T. J O'Shea.

Farming & planting in British East Africa. A description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects online

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country) at the rate of half a pound of lime to a gallon
of juice, and left to settle, the citrate forming a firm
deposit at the bottom of the vat. The li(iuid at the
top is then run off. Subsequent washing and drj-ing
of the deposit completes the process of preparing
citrate of lime. Citric acid is shipped in barrels and
citrate of lime in boxes.

Supplies of local lime are readily obtain-
able, but great care must be exercised to see
that it does not contain more than 2% of magnesia, as
the presence of magnesia in the lime in excess of 2%
lessens the value of the citrate.

Fifty acres may be considered as the minimum capital
area justifying the cost of the extracting plant required.
required. But the intending planter, even if his
immediate aim is only a fifty acre plantation, would
be well advised to buy a larger area if his capital
pennits, as even if he does not require it for enlarging
his plantation later on (as probably he will) the
extra land will provide him with grazing for his trek
oxen and enable him to settle native families on his
land to provide labour as required. The price of land
suitable for citrus varies considerably according to
locality and natural features, ranging from £2 to £,\q
per acre. Above the cost of the land, ;£5oo working
capital would be required and a further ;£5oo for
machinery. These are the amounts reqviired, but it
is not essential that a man should have ;£i,5oo to
;£2,ooo to engage in citrus growing. He may start
with very much less if he has had previous experience



of farmiiiig, and can replace capital bj'- energy and
enterprise. Such a man could acquire his land on
extended terms of payment, grow maize, beans or
barley while waiting for his citrus to reach the pro-
ductive stage, cheaix^n his cost of living by raising
as much as possible of his requirements and by occa-
sional spells working for others. By the time he was
in need of an extracting plant his land would be of
more than sufficient value to serve as security for a
loan to purchase it.

Though well established trees produce consider-
ably more, i,ooo lemons per tree is taken as the
standard of production for the purposes of this
essay. Planting 20ft. x 25ft. gives So trees to the
acre, or So, 000 lemons, equivalent to 266 barrels each
containing 300. 266 barrels will produce 50 lbs. of
ecuelled oil of lemons, and 938 lbs. of citric acid or
citrate of lime. Much depends upon the care and skill
displayed in the several processes of manufacture, and
it is not unlikely that the figures given will be
improved on when the workers are more experienced.
With ecuelled oil of lemons selling at 10/- per lb.
citric acid at £5 per cwt., and citrate of lime at the
same price, £42 per acre is obtained.

When the comparatively small amount of capital
involved, the limited labour supply required (ten to
twelve natives being sufficient for 50 acres), and the
scarcity of disease or other risks, are taken into con-
sideration, these figures present a return that will
compare favourably wnth most other branches of
aigriculture. In the East African Highlands there
are no hurricanes to brinig destruction to plantations
as in the W^est Indies : a plantation once established
will endure for many years if only reasonably well
looked after. Citrus cultivation involves neither the
labour nor anxiety of seasonal crop farming, and
should for that reason appeal to the man who, though
desirous of engaging in agriculture, is not physically
fitted to take up its more laborious branches.
Though it may be yet too soon to say that East
Africa is destined to become a rival of the West
Indies in the output of citrus products, it is safe to
say that the natural conditions are all in her favour,
and that the progress already made has exceeded the
expectations of those eiiigaged in the industry and
justifies their high hopes for the future.



/^NE of the earliest eflforts to establish an export early
^^ trade in produce from the Highlands was made attempts
with potatoes, but owing to packing, transport and to Export.
shipping difficulties the trade was not developed as
under other circumstances it would have been. The
complete loss of one or more consignments in transit
helped to discourage exporters, and since the out-
break of war the quantity of potatoes exported has
been small. With proper organisation and improved
shipping facilities, however, considerable develop-
ment in this direction might be expected. Heavy-
crops of excellent quality can be raised without
manuring of any sort. Yields of nine tons per acre
are common on virgin forest land, but continuous
cropping rapidly reduces the output. Four tons to
the acre can be counted on without manuring, how-
ever, and as the cost of production is low this yield
should give a handsome profit to the grower on a
fair market. In the development of an export trade
a considerable output coidd be reckoned on from
native growers, but government supervision would
be necessary to ensure the planting of good seed

It is the confident anticipation of many that general
after the war the coconut possibilities of the Coast conditions.
Belt will receive wide spread attention. The coco-
nut palm is indigenous to East Africa, but has been
cultivated by the native and Arab only as a source
of liquor supply. Since plantations have been laid
down by European planters, however, efforts have
been made to discourage the tapping of trees — which
is disastrous to the tree as a source of copra supply —
and to demonstrate to the native the benefits of proper
cultivation. From Vanga to Ivamu — a distance of
approximately 200 miles — for a depth of 25 miles
inland, the deep sandy loams with coral-rag sub-oil so
eminently suited to coconuts, are found in large
patches, and as this belt is outside the cyclone and
hurricane zone, besides enjoying a regular ample
rainfall, the cultivation of coconuts should prove a
highly remunerative investment. Diseases and pests
are few, and with the exception of the Coconut
Beetle, of little account. Owing to the neglectful
methods of native growers, the Beetle has been

allowed to spread to European owned plantations,
and has caused much damage to younig- palms. The
efforts being made to cope with this pest are proving
highly successful, and as the beetle is easily trapped
and destroyed, its eventual eradication should be

CAPITAL AND For the cultivation of coconuts a considerable

REVENUE. amount of capital is required — certainly not less

than ;^20 per acre. Individuals working on their
own account might reduce this figure by as much as
25%, no allowance being made for their labour and
supervision. The growing of such catch crops as
caravonica cotton, beans, maize, sim-sim and chillies,
is largely resorted to as a means of reducing the cost
of development, and where the conditions are suit-
able this is a sound policy.

YIELDS. No return may be expected from coconuts until

the sixth year, when, on a well cultivated plantation
a yield of 10 nuts per palm may be obtained. This
yield rapidly increases, until in the tenth and
succeeding years 50 nuts per palm would be the out-
put. The usual planting distance being 25ft. x 25ft.
or 75 palms to the acre, this would give 3,750 nuts to
the acre.

RETURNS. This is equivalent to rather more than 12 cwt.

of dried copra, 4 cwt. of shell and 4 cwt. of fibre
per acre per annum, which, calculated on the market
prices ruling at any time during the past ten years
represents a very handsome return on the capital
outlay. There is already a market at Mombasa for
coconut products, the present-day prices being
about £25 per ton for copra, ;^3 per ton for shell,
and £t)0 per ton for fibre spun into yarn. The out-
put has been steadily increasing for several years
past, and in the course of the next few years the
export of coconut products from the Coast Belt
should assume large proportions.


THE SMALL The exceptionally high prices that have been

farmer's ruling for beans in the European markets since the

CROPS. outbreak of war have encouraged settlers in the East

African Highlands to devote more attention to this
crop, and had freights been available the Protecto-
rate might have undertaken to ship very considerable
quantities to Britain. Only a small proportion of


the output was shipped — the bulk of the crops being
required by the local military authorities for the
native troops and carriers. With the possible excep-
tion of maize, beans is the most profitable crop for
the new settler to make a start with. They are
easy to raise, are less afFected by drought than most
other crops, yield heavily, give a quick return and
are easily marketable. Were it not that they
necessitate so much hand labour at harvesting, they
would be more generally grown, but except in those
districts where labour is both plentiful and cheap
they are planted only as a catch crop. The
Canadian W^onder, Rose Coco and Noyou an Blanc
varieties have up to the present proved most
popular, but of late the Madagascar bean has sprung
into prominence, and the Soya bean is receiving
increased attention since it has been found that
satisfactory yields are obtainable from acclimatised
seed. Yields vary considerably among the difi^crent
varieties, Canadian Wonder beinjg one of the
heaviest croppers, half a ton per acre being about the
average return.


Barley of excellent malting quality is raised in tkn b.\gs
several districts, and samples sent to vSouth Africa per acre.
were favourably reported on and encouraging oflFers
made for quantities. Yields of up to ten bags to the
acre have been obtained. Very little trouble is
experienced from rust.


So far ver\' little success has attended the efforts not yet
being made to obtain suitable strains of seed, but proven.
experiments with this end in view are being con-
tinued, and it is hoped that by the aid of selection,
acclimatisation and hybridisation suitable strains will
be isolated. On new land comparatively good yields
are obtained, but rust soon makes its presence felt,
and as there are so many other crops offering the
settler better financial returns, oats are not persevered


Sim-sim or Sesamum is largely grown by the -^ coast
natives in the Nyanza Province — the seed being catch crop.
largely used by them for food — and during the past


few years an export trade in the seed has been
developing rapidly. Its cultivation by Europeans is
confined to the Coast Belt, where it is being grown
as a catch-crop on the coconut plantations.


Chillies have figured prominently in the exports
from Kilindini for some years past, Uganda being
responsible for the greater portion. Their cultivation
is practically confined to the natives and Indians, who
are given every encouragement by the Government to
increase the area devoted to them and to exercise care
in the selection of seed.


So far very little has been done to utilise the
comparatively large areas situate at the lower altitudes
suitable for rice. A number of small swamps have
been reclaimed in the Mumias and Kisumu districts
and put under rice, wdth very successful results, and
it is only a matter of time when much greater atten-
tion will be devoted to this highly important food


Encouraged by the success of experiments con-
ducted at the Kabete Experimental Farm for a
number of years, settlers in the Nakuru district have
this year taken up the cultivation of broom com on a
commercial scale, and have produced switches equal
to the best Italian. The results of their efforts are
beirug watched with close interest, and if they are
commercially successful broom corn will be yet
another addition to the wide variety of crops from
which the mixed farmer may select.


Successful experiments conducted at the Mazeras
Experimental Farm are responsible for arousing
interest in the possibilities of arrowroot. Just prior
to the outbreak of war some thousands of plants were
distributed among settlers desirous of engaging in its
cultivation with a view to establishing the industry
on a somewhat large scale in the Protectorate, but

the situation created by
fruition of their project.

the war has delayed the-


Photo by W. D. Young


Thoto 4i» W. ©. Young.



Only ill exceptional cases has it been necessary for a valuable
the stock breeder to supplement the rich indigenous fodder crop.
pastures of the country with cultivated grasses, but
lucerne is largely grown for pigs, working oxen, and
dairy stock. In such districts as Limuru 6 tons to
the acre are obtained without irrigation, and on the
shores of Lake Xaivasha, where seepage takes the
place of irrigation as much as 12 tons per acre is cut
per annum.


The developing commercial importance of kapok
or silk cotton has drawn attention to the experiments
being conducted with this plant at the Kibos Experi-
mental Farm, and its cultivation on a large scale in
the near future is more than likely.


The cotton possibilities of large stretches of land awaiting
on the Tana and Juba rivers have already been Exploita-
abundantly proved, but a heavy outlay on irrigation tion.
works is necessary before their development can be
undertaken. Cotton is also being grown in the
Nyanza Province with good results, and as no irriga-
tion is necessary in this district the area under cultiva-
tion is being steadily extended.


Though East Africa is not rich in indigenous an imposing
fruits, the soil and chmate have shewn themselves LIST,
favourable to a wide variety of imported varieties, and
it is only a matter of a few years when fresh and pre-
served fruits will figure among her exports. The
banana is largely grown by the natives, especially in
Uiganda, for food, but plantations on the lines
followed in the West Indies are unknown, and no
attempt has yet been made to test the possibilities of
a trade in banana fibre. Among the imported fruits
that have proved highly successful and are being
largely grown, may be mentioned the pineapple,
custard apple, avocado pear, pa^vpaw, strawberry,
loganberry, loquat, fig, apple, peach, plum, and
quince. Pears of exceptional quality have been raised
in a few districts, as have also grapes.



STILL THE Large quantities of tobacco are grown by the

SUBJECT OF native population in various districts. This tobacco
EXPERIMENT, is coarse in quahty and not suitable for consumption
by Europeans.

At the coast, natives in the Tanaland Province
grow a superior class of leaf which in appearance
resembles "Bright" American tobacco; the writer
inspected some most attractive leaf of this description
on the Island of Patte in the year 1915.

The cultivation of tobacco suitable for local
European consumption or export has not so far been
attempted by settlers on an extensive scale.

The trials which have been carried out by the
Department of Agriculture during recent years have
shown that tobacco of this class can be grown in
certain areas of the Protectorate, e.g., Kibwezi and
Machakos, where light sandy loams are found suitable
for cigarette tobacco culture.

A PROMISING A sample of sun-cured leaf grown from imported

SAMPLE. American seed at Kibwezi was sent together with

other samples from Kabete to the Imperial Institute
for report in 1914. It was submitted to a commercial
firm who stated their opinion as follows : "This is
the best sample sent. It is of very good colour and
appearance, and of smooth texture."

A small trial of several varieties of tobacco was
made at Malindi in 191 5 with promising results, and
it is thought that Turkish cigarette tobacco might be
grown in the coast belt. This variety has not proved
a success in the highlands owing to its high suscepti-
bility to fungous diseases.

In the Rongai and Uasin Gishu districts, settlers
produce a limited quantity of tobacco for local con-

The trials at the Government Farm, Kabete,
which have extended over several seasons and
included experiments with most of the principal
varieties of leaf and known methods of curing, prove
that tobacco of a strong coarse character can be
grov^m, but the Kikuyu red soil does not produce a
light or mild tobacco.



^HE administrative district of Kyambu comprises situation.

rather more territory than this article is intended
to deal with, including, as it does. Escarpment,
Ivimuru, Dagoretti, Kikuyn and northwards to the
Chania River as well as Kyambu proper. The altitude,
therefore, ranges from approximately 5,000 feet to
over 7,000. This, with an average rainfall in different
parts of the district from 38 to 56 inches, and
wonderfully rich soil, gives the possibility of such
a range of products as is probabh' unsurpassed in any
other part of the Protectorate.

The main portion of Kyambu consists of a series topography.
of ridges running east to west, on the eastern end
falling away into the Athi Plains and on the western
terminating in the Kikuyu Escarpment overlooking
that remarkable natural chasm — the Rift Valley.
Here are Mount Suswa and Mount Longonot, both
extinct volcanoes. It may be assumed, therefore,
that the formation of the Kyambu district is due to
the volcanic action of these two mountains in the
dim and distant past.

The country rock of the district is purely soil
volcanic, much of it being solidified ash, with, in formation.
places, an admixture of iron. In parts evidences of
sedimentary rock are to be seen, and good workable
lime has been found. The soil of the district is
mainly composed of red loam of immense depth.
A peculiarity of the soil site is that the greatest depth
is on the ridge tops, while on the valley slopes the
country rock is exposed to a larger or smaller extent.
This would seem to indicate that until quite recently
the whole district was Ov)vered by forests and that
the soil is the product of centuries of tree deposit
That this is the case is evidenced by the fairly general
existence of roots of the muhogo and wild olive trees,
the wood of which are impervious to the ravages of
termites (white ants) and of rot. Such is the soil
which has already shewn itself capable of wonderful
production, and which, under careful hiUsbandry pro-
vides almost inexhaustible supplies of plant foods.

The district is exceptionally well watered — no WATERWAYS,
fewer than eighteen rivers and streams flowing


through the higher reaches between Nairobi and
Chania — a distance of approximately twenty-five
miles — with innumerable falls providing power foi
water-driven machinery. In addition to these streams
— none of which have ever been known to go dry —
there are springs of clear fresh water on nearly all
farms, providing an excellent water supply for house-
hold purposes.

GENERAL One of the first districts in the Highlands of

AGRICUL- East Africa to be settled by European colonists,

TURK. Kyambu has for over ten years beem prodvicing a very

varied assortment of crops. These have comprised
vegetables of practically every known species; cereals
of all kinds — maize, oats, wheat, barley — and
legumes, as well as tropical, sub-tropical and tem-
perate zone fruits. Of late, however, the success
which has attended coffee cultivation has served to
squeeze out some of the other industries, particularly
crops which require seasonal ploughing and sovdng.
The word "seasonal" is used intentionally, as two
rainy seasons in the year call for six-monthly plough-
ing and cropping.

PRINCIPAL The principal agricultural industries of the

AGRICUL- administrative district of Kyambu are coffee and

TURAL wattle, as will be seen from the following returns

INDUSTRIES. compiled in July, 1916 : —

Area under Coffee

11,616 Acres.


7,798 „




416 ,,

The soil and climatic conditions are so favourable
to coffee that the present steady annual increase in
the area under that crop would be very much greater
were it not for fear of insufficient labour to handle
it when the production stage has been reached. This
is the only factor militating against the more rapid
development of the coffee industry in the district.
The problem of establishing an organised system of
labour supply is already receiving attention, and a
solution equitable to all the interests concerned is
looked for in the near future.

COFFEE Kyambu coffee stands without a superior if

DISEASES. the price it brings on the world's markets be taken

as a criterion of value, and it invariably commands


the highest price of the day. While the quantity-
cropped per acre is fairly high, in a good season the
returns fluctuate to such an extent according to local
circumstances that, in the absence of properly com-
piled statistics, it might be misleading to quote any
ligures. In many cases of low yields the cause is
traceable to the ravages of the antestia hug and
thrips. The fungus Hemeleia testatrix has also been
responsible to some extent for yields below the
average, but so far as this disease is concerned ex-
periments conducted over a number of years have
led to the opinion among experienced planters that
the prevailing dry climate is against the rapid spread
of the fungus, which is kept under control at a low
cost by spraying. Insect pests on coffee will be the
special research work of an entymologist as soon as
one can be procured by the Agricultural Department.

Wattle is grown mostly at the higher altitudes wattle.
of Limuru; sisal receiving attention around Ruiru,
(the altitude of which is about 5,000 feet), and in the
adjoining Thika and F'ort Hall districts. The citrus
industry is still in its infancy, and though the fruit
returns from earlier pUnxiings are most favourable,
it cannot yet be said that Kyambu citrus products are
known outside our local markets.

Dairy Farming has from the beginning played a dairy
prominent part in advancing the material welfare of farming.
Kyambu. In July, 1916, the number of cattle owned
by Europeans in the administrative district was just
under 6,500, while pigs numbered over 2,000. The
number of native owned cattle is much in excess of
European owned. Although the entire district is
admirably suited to dairy farming, with green
pasture throughout the year, it is only on the lower
slopes and at the higher altitudes that the land is
given over to stock, the intermediate area being
deemed more valuable when put under sucli high
priced products as cofifee.

The labour supply necessary to carry on the labour.
industries briefly described above has been drawn
chiefly from the Kikuyu native reserve in the
vicinity, augmented by migratory labour from neigh-
bouring reserves. But, as has been already stated,
the full exploitation of Kyambu's enormous resources

will only be made possible by the scientific handling
and control of native labour. When this problem has
been solved, it is not too much to assume that the
surplus products from the district will constitute no
small proportion of the exports from East Africa.

W. MacLellan Wilson.



IN T883.

TJNTIL the year 1883 the Solai Valley, in common
^"^ with the rest of Masailand, remained completely a
terra incognita. In that year it was traversed by
Joseph Thompson — the first knight-errant to lift the
veil from the then mysterious territory of the
haughty Masai. Shortly afterwards, when help was
being sent to Emin Pasha, the importance of the
Masailand route to the headquarters of the Nile
came into prominence, and General Gordon's estimate
of it as the true route has now been amply proved
by the construction and success of the Uganda Rail-
way, which has opened up to civilisation the rich
territory of the healthy highlands of British East
Africa that include the Solai Valley.

Since 1SS3 the Solai Valley has emerged from a
land of inviting mystery for the explorer, a paradise
for game and a happy grazing ground for an indolent
nomadic tribe, to a tolerably well settled outpost of
our great Empire. Here it was that Thompson was
probably referring to when in speaking of East
Africa he said "the colonist will find new countries
of promise." We can picture to ourselves the Solai

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Online LibraryT. J O'SheaFarming & planting in British East Africa. A description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects → online text (page 10 of 16)