Erratic weather, global crises push cost of food to record high levels

Saturday October 01 2022
Relief food

Workers offload relief food for distribution in Kenya. PHOTO | FILE


Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond the reach of many.

This week, Kenya launched a relief food programme for communities trapped in a cycle of four failed agriculture seasons, and Uganda had already been distributing relief food to people in Karamoja regions.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha)is predicting the likelihood of a fifth failed crop season. Uganda, which has generally enjoyed above average food production from its arable fertile soils, having two harvest seasons annually, is now increasingly facing food challenges due to less erratic and less predictable rains and unprecedented prolonged dry spells.

According to the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), some rainy months now have only 18 wet days compared with 20 previously which impacts on food yields.

According to meteorological information, 40 per cent of all rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests, which have been encroached on and destroyed by developers for housing or peasants for farming and others decimated for firewood and charcoal.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, says the Ugandan government has been forced to provide food to areas that have “had pockets of hunger,” costing upwards of Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) in the past three months alone.


According to the Meteorological department, the country steadily been receiving less rainfall over the past 16 years. However, there are those that argue that the food shortages being currently experienced in the region is also effects of bad national policies, rather than the weather.

In Kenya, President William Ruto flagged off relief food to drought-stricken counties on Tuesday, but admitted it was only a short-term measure.

The programme is targeting 3.5 million people. Kenya’s Meteorological Department has declared severest drought in 23 out of the 47 counties.

And Ocha’s National Drought Early Warning data for September 2022, says 10 counties are under an alarming drought phase with at least 4.35 million people in danger.

The Horn of Africa, including parts of Kenya, is facing the worst drought with at least 20 million people in immediate need of food. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan, and Djibouti and Eritrea

Kipkorir Arap Menjo, the director of the Farmers Association, a lobby for local food producers, said Kenya’s maize growing regions are expecting a harvest early October. But even in countries touted as having almost sufficient food supplies, like Tanzania, prices are soaring and limiting access for many.

As countries struggle to get cheaper grain from traditional sources like Russia and Ukraine, world prices and growing world demand is making the situation harder in the region.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, the price of maize alone has more than doubled over the past year, hitting Tsh87,383 ($37.66) per 100-kilogramme sack in July compared with Tsh43,371 ($18.69) in the same month last year. Other key basic foods like rice and beans have also registered sharp price increases.

In its latest monthly review report for August 2022, the BoT says wholesale food prices had increased "mainly due to low harvests associated with delayed short rains and a high demand for food from neighbouring countries."

Reporting by Gilbert Mwijuke, Luke Anami, Apolinari Tairo and Bob Karashani