Poor rainfall likely to affect Kenya's food security: experts
Xinhua | 2013-9-1 9:24:22
By Agencies
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Kenya's food security situation is likely to deteriorate particularly in the southeast and coastal areas as near average volume of harvest is expected to be a below average.

According to food security report published by the UN World Food Program, Kenyan government and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), a near average volume of harvest is expected due to a below average rainfall spell between mid-May to early July affected maize development.

"However, the harvest will replenish domestic stocks and support a stable price trend for maize, enhancing access," the agencies said in the report received on Saturday.

The report shows that food consumption in southeast areas is supported by small household stocks of cereals other than maize along with legumes and market-purchased food.

"Food security situation is likely to deteriorate from September through December as households deplete their long rains stocks and increasingly rely on supply from the high and medium potential areas," FEWS Net said in a joint report.

"Maize prices in these areas remained stable between June and July partly due to cross-border imports from Tanzania," FEWS Net said.

The report comes as Kenyan scientists said that they are currently developing a new drought tolerant maize variety that can grow in the arid and semi-arid lands.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (JKUAT) Senior Research Fellow Dr Sylvester Anami told journalists in Nairobi that research is currently in the preliminary stages in the laboratory.

"We have discovered a gene which when silenced, is capable of making the maize plant resistant to drought," Anami said during the 70th Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB) conference last Thursday.

Anami said that the new maize breed will be able to balance the energy generated and that utilized so as to make the plant with stand drought conditions.

"There should be no resistance to uptake by farmers as we are going to modify the popular maize varieties," the researcher said.

Three new maize seed varieties that use fertilizer more efficiently and help smallholder farmers get higher yields has also been unveiled in sub-Saharan Africa.

The varieties have been unveiled in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe with support from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

"The seeds are expected to help farmers improve their degraded land and also reap the maximum benefit from farming," an Associate scientist at CIMMYT Dr. Biswanath Das said in Nairobi last week during an annual review on Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) meeting.

The seeds so far released are Western Kenya Seed's WH 507, Tanzania's HB 513 and PGS 63 in Zimbabwe. The East African regional seed company, Kenya Seed is due to release another variety later this year.

But the government-backed food security analysis finds that the Northeastern pastoral livelihood zone, available pasture, browse, and water which normally last through September, will last longer through October and will support livestock development and sustain livestock values.

"Despite the below average local harvest of maize, cross border imports from Tanzania partly maintain price stability in Kwale, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties, maize prices increased 20 percent between June and July due to increasing depletion of local stocks," finds the report.

According to the report, there is increasing likelihood that the onset will be delayed unlike the normally timed onset assumed in July in addition to total October to December short rains forecast.

According to the report, although income from increased remittances from semi-permanent urban food purchasing capacity, it may not match the increase in demand and prices.

"The onset of the short rains is expected to trigger an increase in demand for plating labor and support food access but this will likely be later," notes that report.

The report shows that household food stocks from the long rains legume harvest are likely to last through September in the southern eastern and coastal marginal mixed farming livelihood zones, a month more than was expected during the July to December.

"Some of this stock will be sold to purchase maize, the main staple cereal," The report reveals.

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