The long wait by Isiolo residents for the opening of the region's modern slaughterhouse will soon be over after the county government announced that it will be completed by February 2021.
The start of operations at the abattoir, which is part of the government's economic stimulus programme and whose construction started 13 years ago, is expected to promote the local and export livestock products market in the northern region.
At least Sh1 billion has so far been pumped into the slaughterhouse which was supposed to be operational by December 2016 but was delayed due to lack of funds and poor workmanship.
Isiolo Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Executive Lawrence Mwongera said the abattoir is at an advanced stage of completion and that modifications are ongoing to ensure it suits international standards.
"The delay we have been having is due to procurement issues but we are working to ensure it is completed by February 2021 so that our people can benefit," said Dr Mwongera.
He said the slaughterhouse, with a capacity of processing 474,000 animals per year, will offer favourable and reliable market for livestock products and create job opportunities for the youth, thereby boosting the region's economy.
The slaughterhouse was recently picked for the World Bank's Sh800 million funding for its equipping after emerging the one that was almost complete in a list comprising Wajir, Garissa and Marsabit abattoirs, also built under the Vision 2030 programme.
The selection came shortly after a visit by the World Bank team in July 2019 to assess the facilities' level of preparedness and the one centrally located for funding to be the catchment area for the neighbouring counties and the northern region at large.
Once operational, the abattoir will join a host of others exporting meat to the Middle East. This is expected to breathe life into the Isiolo International Airport which has been lying idle since it was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017.
Speaking when he received Sh500,000 CBPP testing kits and Rose Bengal reagents from the Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse (VSF) for boosting the county's laboratory capacity in Isiolo town, Dr Mwongera said a private investor will be sourced to run the abattoir.
The donations will rid the livestock department of the struggle of sending samples for testing to Nairobi and having to wait longer for results.
With the kits, the county will now carry out quick diagnosis of East Coast fever, brucellosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and trypanosomiasis and provide timely interventions.
Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti earlier announced plans by his administration to establish feedlots in strategic holding grounds to save thousands of livestock that die during drought.
A feedlot is an intensive feeding programme that helps in fattening emaciated animals on the verge of death allowing them to gain internationally acceptable weight prior to slaughter.
The governor reiterated his commitment in ensuring that farmers shift from keeping livestock for social gratification to commercial purposes where they rear fewer manageable animals that they can sell during the dry spell and buy others when the drought subsides.
The Isiolo slaughterhouse, with a capacity to slaughter 1,000 goats and sheep, 200 cows and 100 camels daily, will save herders from exploitation by brokers who have been buying livestock from them at throw-away prices.
The county government previously said the abattoir lacked, among others, rollers for hanging the carcasses, refrigeration equipment and cutting and washing machines.
About 70 per cent of Isiolo's population relies on livestock as a source of livelihood.
CONCERNS OVER DELAY
There has been concerns from some of the local leaders, the public and civil society groups over the delayed completion of the abattoir. They have been demanding that its operationalisation be expedited.
Dr Mwongera said the county is committed to supporting camel farmers to improve their productivity as Isiolo seeks to become the leading camel milk producer in the country.
The VSF, through Upscaling of Integrated Camel Management for Livelihoods and Collaborative Disease Surveillance for Animal Health (UPICAM) project, has been supporting the camel milk value chain with two women groups being among the beneficiaries of the project in its second phase.
The organisation, which seeks to increase food and nutrition security and also improve income and animal health, has given Anolei women Group with a refrigeration truck for transporting camel milk to Nairobi. This has motivated the women to increase their production.
"Anolei Women Group that used to produce 300 litres of camel milk 10 years ago now transports 7,000 litres to Nairobi daily while Tawaqal sells at least 1,000 litres, making a total of 8,000 litres of camel milk from Isiolo," UPICAM Project Manager Genevieve Owour said.
The organisation has also been partnering with the county government in disease surveillance, vaccination and mass treatment of animals which the Agriculture executive said Governor Kuti's is very passionate about.
A total of 340,000 animals have been vaccinated against various diseases in the last six months, with the county targeting to cover 70 per cent of its total population by the end of the year.
"As a county, we will put in place requisite mechanisms to protect the animal (camel) and support local processing of its milk so that our farmers fetch more income while creating job opportunities for our youth," Mwongera said.