Kenya is a land rich in corn and wheat farms. But last week, Kenya's government warned that poor crop yields meant millions would starve. This map shows what went wrong with growing season.

It wasn't weather that destroyed this year's crop - it was political unrest. Farmers abandoned their fields to flee for safety, and by the time they returned it was so late in the season that corn couldn't be planted. And other crops foundered too.


This satellite photo from NASA shows all the farm areas of Kenya that have suffered as a result of violence after the elections. According to NASA's Earth Observatory:

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 . . .

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.


This image, which looks so abstract with its greens and browns, offers a window into a future where violence begets violence. Political violence led to crop failure, which will lead to more violence as people begin to starve.


NASA Earth Observatory

Millions Risk Starvation [via AP]