Food Reserves Set to Plummet in Central Province

Posted on 15 August 2008. Filed under: Food Security |

Photo: Waweru Mugo/IRIN
Ruth Wangechi examines her failed maize crop in Thung’ari village, Nyeri

NYERI, 13 August 2008 (IRIN) – Poor rains and the presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Central Kenya, a traditionally food-secure region, have stretched available resources with government and humanitarian officials predicting a sharp drop in food reserves.

“This year has not been normal because of the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the province and also due to unfavourable climatic conditions that adversely affected our food crops,” Japhter Rugut, the Central Province commissioner, told IRIN.

Rugut said the province, with an estimated population of 4.2 million, had hosted 70,000 IDPs during the post-election crisis, overstretching available food resources.

He said the proportion of harvested food stored, rather than consumed immediately, would probably be less than half the usual amount.

“Our projection for this year is that we are likely to require nearly double the relief food rations…150,000 bags of maize and 60,000 bags of beans to see us through,” he said.

The worst-affected areas in the province include the districts of Nyeri North, Maragua and Thika, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). The weather in these areas was cold and dry with very few days of scanty rainfall.

“Some of these areas have to make do with relief [food] until the next crop,” Martin Muteru, KRCS Central Region Relief Field Officer, told IRIN.

“Indeed there is need for an EMOP [Emergency Operation] assessment to help identify the actual needs on the ground,” Muteru said, adding that the prices of flour, cooking oil, among other essential food items, had risen beyond the reach of “the common man”.

According to a June-July Crop Situation Report for Nyeri North, the food situation was fairly poor in all the areas due to poor weather conditions.

“The short rains [maize] crop has been harvested. Yields were low and expected to drop by 75 per cent… [bean] yields are very low and are expected to drop by over 90 per cent,” said the report.

A farmer in Thung’ari Village in Nyeri North, Ruth Wangechi, said her entire maize crop had failed and she was relying on government aid to feed her four children.

Like most small scale farmers in the province, Wangechi only plants staple food crops such as maize. In some areas, the maize crop has been affected by frost, maize streak and the stalk borer.

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Poor rains and the presence of IDPs in Central Kenya, a traditionally food-secure region, have stretched available resources, with officials predicting a sharp drop in food reserves

“Currently 60 percent of the farming households are depending on the markets for their food items,” George Mwai, the Nyeri South District Agricultural Officer, said.

The low production per unit area is attributable to rising soil infertility aggravated by little application of fertilisers, Mwai said in a Food and Crop Situation Report for June to July 2008.

“Farm input prices, especially fertilisers have also risen dramatically [in price] and with the long rains planting season being over, many farmers reduced on the rates or completely avoided their usage and this will greatly hamper food security this year,” he said in the report.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there were at least 823,000 farming households in the province, each with an average farm size of 0.7 hectares in 2007.


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