State fasttracks plans to build Kericho airport

The government is in the final stages of securing land for the construction of an airport in Kericho County that will serve the South Rift region, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen has said.
Multinational tea companies have agreed to surrender part of the land they have leased for the upgrade of Kerenga Airstrip to an airport as directed by President William Ruto.
Mr Murkomen said that the airport would enhance transport, trade and tourism in the agriculturally endowed region.
Building an airport is part of the government’s grand plan to expand Kericho, by curving out 1,600 acres from land occupied by the tea firms, as it seeks to upgrade the town to a city in the future.
“Following the directive by the President to construct an airport in Kericho, we are engaged in talks with the multinational companies, the National Land Commission (NLC) and the county government to secure land for the project,” Mr Murkomen said.
The CS told the Nation in Bomet that the airport will be a major cog in boosting tourism in the larger Western and Rift Valley regions that are endowed with natural resources, beautiful sceneries and communities with diverse traditions and cultures.
Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Nyamira and Kisii as well as parts of Kisumu, Nandi, Nakuru and Baringo counties are expected to benefit from the upgrade of the facility that will ease the transport of passengers and perishable farm produce to the market.
Dr Ruto announced on March 14 while on a tour of Kericho County that the tea companies had agreed to give out land to the government for the construction of the airport.
“We have secured enough land to expand Kerenga Airstrip to a fully-fledged airport. I have instructed Roads Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen to work with his technical team to plan the expansion of the facility,” Dr Ruto said.
The President said that he was aware that the airstrip’s dusty runway had sparked debate on social media over its poor status.
“The process to curve out an initial 600 acres for expansion of Kericho town is now complete and we are working on another 1,000 acres as we plan to upgrade the town to a city status and open the space for development,” Dr Ruto said.
The land will be used for industries, businesses, infrastructure and social amenities.
Kerenga Airstrip has mostly been idle over the years, with occasional use by politicians and directors of the tea firms.
It was not until the tail end of last year, that the government allocated resources for its upgrade ahead of the Mashujaa Day celebrations which were hosted at Kiprugut Chumo Stadium, formerly Kericho Green Stadium. Dr Ruto presided over the celebrations.
During the celebrations, Kerenga Airstrip’s dusty runway was the butt of jokes.
Mr Murkomen recently said that in the interim, the facility with a runway of 1.2 kilometres will accommodate light planes with a maximum of 37 passengers, as plans are being made to expand it to 2.0 kilometres.
The runway was expected to be extended by 800 metres to make it 2.0 kilometres so as to accommodate bigger aircraft before the President announced that it would be upgraded to an airport.
The facility was upgraded by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and engineers from the Ministry of Roads and Public Works with a view to having it accommodate planes carrying up to 60 passengers – before the Mashujaa Day celebrations.
Kericho Governor Erick Mutai said the county was working with the national government to fast-track development projects that will open up the region for investment.
“The expected upgrade of Kerenga Airstrip to an airport is in line with the planned setting aside of 500 acres in Chelimo for the establishment of the Economic Zones and the establishment of the aggregated processing zones at Kapsorok in Soin Sigowet Constituency,” Dr Mutai said.
Mr Robinson Bett, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Kericho branch chairman said the fresh farm produce including flowers and avocados along with processed tea and coffee will be directly exported from the region to various global market destinations.
“The airport, once constructed, will play a pivotal role in boosting tourism in Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza circuits with ease of transport both for passengers and fresh farm produce,” Mr Bett said.

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