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WFP Says More Than 1M Kenyans Need Food Aid Due To Drought; India Increases Food Distribution To Deal With Drought

More than 1 million Kenyans living in prolonged drought conditions are not getting the food aid they need, Gabrielle Menezes, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP), said recently, the Associated Press reports. She said WFP already provides emergency food aid to about 2.5 million people in Kenya, but another 1.3 million still need help. “What we have here is an extremely difficult situation and people are saying it is the worst drought since 2000,” Menezes said (Odula, 8/19).

According to a Reuters article, “Kenya relies on one staple crop – maize – which takes a long time to mature and is highly vulnerable to erratic rain patterns. The WFP said Kenyans needed to change to more drought-resistant crops like sorghum.” A partial WFP assessment showed that “some parts of Kenya have experienced over 70 percent crop failure, cutting maize supplies in the country by nearly one third,” Reuters writes (Nyakairu, 8/19).

Agence France-Presse examines how the “bruising and recurring drought is driving huge numbers of subsistence farmers away from rural areas, where they are increasingly reliant on hand-outs, into congested slums.” In Laikipia district north of the capital of Nairobi, which was “traditionally one of the country’s bread baskets … fields of dead corn give way to arid plains where no livestock graze,” according to the news service. The article includes interviews with local farmers and aid workers (Ausseill, 8/19).

Indian Government Responds To Drought

India is also experiencing drought conditions due to what is expected to be the weakest monsoon in at least seven years, AFP reports. As a result, “India said Wednesday it would step up its food distribution programme for the poor as a widening drought threatened to cut rice production by 10 percent and sharply reduce sugar supplies,” the news service writes. Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar said, “Ten states have declared 246 districts drought-affected.” He said a shortage of oilseeds and sugarcane output was also expected and that the government might increase the amount sugar producers must set aside for sale to the poor to boost supplies and contain prices (8/19). Abhijit Sen, a leading economist and member in charge of food at India’s Planning Commission, said he did not “foresee a situation where we need to import food,” the BBC reports (8/20).

The country, which is the “world’s second-biggest producer of rice, increased the minimum purchase price of rice to help farmers lift incomes after drought damaged crops,” according to Bloomberg  (Parija, 8/20).