State moots plan to boost tourism in northern Kenya

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with county governments to revive tourist destinations in the northern frontier circuit.

Under the MOU, the ministry will assist the counties to develop the tourism sector in line with Vision 2030.

Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) will embark on the multi-million-shilling programme aimed at connecting five circuits in the region with Meru National Park.

The project will involve rehabilitation of Bisanadi (Isiolo), Kitui North (formerly Mwingi) and Tharaka-Nithi game reserves that are managed by their respective counties, and KWS-managed Kora in Tana River and Rahole (Garissa) national parks.

The five-game sanctuaries with rare wildlife species will be upgraded and thereafter, connected with Meru National Park that is also managed by the State corporation. Meru park is open to local and foreign tourists while the Meru Conservation Area will eventually be linked with the Coast circuit.

KWS has already started connecting the two circuits through the construction of a bridge on the Tana River at Kora and airstrips at Bisanadi, Kora and Rahole.

Mr Balala visited Tharaka-Nithi and Meru counties on Thursday and said that KWS will erect an electric fence around the 350 square-kilometre Tharaka Nithi Game Reserve.

He was accompanied by the Tourism ministry Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet, Principal Secretary Fred Sigor and KWS Director General John Waweru.

While in Isiolo, during a meeting with county government officials led by Governor Mohamed Kuti, Balala said Sh20 million would be used to repair a bridge destroyed during the recent floods. It links Buffalo Springs in Isiolo and Samburu national reserves.

“The ministry, through KWS, will also rehabilitate local roads in the parks and construct or repair gates and houses of game rangers,” the CS said.

The programme also aims at curbing insecurity in the region through training of game rangers. “KWS will assist county governments in training of game rangers at Manyani KWS training headquarters within Tsavo West National Park),” Balala said.

Dr Kuti said Isiolo generates about 70 per cent of its internal revenue from tourism, disclosing that it had collected more than Sh200 million from Buffalo Springs and Shaba parks between 2016 and 2019.

“But due to Covid-19 pandemic, the sector is now on its knees while agriculture, retail and wholesale business that depend on tourist lodges had also been affected,’’ the governor said.

Kuti said Isiolo had undertaken initiatives to open up the Bisanadi reserve by putting in place permanent game rangers’ posts and constructing camping sites.

He called for support of the ministry and KWS in training more rangers, conducting joint patrols, improving infrastructure and opening up of its idle reserve.

Kuti said the game reserves in the region host rare wildlife species, are rich in fauna and flora and cultures that are unexploited for tourism.

The rehabilitation plan also aims at restoring and conserving biodiversity of the protected areas and the peripheral zones occupied by the community, in order to minimise human-wildlife conflict.

The organisation had previously invested Sh56 million, with aid from the French government, in the Meru conservancy area where they set up projects aimed at improving transport, security and welfare of the community around the parks.

The rare species exclusive to the region are Grévy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx and the gerenuk commonly known as the giraffe gazelle.

Apart from Meru National Park, Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs, the remaining parks have been idle largely due to insecurity and they haven’t been opened up and exposed.