CASE STUDY 5 : Drought in Kenya persists throughout 2009


A devastating drought has swept across Kenya during 2009. The long rainy season from March to May failed completely. The long drought period has affected the vegetation in all regions of Kenya. The government declared a state of emergency in the country, saying 10 million people may face hunger and starvation after a poor harvest because of crop failure due to a lack of rain and rising food prices. Conflicts between communities have increased with the drought, concerning access to water and pasture.

Examining the ‘vegetation health and density’ (NDVI) for 2009 compared to the usual conditions reveals that up till mid October the vegetation status in major parts of Kenya is inferior compared to the average year. The image of the middle of May clearly depicts the consequences of the failure of the long rainy season on the vegetation. The vegetation health and density at the end of the rainy season is inferior to much inferior compared to the average year in almost all regions.

Right now, at the end of October, the short rainy season appears to start earlier compared to average. The vegetation in the eastern half of the country already seems to benefit, as the ‘vegetation health and density’ in some areas is performing better than the usual situation.
Meteorologists expect a lot of rain. The images that will appear on the ENDELEO monitoring website during the next decades will show to what extend this may lead to the recovery of the vegetation status. However, if the intensity of the rain will be too high, negative effects might be identified. Because the country has been parched for so long and now suddenly a more than normal rainfall is expected, they warn for flooding. Since the land is hard and dry infiltration of the water is slow and a lot of water remains on the field. This can result in the rotting of crop.


 Vegetation health & density compared to the average situation, in the middle of January 2009, March 2009, May 2009, July 2009, September 2009, October 2009 and at the end of October 2009 

By means of the graphs tool on the ENDELEO monitoring website, the status of vegetation in a specific area of interest can be studied in more detail. An example is given for the Northern districts.

The Northern districts Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana (see map below) have been hard-hit by drought and were experiencing severe food shortages, massive population displacement and deaths from conflict on control of water points and pasture. The wildlife in these districts is as well victim of the lack of rain, especially the less drought-resistant animals like elephant, buffalo, warthog, some antelope species and hippopotami. Only in Samburu district, 24 elephants have died in two months time.


Situation of the Northern districts Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana in Kenya.

In the graphs below the evolution of the ‘vegetation health and density’ is plotted against the average situation for all land cover types in these four districts. The vegetation conditions were considerably lower than average. The lack of rain during the long rainy season is clear for all four districts. Furthermore, the influence of the early onset of the short rainy season is visible as an early increase of the ‘vegetation health and density’, at the end of October, whereas this normally occurs in half November.


Vegetation health & density for the total area of Marsabit for 2009 and for average year


Vegetation health & density for the total area of Isiolo for 2009 and for average year


Vegetation health & density for the total area of Samburu for 2009 and for average year


Vegetation health & density for the total area of Turkana for 2009 and for average year


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