In June 2011, the Government of Kenya (GoK) declared the country’s deepening drought to be a national disaster. Some 3.7 million people are currently in need of assistance across the country. Rising food prices, sporadic conflict over resources, limited humanitarian support and interrupted market systems have exacerbated the crisis, eroding livelihoods and crippling traditional coping mechanisms across Kenya.
In Kitui, Mwingi, Tharaka North and Tharaka South Counties of Eastern Province, successive dry seasons have hit the marginal farming population especially hard. Over the past two years, low precipitation has gradually diminished water levels and depleted the land on which livestock graze. The failure of the 2010 and 2011 seasonal rains has virtually halted crop production; already vulnerable, farmers and agro-pastoralists are now struggling to obtain critical foods and seeds. Meanwhile, the lack of marketable crops, together with the dwindling number of jobs on local farms, has severely constrained access to income generating opportunities.
As the next harvest is not expected until February 2012, the situation in Eastern Province is expected to deteriorate over the coming months. FEWSNET currently classifies Kitui, Mwingi, Tharaka North and Tharaka South at IPC Level 3 – ‘crisis.’ However, FEWSNET’s August/September estimated food security outcomes projects that without appropriate levels of support, these districts will move into an ‘emergency’ classification – one step below famine. The next six months therefore offer a crucial window of opportunity to boost resilience, protect livelihoods, and mitigate the impact of acute food insecurity.