The Isiolo county government has for the fourth time in three years insisted the completion of an abattoir, whose building started 15 years ago, is on course even as locals allege deliberate plans to delay it.
Handed over to the county in 2014, the project was to be completed two years later but was delayed due to poor workmanship and financial constraints.
After taking office in 2017, Governor Mohamed Kuti said the project was 60 per cent complete and needed about Sh300 million for final works.
More than Sh1 billion has been pumped into the slaughterhouse that is among the four built and funded under the government’s Vision 2030 economic stimulus programme alongside the ones in Garissa, West Pokot and Wajir.
Two years later, while inspecting the facility together with Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa and a delegation from the Office of the President, Dr Kuti announced that his administration had secured an investor who would, in collaboration with the county, complete the abattoir by May 2020.
“We have engaged an investor with market network and expertise to partner with my administration to complete the slaughterhouse in eight months,” he said then, adding that the investor won the tender through a competitive bidding process.
A transaction advisor from the Kenya Marketing Council was to assist the county to negotiate with the investor.
Governor Kuti, during the tour, also revealed that the county had allocated funds for the building of an ablution block, access roads, a laboratory and refrigeration containers, though he did not share the total amount that was to be spent.
A delegation from the World Bank had toured the abattoir two months earlier, alongside those in Wajir, Marsabit and Garissa, as it sought to establish the one nearly complete and strategically located for funding to complete the remaining works.
The county would two months past the May 2020 deadline blame procurement issues allegedly caused by Covid-19 pandemic for the delayed completion of the facility, with officials insisting it was at an advanced stage of completion and would be completed in February 2021.
“Modifications of the abattoir to international standards are underway and we expect it to be up and running in seven months’ time,” County Agriculture Executive Lawrence Mwongela said then.
While the abattoir was in the same year picked for Sh800 million World Bank funding for its equipping after it emerged the one almost complete compared to the rest, majority of the equipment such as chillers and refrigerators for cold rooms are yet to be purchased and modifications have not been fully done two years later.
There are also no rollers for hanging carcasses and cutting and washing machines at the slaughterhouse.
The abattoir has the capacity to process 474,000 animals’ annually, meaning 1,000 goats and sheep, 200 cows and 100 camels will be slaughtered on a daily basis, which will offer a reliable market for livestock products and boost the region’s economy.
Pastoralism accounts for 70 per cent of Isiolo’s economy.
Unknown to residents, the end of the long wait for the completion and opening of the abattoir was not in sight.
Early last year when it was to be complete, public participation forums were being carried out across the 10 wards as the county sought to pick residents' views on whether the facility should be run by the devolved government or a private investor.
Majority of the residents said the county government lacked expertise and know-how to run the facility and maximise its capacity but maintained that the investor who would be picked must prioritise employing local youth and buying livestock locally.
Structural design redone
SCIP Engineering Group, the consultant for the project, in September last year re-did the structural design for feed lot and drainage and submitted the designs to the county government.
“I hope the works towards operationalisation will commence in a month’s time after we identify an investor,” the Agriculture executive said after receiving the new designs from the South Africa-based contractor.
A delegation from the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat had two months earlier visited the facility and assured their commitment to ensure the abattoir was completed within the shortest time possible.
Officials previously said walkways, a hide storage facility, drainage system, a laboratory and emergency slaughter area had been completed.
Contacted, the project officer, Dr Julius Githinji, said the delay was due to procurement issues but assured that the abattoir will be complete by the end of this year.
He said a private investor, Y&I, in joint venture with Cantek, had been identified to run the facility and that the World Bank had approved final works on the ablution block, buying of equipment and rehabilitation of the waste management system as well as other small final works.
“We are waiting for the tender number from WB so that we advertise for the supply of equipment in the course of next week,” Dr Githinji told the Nation.
The tendering, he said, will run concurrently with negotiations between the county and the investor on modus operandi which will be completed in a month’s time.
“Structural designs have already been done by SCIP. The adverts will run for 30 days and tender opening, evaluation and award to take about two extra months…It should be up and running between October and November this year,” he said.
The county government has already, under the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture, completed a feed lot and will complete works on the animal cleaning area, he said.
Feedlot is an intensive feeding programme that helps fatten emaciated animals on the brink of death to gain internationally accepted weight before slaughter.
On completion, the abattoir will employ 80 people directly and benefit over 20,000 livelihoods and raise an estimated Sh400 million in revenue in seven years.
“We will soon be sharing the terms of the agreement with the investor including the time the investor will manage the facility and how much should be realised in revenues,” Dr Githinji said, adding that it will leverage on the Isiolo International Airport for exporting of meat products to the Middle East.
Among its catchment areas are Laikipia, Samburu, Meru, Wajir and Garissa.
Mr John Ngiru, a pastoralist from Ngaremara, said the opening of the abattoir is long overdue and called on the county government to speed up the process.
“We have waited for too long and have been promised several times that it will be completed. Let them stick to the promise because it is currently a white elephant,” he said.