Six thousand acres for Isiolo resort city

An aerial view of the upcoming Isiolo International airport pictured last month. It is one of the government projects in the town earmarked as a resort city in the northern part of the country as per the Vision 2030 development blueprint. The Sh610 million airport is expected to be ready for use by commercial flights by 2013. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI

The process of setting up Kenya’s first multi-billion shilling resort city moved a notch higher after the Isiolo county council was asked to set aside land for the project

The council is required to set aside 6,500 acres of land at Kipsing Gap, about 20 kilometres west of Isiolo town.

Assistant commissioner of Lands Muthoni Ngaruthi says that the land identified would enable the Government to set up the facility while chief economist in the Ministry of Tourism, Mr. Simon Korir, says the project, to be funded through a Public, Private Partnership (PPP), will cost Sh18.9 billion.

Stakeholders of the resort city were last weekend up-dated by government officials on the importance of establishing the resort city.

They included 32 councillors — led by chairman Adan Ali and Town Clerk Morris Ogolla — legislators, professionals and women group leaders.

Port consultant

A firm from Japan, the Japanese Port Consultant, identified the site for the proposed resort city and developed a conceptual design after a nine-month feasibility study.

Kipsing Gap was picked by the firm ahead of Kulamawe and Archers Post after factors such as security, accessibility, cultural diversity, natural diversity and wildlife attractions, availability of water, electricity and sewerage system, among others, were considered.

The land, which is sandwitched between two gazetted hills — Katim and Oldonyo Degishu — is bordered to the South by the world famous Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, to the north by Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserve, and Samburu Game Park and Ewaso Ng’iro River to the west.

The proposed resort will boast of three to six-star hotels, a local art and craft museum, theatres for international festivals and international conference centres.

Other features are golf courses, cultural events like the International Camel Derby and mountaineering, biking and natural walks.

The two government officials appealed to the council, as the custodian of the land on behalf of the community, to hasten the process of land acquisition for the government to move to the next stage.

Mr Ngaruthi said: “Under the old constitution land tenure system was under the Trust-land Act while the new law defines it as community land. It is mandatory for the central government to obtain consent from the locals before getting the land for development of national projects.”

During the two-day sensitisation workshop organised by the government in Isiolo town, the councillors agreed to the request that would entail a resolution giving out the required land through the divisional land board.

The government will compensate residents while the council will benefit through acquiring the land title deed and charging rates and rent from investors who will put up facilities in the resort city.

Officially called Kipsing Gap, Mulango — a huge corridor separating the two evergreen hills of Katim and Oldongo Degishu — provides a safe grazing ground for the Samburu, Turkana, Somali and Boran herders, as the warriors keep vigil on top of the hills to spy on rustlers out to steal their animals.

Mr Peter Ngichili, the councillor of Budarat Ward where part of the proposed resort city will be located, supports the project and urges the area residents to support the national project under Vision 2030 which is set to benefit Isiolo County, and elevate for once part of northern Kenya that has suffered decades of successive government neglect.

Tour circuits include national parks that stretch from the Aberdares, Mt Kenya and Meru, archaeological sites, mountaineering and biking trails and natural walks.

The circuit is figuratively known as the Jewel in the Crown for its rich diversity in fauna and flora, as well as wide ranging species of wildlife which include the “big five” — lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

Isiolo district development officer Joseph Ng’ang’a said Isiolo resort city is expected to have a centre for education and information, deliver a unique image and effective branding and position itself as a place to visit, live, work rest and invest.

Mr Ng’anga also said the Japanese consultancy firm has come up with more than ten preliminary models of the city, with a clear theme and concept, and has undertaken an adequate infrastructure gap analysis.

“It has also come up with a plan on how the various parts of the land will be used and advised on the private sector involvement and integration of the local community into the project,” he said, adding that the development and growth of the resort city for between 20 and 30 years has also been factored into the plan.

He further pointed out: “A framework for development of infrastructure and investment decisions in housing, transport, industry, water supply, energy and hospitality services among others formed part of the study.”

Mr Korir added: “Isiolo town is identified in the Vision 2030 as one of the three resort cities to be developed as part of flagship projects to be implemented within the tourism sector.”

The other cities are Diani in Kwale and Kilifi. Two others — one in Lamu and Kalokol in Lake Turkana — were added later after the government came up with Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia transport (lapsset) corridor.

Under the economic pillar of Vision 2030, the government intends to develop a resort city that provides sustainable world-class living standards and working environment — a centre for finance, trade, business, services, sports, leisure and entertainment.

Central position

Isiolo district commissioner Mr James Mwaura says that Isiolo was selected due to its central position in the country, rich culture of the pastoralists — Borana, Somali, Samburu and Turkana — and its natural heritage that includes beautiful arid scenery and rare wildlife.

The five rare animals only found in northern Kenya tourism circuit are reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, generuk, gravy zebra and oryx.

Isiolo county council chairman Mr Abdi Boru, said Isiolo’s Shaba Game Reserve also rose to world tourism fame after CBS TV blockbuster series Survivor Africa and the films To Walk with Lions,Out of Africa, Sheena the Queen of the Jungle, Born Free and The White Maasai were shot in the area.

The other parks in Isiolo are Buffalo Springs and Bisan Adi while those neighbouring the town are Meru National Park, Mount Kenya National Park and Samburu National Reserve.

Korir says the Lamu Port, railway lines and petroleum pipeline, all passing through Isiolo, will attract tourists to the resort city, adding that the on-going construction of an international airport in Isiolo will also be a major boost.