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Isiolo International Airport to boost produce markets

Farmers in Isiolo, Meru and Laikipia counties are set to benefit from the intervention of the national government agencies in efforts to fast track the completion of cargo shades at the Isiolo International Airport in order for them to export their produce to the target markets.

The agencies led by Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya), Directorate of Miraa and Pyrethrum and KEPHIS intend to expand the market for the fresh produce industry, which currently exports about 4% of what is produced in the county, which will increase to 10-15%  after the airport becomes operational.

The region which is well known for producing commodities such as Miraa, pyrethrum, vegetables and flowers has not yet benefited from the airport, which was completed and officially opened in 2017 and are at the moment transporting their goods to Nairobi by road even though they are very perishable.

Small scale farmers are the main targets to enable them to reach out to domestic, regional (The East African Community) and global markets by cutting short the travel distance of the produce from the growers’ perspective.

While accompanying the Government Spokesman Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, during a field visit of Isiolo Airport, Mr Okisegere Ojepat the CEO of Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya) said that there was light at the end of the tunnel for farmers in the region after assurances that the facility will be ready to accommodate cargo flights and help in moving produce starting January, next year.

Farmers harvesting fresh produce ready for the market. Photo by Parklea Ivor

The sentiments were echoed by Mr Jacob Bwana, the Kenya Airports Authority Acting General Manager, Marketing and business development.

The Spokesperson noted that transportation of Miraa from Meru to Nairobi by use of ‘flying’ vehicles poses a great danger to other road users because of their high speed, making highways along their paths prone to accidents, and therefore air transport will go a long way in its reduction.

Oguna had earlier toured the Kilimani Galana Irrigation Scheme, which comprises Kilimani Galana Dam and an irrigation scheme constructed by the national government at a total cost of Sh 315 million with construction beginning in 2017 and completed in 2020.

He assured the farmers who are expected to benefit from the project that the government is committed to boost accessibility to resources which they require, so that they can engage in activities such as farming to sustain their livelihoods, especially in the drought prone areas.

Farmers were also tasked to embrace horticultural farming and take advantage of the airport as their fresh farm produces will get to markets faster and to a wider region, as opposed to the suffering they had endured in the hands of cartels, who pose as middle men and in turn buy their products at very low prices and in turn reap huge profits.

The dam which has a capacity of 103,000cubic meters has since benefited around 2,000 people and is set to get to 5,000, after more holding tanks are constructed and more distribution pipes fitted.

Isiolo CEC for Agriculture Mr Lawrence Mwongera lauded the national government for the huge projects set to improve the livelihoods of Kenyans, and promised to join hands with the private sector to complete projects handed over to them such as the Abattoir.

By Parklea Ivor

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