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The Potential Impacts of the Anticipated El Nino Rains on the Food Situation
a Presentation by James Muhindi, Assistant Director, Climate Prediction Services, Kenya Meteorological Department
at the Kenya's food situation: challenges and opportunities Roundtable
held at Laico regency hotel, Nairobi on 18th september, 2009


The presentation by Mr. Muhindi was on The Potential Impacts of the Anticipated El Nino Rains on the Food Situation . He explained the meaning of long range forecasts and indicated that much has been talked about the coming El Nino, which to most Kenyans means heavy rainfall and serious flooding. He pointed out that it is true that El Nino conditions have a tendency of enhancing rainfall during October-December “short-rains” season. However, it is important to know that the impacts of El Nino on seasonal rainfall are not always similar. He further explained that El Niño is a term that refers to anomalously warmer than average conditions of Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is normally characterized by warming of the subsurface layers and large scale weakening of the trade winds in the region, and that these changes have important consequences over weather/climate around the globe, including East Africa.

Mr. Muhindi explained the expected conditions for the October-December 2009 “short-rains” season. During this time, most parts of the country are likely to experience enhanced rainfall that will be well distributed both in time and space. The rainfall is expected to be mainly driven by the presence of the evolving El Niño in the Equatorial Eastern Pacific Ocean coupled with a warming Indian Ocean in areas adjacent to the East African coastline. The rainfall is, however, expected to be less enhanced as compared with that of 1997. It is expected that there will be timely onset of the Oct-Dec rainfall over most of the “Short Rains” dependent areas. The rainfall expected over most agricultural areas of the country would be adequate for good crop performance. Farmers, are therefore, advised to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and take advantage of the expected good rainfall performance, the extended rainfall season, and extended length of the growing period, to maximize on the crop yield. However, enhanced rainfall in Western Kenya may coincide with harvesting activities in parts of Rift Valley (Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia etc), thus interfering with these activities. The emergency measures that are currently in place due to food insecurity in the country should be sustained till March 2010. He emphasized that in order to enhance food security, storage facilities should be built in every province for easier access and distribution of food to the needy


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