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Threatened Food Security in Kenya

By Eng David Onyango, Joshua Oria, George Odero and Harriet Ashoro

According to the International Research Institute for Climate Change and Society forecasts, there is a 75 percent chance of a La Niña event occurring over three months starting in September 2016. A La Niña event is likely to drive below average rainfall across most of the Horn of Africa. Subsequently, from October to December rains are likely to be below average throughout much of the country, with forecasts of approximately 50 to 60 percent of average rainfall for many eastern parts of Kenya.

From mid-May to early June, a prolonged dry spell over most parts of the high and medium potential agricultural areas affected crop development. Despite the above average long rains received in these areas, only an average harvest is expected from August to December; the harvesting period. In addition, effects of leaching, which resulted in yellowing of the maize crop leaves in parts of the North Rift, is also likely to negatively affect maize yields. Maize prices across most markets will gradually increase due to supply drawdown and increased demand as household stocks decline.

Just like the risk with maize production, the same effect is observed for rice production. George Munene in The Daily Nation of September 13, 2016 asserts that in the giant Mwea irrigation scheme, low rice harvests are expected following the prolonged dry spell that has resulted in reduced levels in major rivers used for irrigation. The rice plantations have already started wilting and farmers have warned that if the short rains do not start early, harvest will be poor. This irrigation scheme is believed to be the largest in East and Central Africa and produces 80% of the rice consumed in Kenya. Ahero irrigation scheme in Kisumu produces rice and is facing the same challenges as Mwea. Many farmers in the area have since abandoned rice farming and resorted to soybean farming, believing it will have better returns, according to Tom Otieno of the Daily Nation of September 14, 2016.

Photo 1. A rice plantation

As a water utility,  Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company  (KIWASCO) have the responsibility to serve all residents living in our area even those who are not connected to piped water and depend only on alternative water sources  When water sources get depleted, those  residents are the most affected. As such, the company is extending piped water to supply areas that are currently not served.

Our new plant, Kajulu Water Treatment Plant, supplies water through gravity and  is  dependent on rainfall. The continued dry spell may force KIWASCO to cut down the production by three quarters of the daily production. Consequently, the company may have to substitute the production with the Dunga Treatment Plant which supplies water through pumping. As such, KIWASCO has been exploring ways of using energy-efficient methods in the service delivery because pumping water with electricity is not only expensive but also not environmentally-friendly.

Photo 2. Kajulu Water Intake (Harriet Ashoro)

With better planning, KIWASCO is able to offer continued and stable operations. The tools being developed under the Flood and Drought Management Tools project, will allow us to develop future planning scenarios that are resilient to adverse effects of extreme weather conditions.