A Brief Factfile About Isiolo

Isiolo County

The small yet bustling town of Isiolo lies almost at the center of Kenya in the former Eastern Province.

It’s a story of contrasts.

Just 40 km south of Isiolo lies Meru, on the foothills of Mount Kenya, a domineering 2,300 meters above sea level. Meru is lush green land, with tropical forest, mountain climate, deep springs, heavy gushing rivers and lots of arable land.

Hardly a day goes by without rainfall in some region of the County.

Isiolo is totally different.

Only one major river passes by the town, the Ewaso Nyiro, that actually originates from The Aberdares and traces its way via Isiolo to Samburu, a staggering 250 km journey.

Isiolo is arid and semi-arid climate territory, with sparse seasons of rainfall.

However, over the last 10 years, Isiolo has grown to become an important trading hub, the gatepost between Northern and Southern Kenya, a region town, drawing heavy commercial traffic from Somali, South Sudan and more importantly Ethiopia.

But it deserves a mention here as this is the town that John must pass through on his way to the Ethiopian border town of Moyale.

John also travels every week to Isiolo to participate in a local radio show where he gives free legal aid to local residents.

Most of the questions range from inheritance law to domestic violence issues and family disputes.

That makes the connection to the Zero Violence254 Initiative.

But let’s tell you a little about Isiolo’s history.


Story & Facts

Isiolo County is situated in the Upper Eastern sub-region of Kenya, and lies 285 kilometres north of Nairobi.
Isiolo lies along the long A2 Road, leading towards Marsabit and Moyale to the north. The town is served by Isiolo Airport, which is set to be upgraded to serve tourism and local exports.
 The plan is to develop Isiolo into a major tourist city that will include casinos, hotels, upscale retail outlets, a modern airport and transport facilities.
This is thanks to the nearby Meru National Park and the Samburu Game Reserve that house some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife.

Isiolo will also be a transport hub as the location of the fork of the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor.

It does make its revenue from the popular Samburu and Shaba Game reserves, which have become preferred destinations after the famed Maasai Mara.

The main town is served by on major road, the A2 highway that starts from Mombasa to Nairobi and moves northwards to Ethiopia. Many small shops and restaurants line the highway. the largest landmark currently is the Mosque.
I say currently, because there are a number of bustling hotels sprouting up in the region.


The town has a small, mostly cosmopolitan population consisting of mostly of the Borana people followed by Ameru, Samburu and Turkana tribes.

You also find pockets of the Cushitic-speaking Rendille and Boran.

Isiolo is also known for its large retail market, while brass, copper and aluminum jewelry making is a local industry.

Bustling Hotel Industry

Over the last 14 months, a number of hotels have sprung up in Isiolo, catering for the transit population making its way to Ethiopia and Somalia.
There are now over 12 hotels in the region. Most of them are 3 and 4 star hotels.
So it’s well on its way to becoming a major tourist town in the next five years.

Conservation Efforts In Samburu

Conservation is a big agenda in Samburu.
In fact, during a recent trip to one of the Samburu households, the elders told us that they frown on use of plastics. They also constrain their children from accepting sweets and sugary gifts from visitors as these harm their health.
Obviously, since there is a shortage of water, there are number of community boreholes in the region where the residents can get water. The city does have piped water and reservoirs that brings water from Mount Kenya.
Further on, over and beyond the dry reddish hills that surround the town lies the Samburu Game Reserve, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves.

The Lewa Downs reserve is located south of Isiolo. The Meru National Park lies in the North East of the town.

The town is majorly Muslim populated and has a several mosques. The Jamia mosque is the largest of all and also a remarkable landmark.

The Catholic church’s twin bell towers are also among the remarkable landmarks of Isiolo town.
Generally the town has warm climate and has several trees within the town to provide shades.
During June-August period the town experiences strong dry winds and generally very dusty.

Growth of Isiolo Town

The town grew around the local military camps, much of the population being descended from former Somali soldiers who had fought in World War I as well as other Cushitic-speaking pastoral communities and the Ameru community.

The town has an estimated population of 80,000 people, most of them living in the rural outbacks of the District. There is an increasing urban population in the recent years, especially from as far as Moyale, Marsabit and Mandera.

Isiolo District was designated as the Headquarters of the Northern frontier Districts by The British East Africa Protectorate in 1922, until the North Eastern was curved out as a separate province in 1963 following the Lancaster House Constitutional conference.

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