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Kenyans stare at higher food prices as drought persists

By Winsley Masese | February 10th 2015
Oyoo Awuondo at a maize farm in Bondo that has failed. The area has been experiencing drought for over one month. 29/06/14. PHOTO: TITUS MUNALA

Prices for basic commodities could rise due to drought that has hit most parts of the country. This is after the Kenya Meteorological Department indicated that the dry spell will continue towards the end of this month.

The vagaries of weather has affected the price of household items such as vegetables, fruits and even milk. As a consequence, households are projected to dig deeper into their pockets to meet the rising food costs. “I now spend about Sh100 to buy vegetables which I used to buy at Sh50 late last year,” said Mary Moracha, a resident in Kisii town.

Transport costs

However, statistics by the Kenya Bureaus of Statistics show that inflation reduced 5.53 per cent in January, from 6.02 per cent in the previous month. It is the lowest figure since June of 2013, as transport cost eased due to a fall in oil prices.

Fresh vegetable and fruit traders in major towns and cities attributed the price increase to a shrinking supply due to rain shortage. Besides eroding their purchasing power, price increase will also sink them further into poverty as they will remain with less for investment or safety nets.

The region is a main supplier of green vegetables which are a delicacy in major towns such as Kisumu and Nairobi. World Bank said last week that severe food shortage brought about by climate change hits the poorest people the hardest and makes it impossible to escape the poverty trap. In addition, the interplay between poverty and climate change becomes complex because during droughts, losses incurred can drain families.

“The family may survive the crisis, but they will have lost the productive economic assets they relied on, assets that had paid for the children to attend school and were helping the family move out of poverty,” the bank stated.

Fewer resources

High commodity prices also mean the poor have the fewer resources to adapt or recover quickly from shocks. They often live on the most vulnerable land. “Climate change represents a direct and immediate threat to poverty alleviation. It’s important that we bring the climate and poverty communities together to design interventions that are effective for both,” said  World Bank Group’s Chief Economist for Climate Change Marianne Fay.

The report argued that reducing the impact of climate change on poverty requires strengthening the social protection system to make programmes scalable and targeted to those in need. A past study in East Africa found that the cost of a drought to households increases from $0 to Sh4500 ($50 per household if support is delayed by four months after harvest.

It also increases to Sh117,000 ($1,300) if support is delayed by six months or more due to the impact on children and distress sales of livestock and other property.

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