Harold Michell.

An introduction to the geography of Sierra Leone online

. (page 5 of 10)
Online LibraryHarold MichellAn introduction to the geography of Sierra Leone → online text (page 5 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cumstances; then the country has to fall back on its
reserve fund and endeavour to make up the deficit in
the following year.

As the revenue increases, so more work is under-
taken to improve the country. The following chart
shows how the revenue and expenditure have changed
during the past eleven years. It will be observed that
at times the expenditure has exceeded the revenue, and
that generally the total amounts are on the increase,
showing steady prosperity, but note the falling off the
year after the war began, and also that a gradual
recovery is being made.

The Protectorate for purposes of administration is

divided into districts in charge of Commissioners. The

districts, with the headquarters of the Commissioner

for each, are as follow : —


1. Railway District ...

Konno sub-district

2. Karene District

Port Lokko sub-district...
Makene sub-district

3. Ronietta District ...

4. Northern Sherbro District


5. Koinadugu
The Railway District lies towards the enst of the

Protectorate, and has an area of, roughly, 7,000 square
miles. The railway runs through the district from
west to east from a point 120 miles from Freetown.

The chief inhabitants are Mendes, with Konnohs in
the sub-district, besides Golas, Bandes and Kissis.

Port Lokko.


An Introduction to the

There are 44 Mende chief doms, and 14 Konnoh chief-

doms and one Kissi chief dom. Roughly, the popula-
tion of this district is 500,000, but there are at present
no accurate means of estimating the population.

1 1 > t' 1 1


1 f ^ T^

1 — i_ i si

1 ■ 1 ~t 1 ^ j! m 1

1 ' ■ ' 1 j^ w

' ' ' i ^1 b\

1 , r K '

1 i ^ '/ \ ~]

1 d' A \ \

t / f \\

1 / 11 J

f f B V"»fc J ^

II A i »l J ^ "*

j ] / / \ J

1 j( i 1^

500 000 ■ i i

\ \ 1 w '^ i

J 1 i \/

\ \ f /

\ III ^j^ :/i i :

>r' J

M ' ^^ ' ^1

' ' I 1 ! A / '

1 j 1 ' : i' J i

1 / y 1

I Ad i

] ] > ^ ' ! i

, ^ ^\^ / ^'^ '

-] H^^x " "^ ""^g^*^^ '^' 1 ^"^ — ! 1 1 tH

1 /Y X/^ " " 1

^r^ ' "^^ III j i 1 i 1 1

1— 1_| 1 1 !_L — . !_J-_ _.J.L.L 1 ic"!"^ - ^ 1 ' }-

1 1 1 ) 1 1 !

J . 1 1 1 J — c vD'irMr*iT8 idc:~L;^ ^ — ' ' '

' 1 1 > 1 < ' ! 1

i 1 ' : ! i 1 J

; ' 1 ^ ' ' 1 '

1 1 ' : ! 1 1

1 ' ' i ' ' i

j 1 1 I '

1 1

i ^ 1

1 !

i 1

' i

1 1 1 , 1 '

O) O)

The area to be administered is large and comprises
the entire trade zone drained by the main line railway
north-east of Bo, and quite 80 per cent, of the entire
railway freight comes from this area.

Generally the district consists of undulating plains,
but in the north, and the Konnoh sub-district, it is very

Geogra'phy of Sierra Leone. 63

hilly, the tops of the mountains largely covered with
virgin forest, the lower slopes farmed periodically.
Most of the district is well covered with what is known
as secondary bush, but in the south-east there is the
dense virgin forest.

Although the palm tree is not as plentiful as in
Northern Sherbro, there are nevertheless some good
palm belts, especially in the south, and rice is exten-
sively cultivated, especially near the railway. The
valleys of the Konnoh country are exceedingly fertile,
producing splendid crops of rice, cotton and ground-
nuts, but very little of this produce finds its way to
the railway owing to want of suitable transport.

This part of the country is very little opened up,
and the people have not yet overcome the hardships
they suffered at the hands ""of the warring tribes that
used to pay periodic visits to the country before the
Protectorate was established.

The trade of the railway district is chiefly in palm
kernels, palm oil and kola-nuts, chiefly sent to Free-
town for export ; but, in addition, a certain amount of
trade in rice and kola nuts is done w^ith the natives
from French Guinea and Liberia.

In a district which is so productive the inhabitants
are not dependent entirely on trade for a livelihood,
and unless the prices paid for his produce make it
worth while, the native will not bring it into the
market; and this is particularly the case with palm
kernels, the preparation of which is tedious, and their
transport difficult, because they are bulky.

Besides the produce which is sent down to Freetown
by rail, there is a good deal of trade carried on over-
land, particularly with the French Kissis.

At present the railway only goes as far as Pendembu,
but this town is now linked up with Kanre Lahun by
means of a good Government road, and a considerable
amount of produce finds its v^ay along this main artery.

In addition to farming and gathering palm produce,
the people are engaged in cloth-weaving and mat-
making, but hardly to the same extent as formerly.

fi4 .4// hiiroflitctroii to the

In this district at Bo is situated the school for the
sons and nominees of chiefs. Many of the pupils
educated there have now returned to their chiefdoms,
and are doing excellent work, as was hoped for. Some
have recently entered the Government service and are
proving most successful, whilst others are engaged in
Government work in the Agricultural, Forestry and
Protectorate Roads Departments.

At Bmnpe, in this district, a free Elementary School
has been opened under the direction of the Bo School
authorities. This has been a great success. Another
experiment started under the same direction, the open-
ing of a Vernacular School at Bima, has justified
itself, and should be a step in the right direction
towards educating all the children, for it is by these
means that the prosperity of the country will be

The district is gradually being opened up by good
roads; it already has several really first class roads,
such as from Pendembu to Kanre Lahun, Bo to Banda-
juma, Blama to Boajibu, Hangha to Lago and Pan-
guma. Along these roads, which are feeders to the
railway, comes an immense amount of country produce.

The chiefs of the district have now realised the
expediency of keeping their roads in a good condition,
and there are about 300 miles of roads entirely main-
tained by the people of the district.

The towns in the district are gradually but surely
showing signs of improvement, many are quite well
laid out, and attention is given to sanitation and good

Kennema, the headquarters of the District Com-
missioner, is very well laid out, with even a little park
to boast of. It lies at the foot of the Kassewe Hills,
the slopes of which have now been planted by the
Forestry Department with Copal and Para rubber.
The town has a good water supply, and several Euro-
pean firms do a busy trade there.

Bo, probably the largest town in the Protectorate,
is a terminus station on the railway. Trains both

Geogra'phy of Sierra Leone. ^5

from Freetown and Pendembu have to stop at Bo for
the night. Hence it has a very cosmopolitan popula-
tion, and consequently it is hardly as well planned as it
could be. During the dry season there is a serious
shortage of water, but wells are now being sunk. It
has a considerable transit trade, and two European
firms, a whole colony of Syrians, as well as a large
number of Sierra Leonean traders, do a thriving busi-
ness. Such towns as Blama, Segbwema, Pendembu
and so on owe their importance to the railway, and are
great collecting centres for palm produce and kola.

Daru, on the River Moa, is the headquarters of the
West African Frontier Force, and is on the railway.
This force has two sub-stations, both in this district,
one at Kanre Lahun and one at Bandajuma, at the
extremes of the district.

Panguma is the headquarters of the sub-district in
the Konnoh country, and is about 20 miles from
Hangha. It is situated on the rising ground which
eventually leads up to the range of hills known as the
Nimmini Mountains (Mount Gerrib near Panguma is
1,800 feet high).

Sumhuya, on the river Sewa, or Bam as it is called
nearer its mouth, is a great collecting centre for palm
produce, which is conveyed down the river in the rainy
season to Bonthe. Much of its trade has been deflected
to the railway, however, but the cheapness of water
transport and its position near a rich belt of palms
maintain its importance.

The Karene District comprises that portion of the
Protectorate lying to the north-west between the rivers
Rokelle on the south and the great Skarcies on the
north, and bounded on the east by the Koinadugu dis-
trict, and the south-east by the Ronietta district. Its
area is approximately 5,500 square miles, and the
population roughly 400,000.

The headquarters are at Batkanu, but for purposes
of administration it has two sub-districts, one at Port
Lokko and one at Makene, at the western and eastern
extremities respectively. In this district there are


66 An Inlruduction to the

representatives of five tribes, each with a different

1. Bulloms. — This tribe formerly occupied the whole
of the sea coast for a considerable depth inland under
one chief, from the Krim country on the south, includ-
ing the coast of the Colony and what is now known as
Bullom. They belong to the same stock as the Temnes
and Sherbros ; the Sherbros call themselves " a Bol-
lome " or " a Mampa," the former being a true Sherbro
word, and the latter Temne. They have been absorbed
on the north by the Temnes and Susus, and on the south
by the Sherbros and Mendes.

In the three languages — Sherbro, Bullom and Temne
— there are many words almost exactly alike, and in
general the construction of the language is the same.
Dwelling on the coast, these people are keen fishermen
and boatbuilders.

The demand for garden produce in Freetown has
led to a large amount of cultivation of their fertile
country across the river, and a regular supply is
brought by their sailing boats to the town.

The Temnes. — The name is derived from " 0-tem "
(an old man) to which is affixed the suffix " ne " (self),
because they believe that the Temne nation will always
exist. The dynastic title, Bai Sherbro, held by one of
the paramount chiefs is interesting as showing their
connection with the Sherbro people.

The Limhas occupy the country to the north of the
Temnes, and like the Lokkos their language is some-
what similar to the Mende, so that possibly both these
tribes are off-shoots of the Mende tribe. The Limbas,
however, are comparatively good workers, although
they have a liking for strong drink, but the Lokkos are
inclined to be lazy, they show little signs of improving,
and generally follow Temne customs.

The Susus occupy the extreme north of the Karene
District, and are closely allied to the people occupying
the adjoining portion of French Guinea. These people
suffered considerably from the Sofa raids in 1892-4,
and thus the country is thinly populated. Besides


Geograijliy of Sierra Leone. 6T

these there are representatives of Fullas and Mandin-
goes, who have settled in this district.

They are chiefly engaged in cattle-raising, and most
of this industry is in their hands. The Fullas are
great travellers, rather lighter in colour and show^
distinct traces of Semitic and Hamitic blood. They are
known in Nigeria as Fullani. The Mandingoes are in-
clined to be tall and very dark, are great hunters as
well as clever leather workers. These tribes have no
separate chiefdoms in the district, but are to be found
in almost all pairts.

The greater portion of this district consists of grass
land. There are now no forests in the district, and the
only trees seen are those along the banks of rivers. At
present no use is made of the enormous supply of the
grass which is chiefly " elephant " grass, but probably
this would be useful in making paper pulp.

Much of this land could be turned to some coramercial
value, either agriculturally or by re-afforestation.
Already the Agricultural Department has opened a
small nursery at Batkanu, and probably when cir-
cumstances permit the enormous stretches of grass
country will be converted into plantations, pasture
lands and farms.

In this type of country large towns are few ; in fact
the average of about 3,400 towns or villages is only
about 14 houses, although Port Lokko (with 214
houses), the second largest town in the Protectorate,
and Kambia and Lungi are fair sized towns when
Protectorate towns are considered.

There are, roughly, about 350 miles of roads in tlie
district, which are chiefly maintained by the chiefs.
The scheme is as follows : All the main roads are
divided up and numbered, and particular portions are
allotted to certain towns which are responsible for
keeping their parts clean and open throughout the

The rice grown in the deltas of the rivers has already
been dealt with. Besidas this and cattle raisins^, the
only other industries are a little pottery, basket mak-


68 All Introduction to the

iug, mat making and canoe building. Not much cloth
weaving is carried on now, although some years ago
this was very common, and a thriving trade in this
cloth was carried on w4th the people from French

In the Bombali sub-district there is a fine belt of
palm trees, and a branch line of the railway has been
built to deal wdth this ])roduce, the collecting centre
being Makene, where European firms have put up
stores. In addition to this there is a considerable
amount of Kola nuts produced.

Makene, the headquarters of the administration of
the Bombali sub-district, is situated just north of the
Rokelle river, and at the beginning of the hilly country,
which stretches right up into Koinadugu.

The site of the headquarters is probably the finest
in the Protectorate commanding beautiful views of the
surrounding hills, and looking down on the barracks
of a detachment of the West African Frontier Force.
The extension of the railway through Makump across
the river, and on to Kambia in the Koinadugu District
has brought a large amount of trade to this centre,
chiefly in palm kernels, palm oil, and kola nuts. An
appreciable trade in hides is done at Makene, about
4,000 being brought there in 1916, but generally the
hides are not well prepared. (The Mandingoes are
largety responsible for this trade.)

Batkanu is the main headquarters of the Karene
District and the residence of the District Commis-
sioner. The native tow^n is small but is the town of the
paramount chief, and its central position on a river
flowing into the Little Skarcies is largely responsible
for its importance. The extensive grass lands sur-
rounding the Commissioner's house have been beauti-
fulh^ laid out and planted with trees resembling a
well-kept park in England.

Port Lokho, as its name implies, was once the port
of the Lokkos, is situated at the head of a creek leading
into the mouth of the Rokelle River, and hence it has
a direct means of communication with Freetown.

Geograjjhy of Sierra Leone. 69

The natives carry their produce immense distances,
to this town, and the cheapness of water transport
permits of higher prices being paid for their produce,
chiefly palm kernels and kola nuts. It has a direct
military road and telegraph line to Songo Town in the
Colony, and is the headquarters of a detachment of the
West African Regiment, and of the Commissioner for
the sub-district.

Kambia, on the Great Skarcies River, has direct
communication by water with Freetown, and does a
large trade in kola nuts, the Limbas being the prin-
cipal kola growers.

Maghele, on the Rokelle River, is situated in a large
palm belt, and has a large trade in palm produce,
having direct communication by water with Freetown.
The tidal deltas of the River Skarcies do a consider-
able trade in the exportation of rice to Freetown, and
a large overland trade in rice is carried on with French
Guinea, which takes most of the husk rice. The cattle
are increasing rapidly in the district, and much over-
land trade with the Mende country is carried on, but
the industry requires putting on a sound basis. Proper
breeding and the introduction of new blood would do
much to improve the quality.

The Northern Sherhro District lies to the south-west
of the Protectorate, bounded on the north-west by the
railway district, the north by the Ronietta, and on the
south-west by that part of the Colony proper known as
Sherbro Island, and it includes Turner's Peninsula.
The people are chiefly Sherbros, Sherbro Mendes, near
the coast, Krims to the south of them, and Gallinas and
Veis to the north.

The Sherbros have been partly dealt with in connec-
tion with the Temnes. They are rapidly becoming
absorbed by the Mendes; the tendency is for them to
adopt the Mende language, their original language
being rather difficult to acquire. They are chiefly
engaged in fishing and farming.

Generally speaking the Sherbros are above the aver-
age in intelligence, and have been influenced probably

70 .l» / nf rndurfio}} to the

by an admixture of white blood many years ago.
Families of Caulkers, Tuckers, and Domingoes are
historical, even the Sherbro Island was bargained from
a Caulker when the settlement of the Maroons was

They are very keen fishermen and quite fearless, and
the industry of dried fish which finds its way all over
the protectorate is an important one. Along the shores
of the Bum and Kittim Rivers, which overflow their
banks leaving a deposit of good soil, much rice plant-
ing and cassava growing is carried on.

Some of the richest belts of palm trees are found in
this district, and the district further enjoys the advan-
tage of an excellent system of w^ater-ways for the
transport of the produce. Consequently many Euro-
pean firms have established collecting centres along
these rivers, and the produce finds its way to Bonthe.

In most of the rivers, however, the current, especially
in the rainy season, is very strong, and if full advan
tage is to be taken of these water-ways, mechanical
power should be increasingly employed. As it is, the
Wlk of the trade depends on the wind and the tide and
on the native boatmen who, with great endurance, row
for many hours together.

Because of the great interest taken in this palm
produce industry, the agricultural possibilities have
been practically undeveloped, although climatically the
district is favourable to agriculture. The difference
between the wet and dry seasons is less marked than
elsewhere, and, further, there is a complete absence of
the hot dry winds which occur north of the railway,
and which do so much harm to young plants.

The nature of the country, especially near the rivers,
would permit of modern agricultural methods and im-
plements, and there should be a great future for this
part of the Protectorate were it properly developed.
Already some plantations of cocoa and rubber have
been laid out, and the Agricultural Department has
established a sub-station at Bumpe.

Geografliy of Sierra Leone. 71

There are vast areas of marsh land in this district,
which are suitable for cattle-grazing during the
greater part of the year, and in some of these places
herds of cattle have been successfully raised. The
industry is, however, of recent growth, as the people
have little or no knowledge of the management of
cattle, and they practically never control them
properly or milk their cows. The result is many
of them become almost wild and ownerless, the people
waiting till the cattle are restricted to certain high
grounds, which are temporary islands, during the
flooding of the rivers, and then most of the larger
beasts are killed off, the calves and some of the cows
being spared.

It would be a great advantage if some Fullas and
Mandingoes could be induced to settle in the district
and act as herdsmen; they would do much towards
educating these people in the management of cattle.

Besides fishing, farming, and cattle-raising, there
are some minor industries in pottery, chiefly at Nan-
yagorihun, where thousands of earthenware pots of
all shapes and sizes are made. Dyeing is carried on
at Poteru and Kpelima, mat-making in the Krim
Chiefdoms, and boat-building at Pepo, Benibelo, Vic-
toria, and at Jala, where the large Bullom canoes are

There is a certain amount of trade in Piassava in
this district, but the raw product will not keep for
more than two or three months, so that when the price
is reduced owing to the falling oft' in the demand, this
industry tends to stagnate.

The headquarters of this district are at Pvjehun
on the Wanje River. The town is a collecting centre
and the produce is sent to Bonthe by river. Per-
manent quarters for the staff, together with a hospital
and prison, have been erected, and a first class road is
completed between Pujehun and Bo on the railway.

Mano Sfdija and S^/tima, are two coastal towns nt the
southernmost part of the Protectorate; these do a fair
amount of trade by water with Freetown.

72 An Introduction to the

Boma and Mano Bunjema on Lake Kasse have a
thriving industry in dried fish, and with a little enter-
prise should produce large quantities of coco-nuts.

The Ronietta District occupies a somewhat central
position between the other districts. It contains 38
chief doms, including the two very large ones of Gpa
Mende and Koya (Kwaia), and skirting the other
districts it naturally has representatives of many
different tribes within its boundaries.

Mendes or Gpa Mendes along the eastern portion,
Temnes north of the main line railway, Sherbros
in that portion bounded by the sea, and the localities of
these can, to some extent, be fixed by the place names.

With so much of the railway passing through this
district (158 miles), naturally a large amount of trade
is carried on, particularly by small traders, and being
well watered and possessing good soil, much farming
is carried on.

In the northern parts of this district there are
extensive areas of rich sandy loam, which in the rains
become swampy and carry coarse grasses, but this soil
is very productive, and with systematic draining and
cultivation should produce excellent crops of rice.

The Ronietta District produces a large amount of the
rice for the Freetown market, the valley of the Taia
especially, as there are good deposits of rich alluvial
soil. Oil palms are plentiful in the south of the dis-
trict, adjoining the Northern Sherbro, and also in the
centre of the district north of Moyamba, reaching up
to Yonni Banna and towards Masimera. Large
quantities of ginger are grown in the neighbourhood
of the railway, most of the ginger produce of the
country being collected at Mano.
^ The headquarters of this district are at Moyamba,
situated on the railway; it is the chief town of the lars-e
Gpa Mende Chiefdom. The country round about
Movamba is hilly, and the European residences are
built about half a mile from the railway on rising
.srround with a good water supply from the hills. From
Moyamba, a good first class road leads to Sembehun,

Geogra'phy of Sierra Leone. 73

whence there is direct water communication with
Bonthe via the Bagru River.

Boia, about 12 miles nearer Freetown than Moyamba
on the railway, is important as a railway junction; the
branch line here leaves the main line and runs through
the district as far as Makump, near the Rokelle River,
whence it passes into the Makene sub-district, and
thence into Koihadugu as far as Camabai. The native
town is very small and unimportant, but the station is
the busiest in the Protectorate, and is well built to deal
with the traffic, even boasting of a sub-way from one
platform to another. Boia is, roughly, half-way
between Freetown and Bo, so the up-trains and down
trains meet there about mid-day.

Mano, on the River Taia, is an important town
situated almost at the extreme eastern boundary of the
district. Down the river huge quantities of rice are
brought to the railway, besides large quantities of
ginger. Near Mano is Njala, the headquarters of the
Agricultural Department already referred to. A good
road has been made by the Chief of Mano between his
town and the Experimental Farm, although during
the greater part of the year Njala may be reached by
boats from Mano, as it stands on the same river.

Yonnibanna, on the branch line of the railway, is
interesting, for the fact that Messrs. Lever Brothers,
the great soap manufacturers, set up buildings and
machinery here to deal with the palm produce on the
spot, but unfortunately through difficulties of labour

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryHarold MichellAn introduction to the geography of Sierra Leone → online text (page 5 of 10)