Robin Obino @PeopleDailyKe
Isiolo International Airport is set to transform the economic fortunes of northern Kenya. Farmers will use the facility to airlift their produce while tourists will use it to access holiday resorts in the region faster.
The Sh1.7 billion airport, which is a key plank of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor and a Vision 2030 flagship project, opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday, is strategically positioned for miraa, beef and fresh produce exports from Kenya’s lower Eastern region.
Speaking at the event, President Uhuru said the airport will also open up the northern tourism belt to increase tourist numbers and boost the economy for the benefit of the residents.
“The airport will open up access to the beautiful Northern Kenya tourism attractions, which include eco-tourism, rich cultural heritage, national reserves, private ranches, wildlife conservancies and the anticipated the resort city,” he said.
The region boasts of various tourism facilities including Sarova Shaba, Binasadi game reserve and Buffalo Springs lodges . Tourists arriving from European destinations through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will connect directly to Isiolo instead of travelling by road.
According to Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Isiolo branch Chairman Hussein Juma, the facility will enormously transform the livestock industry as locals will be able to export meat and meat products.
Producers of livestock and livestock products presently ferry them to Nairobi by road sometimes taking longer than expected.
“Meat production is expected to also grow once the Isiolo slaughterhouse, whose construction is almost complete, becomes operational,” Jama said in an exclusive interview with People Daily.
The facility — the fifth largest in the country and the first in the northern area — sits on approximately 800 acres of land on the boarder of Isiolo and Meru counties. It is also set to benefit miraa (khat) farmers from Meru and its environs.
They are not only bustling towns but are also getaways to regional trade with neighbouring Ethiopia and Southern Sudan, countries that import the product in bulk regionally.
Isaiah Miriti a miraa farmer from Meru says, once the cargo operations at the airport commence, the number of accidents on roads often characterised by the over speeding pick-ups that ferry the product, will be immensely reduced.
“Miraa is highly perishable and therefore needs fast transport. But with Isiolo airport less than 40 kilometres from the main growing areas, transportation cost as well as road accidents will reduce.
Expansion of the airport to a 3,000-metre runway, previously a 1,400-metre runway airstrip, has also seen many life-changing projects coming up.
Local residents say since the project kicked off, most of them have now been connected to electricity, roads have been paved and highrise buildings are coming up.
Facilities within the airport include a modern administration block, patrol roads control, watch towers, a meteorological centre, fire stations, infrastructure for cargo and hangers and perimeter fencing to ensure security of passengers and aircraft.