecurity, a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation shows.
However, unlike other countries, the food insecurity situation in the two East African counties is localised. In other words, it is restricted to specific areas due to various factors including an influx of refugees, a concentration of internally displaced persons, or a combination of crop failure and acute poverty.
The situation in Kenya, which has about 1.5 million people mainly in north-eastern pastoral areas staring at severe malnutrition and possible death, is worse than that in Uganda.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s latest global information and early warning system report blames it on successive seasons of below average rains in arid and semi-arid areas.
“The October to December short-rains season performed poorly, with late onset below average amounts and early cessation by the first 10 days of December,” says the FAO report.
Apart from northern Kenya, food security is also expected to deteriorate in the south-eastern and Coastal zones since food stocks will only be partially replenished during the current harvests, and households will have to rely more on markets for their food requirements.
As a result of the poor rainfall, the UN body says the aggregate cereal production last year declined to about 3.6 million tonnes, which is approximately 10 per cent below the last five-year average.
“Accordingly, cereal import requirements for the 2014/15 marketing year (July/June) are set at an above-average level of about 2.5 million tonnes, including 1.1 million tonnes of wheat and wheat flour, 900,000 tonnes of maize and 445,000 tonnes of rice,” the organisation says.
In Uganda, FAO estimates that about 180,000 people in Karamoja region will be severely food insecure following two years of below average crop production.
Though harvesting of long cycle crops was completed in November/December in the uni-modal Karamoja region, cereal production is estimated at below-average levels due to unfavourable rains.
“In particular, yields were affected by a prolonged dry spell between the end of June and mid-July, and by limited rainfall amounts in the last two dekads of September. Additional losses occurred in early October as unseasonal heavy rains affected sorghum that was drying in the fields,” the organisation says in its update.
Provision of adequate and nutritious food to the region’s growing population has remained a major challenge for the five East African Community member states, which are still dependent on rain-fed agriculture for food production, which is susceptible to the vagaries of weather.
The situation is worsened by the instability in the region that has forced thousands to flee their countries and seek refuge in EAC.