Ten million people could face hunger in Kenya after a poor harvest, Kenya’s government warned on January 9, 2009. According to the Associated Press, the government declared a state of emergency to free up funds for food aid.
This image, which shows vegetation conditions between January 1 and January 10, 2009, shows part of the reason for the failed crops. Developing drought settled over eastern Kenya, slowing plant growth. Areas in which plants were growing less vigorously than average are brown, while areas in which plants were growing well are green. Rainfall during the “short rains” season, which typically runs from September or October through November or December, did not provide the moisture maturing crops required in eastern Kenya, and as a result, the end-of-year harvest was poor. By January, shortly after most crops were harvested, the remaining vegetation was clearly in bad shape compared to normal.
In western Kenya, the country’s grain basket, plants were doing well. The region is white and green in this image, indicating that vegetation was either average or healthier and denser than normal. The poor harvest in this region had nothing to do with weather, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Corn, the primary crop, is typically planted when the long-season rains start between mid-February and mid-April. But in late 2007 and early 2008, post-election violence tore through Kenya, affecting much of the grain basket region. In many regions, farmers evacuated to camps and did not return until late April. By then, it was too late to plant a successful crop, said the Foreign Agricultural Service. Some farmers planted a late corn crop, and others planted wheat instead of corn because wheat has a shorter growing season. Altogether, the season shortened by violence resulted in a smaller harvest in the east, while drought reduced the harvest in the west, said the Foreign Agricultural Service.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided by the United State Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service and processed by Jennifer Small and Assaf Anyamba, NASA GIMMS Group at Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Holli Riebeek with information provided by Assaf Anyamba.