Three counties stare at starvation as rains fail, crops dry

Wild fruits locally known as Lomaa at Kadeli village in Ripkwo-Kositei ward in Tiaty Baringo County on January 18, 2022.  [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Residents of the lower Eastern region are staring at drought and food insecurity following failed rains that caused poor harvest in the last season.

Machakos, Makueni and Kitui residents, who mainly rely on rain-fed agriculture for subsistence farming, are counting losses after their maize and beans prematurely dried in the farms.

Although most rivers and streams were replenished following three weeks of heavy rains late last year, a long hot and dry season that followed dashed the hopes of farmers, as crops were damaged.

Machakos County Director of the Meteorological Department Dominic Kyalo yesterday said the problem had been forecasted last year just before the onset of the short rains. He urged farmers to brace for hotter days in the coming weeks. 

“We had sent out warning that the short rains would be inadequate and poorly distributed... The scenario will definitely affect food production negatively as a majority of our people rely on rain-fed agriculture,” Kyalo told The Standard.

However, he said some parts of Mwala, Matungulu and Kangundo sub-counties had received rainfall on schedule, and those who planted early were likely to reap a substantial harvest.

A spot check by The Standard revealed a sorry state of affairs in most maize and beans fields, which are the main food crops grown by Machakos County residents.

In Francis Musau’s farm at Katangini in Matungulu Sub-county, most maize and bean crops had dried up despite the huge investment he had made in inputs such as fertilizer, certified seeds and timely weeding.

“The rains failed and the majority of farmers cannot afford to irrigate... We have been watching helplessly as our crops fizzle out due to the scorching sun,” said Musau.

He expressed fear that many families could starve in the coming weeks because their only hope to secure food was in the farms. “The government must begin to plan to handle food scarcity because certainly there will be hunger in most parts of Ukambani. It should not wait until people start starving,” he said.

Matungulu MP, Stephen Mule and Machakos Town's Victor Munyaka called for speedy interventions to avert a crisis.