21 Feb 2023

Harvesting the benefits of anticipatory action

Farmers in southern Kenya recently harvested a variety of crops that were planted as part of an anticipatory action initiative by the Kenya Red Cross Society. This is now helping their families to cope with the impacts of a prolonged drought that continues to cause severe food insecurity, in Kenya and across eastern Africa.

In October 2022, 3,000 farmers in Kitui and Kwale Counties received drought-tolerant, fast- maturing and disease-resistant seeds for three crops (green grams, cowpeas and sorghum). These specialized seeds replaced traditional but drought-vulnerable maize varieties, and were selected through a consultation with the farmers involved and experts from Kenya’s Department of Agriculture. “The seeds were distributed and planted three days before onset of the short October-November-December rains,” explained Daniel Wanyoike, British Red Cross. “This was timely and beneficial to farmers.”

Seed distribution is one of a series of anticipatory actions to address reduced crop yields. These are set out in Kenya’s Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Drought, which was activated in October 2022. Other actions carried out through this activation included the dissemination of early-warning messages for target communities and the rehabilitation of boreholes to address the drought’s impact on water scarcity.

“In terms of impact, these early actions achieved what we were aiming for, with communities taking action based on the forecast information,” confirmed Sheila Chemjor from the Netherlands Red Cross, which is a partner for this project. “We reached 3,000 households with support for food security, and over 100,000 with early-warning information.”

“I think this has been a very successful project.”

Mohammed Mwaenzi Branch leader, Kenya Red Cross Society

Activating Kenya’s EAP for Drought

The activation took place because the trigger levels set out in Kenya’s EAP for Drought were reached in October 2022, and the anticipatory actions it outlines could be completed within the lead time. Usually, when an EAP is activated, these actions are funded by the Anticipatory Pillar of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund. In this instance, however, the actions were supported by the British Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross, since the drought EAP had been validated with conditions and is still awaiting final approval. The Kenya Red Cross Society is currently working to fulfil the final conditions to achieve this, which relate to readiness activities and prepositioning of the materials needed for anticipatory actions.

The activation in Kwale was a success due to several factors. These include:

  • the active monitoring of forecasts with support from the technical working group
  • the active participation and engagement of stakeholders in designing and validating the anticipatory actions
  • robust community engagement and accountability
  • the capacity of the National Societies’ systems, which facilitated the effective procurement and distribution of seeds, and implementation of the other anticipatory actions, within the window of opportunity
  • continuous joint monitoring of the anticipatory actions by the stakeholders involved.

Another important factor was the flexible funding provided by the IKEA Foundation, the Netherlands Red Cross and the British Red Cross.

This article is based on an earlier news item by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. Thanks to Melanie Ogle (IFRC), Daniel Wanyoike (British Red Cross) and Sheila Chemjor (Netherlands Red Cross) for their inputs.

Photo credits: The Kenya Red Cross Society, as part of its Early Action Protocol for Drought, conducted a seed distribution in the semi-arid communities of Kwale County, some of which have not had rainfall for up to three years. In coordination with the county government and the farmers, fast-yielding seeds were distributed in anticipation of imminent rains. © Denis Onyodi/ Kenya Red Cross Society