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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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 11 of 16)
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Valley as he saw it. The rainy season would be well
begun when he passed through park-like land of
short verdant grass bespread with the umbrageous
albizzia, the ever-green acacia and the silvery
leleshwa; broken by numerous crystal-clear streams —
a land where the elephant, rhino, buffalo and
lion still held sway, and the only human
population consisted of natives whom he con-
sidered were of low development. Could he recross
"that bourne from which no traveller returns"
and revisit this part of Africa, the intrepid explorer
would bless the day he wrote that letter to
the Times thirty years ago, pointing out that


East Africa might be a new ground for colonisation —
for the Solai to-day is a valley of industrious colonists,
beautiful estates and happy homes.

Instead of the lethargic Masai, Thompson would the Trans-
see the formerly despised Kavirondo, Walumbwa and formation.
Wakikuyu engaged in such modern pursuits as
ploughing, driving maize planters, planting, pruninig
and harvesting coffee, butter-making and budding
fruit trees — .in fact, engaged in all pursuits connected
with planting, farming and grazing, which only a
^hort space ago were considered beyond their capabi-
lities. Instead of the narrow, tortuous path frequent-
ed only by the native trader and the proud moran, he
would find a comparatively modern road, motor cars
containing colonists with, mayhap, their wives and
children, and buck- wagons carrying to rail the produce
of a fertile land. In place of the squalid manyatas of
the ^lasai he would behold the neat dwellings of the
white settlers — the trim gardens, fruitful orchards
and plantations, the \nde acres of maize and flax,
breaking the monotony of virgin veldt. Instead of
bovines browsing lazily in an unprogressivc land he
would behold the patient, plodding ox inspanned in
plough, in harrow, in wagon and reaper, preparing
the land and garnering a valuable harvest to be sent
over an iron road hundreds of miles to the coast and
thence over thousands of miles of ocean to feed and
clothe the people of the homeland; fruits of the
labour not only of the surplus youth of the home-
land, as Thompson had pictured, but also of men
from all the corners of "that Greater Britain which
is beyond the seas."

The Solai Valley is part of the great Rift Valley. situ.\tion.
It has for its railway station Xakuru, which is a
rising township having a hotel, two banks, post and
telegraph office, several good stores, a school,
churches, sports club, etc. All the land in the
Valley is above the 5,000 feet level. The average
rainfall near the hills on the eastern side is about
50 inches, and the chmate is equable and pleasant.
The Valley lies partly in the two hemispheres, the
equator running through the northern end.

For the purposes of this article the Solai boundaries.
Valley includes the land running from the Uganda


Railway east of Nakuru Township in a direct
northerly direction to a few miles north of Lake
vSolai, or about lo miles north of the equator. It is
bordered on the east by the Laikipia escarpment,
the southern portion having on its western side the
extinct Menengai Crater, while the northern portion
joins up with the Lower Molo district. The Solai
district is situated almost exactly in the centre of
the healthy Highland Zone.

SOIL. To-day, with East Africa as a vigorous and

prospering colony, the Solai is one of the most
attractive centres, in which all the staple crops of the
Highlands can be seen flourishing. Its soil ranges
from ordinary black sandy loam and the richer loam
of the elephant grass country to red sandy loam and
the staffer red iron soil typical of other parts of East
Africa, and the climate varies in sympathy with the

The most predominant forage plant is the red
grass {anthesteria-hnberbis), and where heavy grazing
has taken place this has been replaced by such
valued forage plants as Rhodes and Rescue grass and
the Ikoka of the Wakikuyu (cynodon-dactylon) .
Paspalum dilatatum grows in great luxxiriance
wherever it has been introduced, while ordinary
cocksfoot, ryegrass, the fescues; crimson, alsike and
white clover, trefoil, sainfoin, etc., all thrive on the
sandy loams. The lower portion of the valley is
famous among stock owners as being as good cattle
grazing as can be found anywhere.

STAPLE CROPS. All the red soil parts grow as heavy crops of

coffee as any of the other coffee districts of East
Africa, and both red and black soils produce heavy
crops of maize, and the appearance of specimen plants
of sisal augurs well for the future of the prospective
sisal planter. The upper part of the valley, including
the black sandy loam district, with its well-distrib-
uted rainfall, has been characterised as flax country
par excellence, and crops of exceptionally high
quality have been reaped. Black wattle flourishes,
as also does sugar cane in some parts, and broom
corn produces switches equal to the best Italian.

FRUIT POSSi- Some of the orchards in the Valley shew promise

BiLiTiES. of its becoming a good fruit country. The black


sandy loam produces peaches, plums, figs, etc., in
excellence, and here also succeed almonds, pears,
citrus and apples. In the red soil all these do well,
and in addition the more tropical fruits, such as
mangoes, succeed. Here, where the presence of the
leleshwa scrub denotes a more than usual lim.e con-
tent in the soil, apples thrive and fruit in a most
extraordinary manner.

All the European vegetables succeed, including vegetables.
onions, on the sandy loams, and on these flourish
such things as rhubarb, sea kale, asparagus, straw-
berries and raspberries.

It may be interesting here to note the wide i-xoTic
range of exotic plants which have adapted themselves plants.
to the varied soils and chmates of the district. In
two neighbouring gardens one may see the cowslip,
foxglove, daffodil, the English oak and the horse-
chestnut, growing alongside the banana, the orange
and pineapple. A row in. the garden of one of the
■ earliest settlers contains a coffee bush, European ash,
sycamore, elm, walnut, English oak, the edible olive
and a fig tree, while on the garden fences climb the
sweet-scented honeysuckle, and on the house the
ever-green ivy. Here under the equator one can
rejoice in the possession of a purely English summer
garden, for every English summer flower seems to

The parts adjoining the olive and cedar forest are
peculiarly reminiscent of parts of Britain. Such
common plants as the dock, stinging nettle, butter-
cup, vSt. John's wort, lobelia, thistle, the bramble or
blackberry, bracken, forget-me-not, geranium, the
wild violet and other familiar plants are found, and
these, in common with the presence at certain
seasons of quail, the lapwing, swallow and wild
duck, combine to remind the colonist from home of
" scenes in strong remembrance set " — youthful days
in the old country.

The Solai Vallev is a district where the planter, gexhra[
the farmer and the pastoralist can succeed. It is a
healthy and pleasant valley to live in. It is a very
British part of the "Britain of the Tropics."

W. J. Dawson.






nPHE settled district of lyumbwa, as distinct from
the native reserve, consists of an extensive group
of farms lying on either side of the Nyando River
and clustering round the Township and Railway
Station as a centre. The area comprises some 80,000
acres, and as several of the original large farms have
been sub-divided there is in normal times a consider-
able European population. Just at present most of
the men are away on active service.

The country, although broken and hilly, con-
tains a large percentage of ploughable land of the
best quality. The scenery, with its variety of hill
and dale, smiling valley and rushing river, has a
picturesque beauty of which the eye never wearies.

The average rainfall, as observed by the writer
during the last ten years, is 42.5 inches, and is well
distributed over the year. The climate, as in most
other parts of the Highlands, is mild and eqviable,
and appears to agree remarkably well with children.
The altitude ranges from about 6,000 to 7,000 feet
above sea level.

WATER, It is well watered — much beyond the average —

TIMBER AND and a whole series of rivulets, some permament, some
STONE. less reliable, traverse each farm on their way to the

Nyando. There is plenty of timber for farm pur-
poses, and two saw mills are at work in the Govern-
ment forest concessions close by. Excellent building
stone is found throughout the district, and the
majority of houses, and even outbuildings, are built
of stone.

STOCK Until recently, stock raising and dairying were

RAISING. the principal industries of the district, and rose to

considerable importance. Cattle do remarkably well.
Pure-bred bulls are exclusively used on many of the
farms, and a considerable number of these and grade
bulls from the annual Naivasha- Government Farm
sales find their way to lyumbwa, so that the quality
of the stock raised is being steadil}^ improved. On
at least one farm a herd of imported cows has proved
highly profitable, and is proving an encouragement
to others to follow example. The favourite breeds
for igrading up are Shorthorn and Friesland.


The rapid development of the dairying industry dairying.
led to the estabHshment in 191 2 of a Co-operative
'Creamery at the Station, which has developed into
a highh" successful concern, with an output at present
of six tons of butter and cheese monthly. It has
proved a real boon to the neighbourhood, in that it
provides the farmer with a ready market for his dairy
produce and a svire return on his outlay. The
•Creamery is run on purely co-operative lines and be-
longs entirely to the suppliers, so that in addition
to a fair price for his milk and cream the farmer
reaps the benefit of all profits in the shape of bonus
and dividend. A refrigerating plant will probably
be added to the equipment of the Creamery in the
near future.

In recent years the production of flax has grown flax.
to seriously rival stock raising and dairying as the
staple industry of the district. There are now two
factories operating and others are likely to be erected
so soon as it is possible to obtain the necessary plant.
Considerable shipments of the cleaned fibre have
already reached the London market, the quality
being pronounced to be excellent, and the prices
realised have given entire satisfaction. It is certain
that the area devoted to this crop will be steadily

Horse and mule breeding has attracted consider- HORSES
able attention of late, and there is now a large number and MULES,
of mares in the district.

Pig breeding found much favour before the war, pigs.
Lumbwa supplying the local market with an appre-
ciable proportion of its supphes of first quality
bacon. The proximity of the native reserve, from
which in normal times quantities "of grain suitable
for pig feeding are obtainable at reasonable prices,
and the constant supply of dairy bye-products, have
their influence on the quality and cost of production,
and enable the breeder to turn out a first class pig
at a cost that leaves a fair margin of profit on the
market price. Unfortunately the development of our
export trade has been hampered by want of shipping
facihties since the outbreak of war, and this com-
bined with a diminution of food supplies from native
sources (a very large number of the natives having
joined up with the Carrier Corps), has checked the


progress of the industry, but with a return to normal
conditions these adverse circumstances will cease to
operate. A further filip to the industry would result
if the Pig Breeders' Association decide to erect in
the Lumbwa district the new factory now under con-

COFFEE The soil being so rich in parts and the climate-

AND CITRUS. so mild, it was inevitable that attention would be
given to coffee. Although the crop takes longer —
possible a year longer — to reach the producing stage
than it does at lower altitudes, most of the farms
have small experimental patches, and at least two
have considerable acreages in full bearing. The
weight and quality of the coffee are reported on as
being satisfactor}-, and the area under this crop is
being steadily extended. Citrus fruits of all sorts
flourish, and production on a large scale is contem-

SHEEP. Sheep so far have not done very well, owing nO'

doubt to the heavy rainfall and the over luxurious-
ness of the grazing.

LABOUR. Though some anxiety is at times felt in other

parts of the Protectorate as to labour, there need be
no uneasiness in the Lumbwa district, situate as it
is surrounded by large native reserves, even if Euro-
pean development proceeds on a large scale. All
that is required to ensure adequate supplies is a.
reasonable " Resident Natives Bill," and this we are
likely to have in the near future.



SITUATION. rpHE Fort Ternan district, situate on the Railway-
about mid-way between Lumbwa and Muhoroni,
some 50 miles from the terminus at Kisumu, has only-
been opened up for European settlement within the:
past six years, but even during that short space of
time it has made remarkable progress, and is rapidly^
becoming a factor of importance in the agricultural:
life of the country.


It is a rather hilly district, the altitude ranging character OF
from 5,000 to 6,800 feet. The temperature, which of the country.
course varies according to the elevation, seldom rises
above 85 degrees Farenheit in the shade by day, or
falls below 50 degrees by night. The scenery is very
attractive, verdant green valleys with numerous
streams marked by heavily timbered banks running
between hills lightly covered with a variety of wattle.
The climate is healthy : Fort Ternan being above the
malarial belt.

The average annual rainfall is 64 inches; the rainfall and
rainy season lasting from April to September, with water,
showers at short intervals during the remaining
months of the year. The whole district is verv well
watered by numerous small but permanent streams,
and many springs coming out of the hills, some of
which continue to run all the year round. All the
streams are swift, and have falls and rapids at fre-
quent intervals, so that water power for plantation
purposes is easily obtained.

The soil in the valleys is extremely fertile. It soil and
varies somewhat in character, but is mostly deep timber.
loam, the forest land being particularly rich and well
repaying the cost of clearing. Timber for rough
farm buildings and fuel is in abundance.

The hbour supplv obtainable from the adjoininn; LABOUR.
Lumbwa Reserve and the Kavirondo Reserve within
a davs' journey, is more than adeci'.iate to meet the
present requirements of the district, and should meet
all the demands likely to be made on it for some years
to come. The Walumbwa are always ready to come
and "squat" on European owned farms, providing
labour in return for the privilege. This is a cheap
and convenient arrangement for the planter, as it
provides him with extra labour at short notice in busy
times, as for instance, during the coflFee picking
season, when a plentiful supply of labour is of the
first importance. The rate of wages for squatters is
Rs. 3/- per month for men and "posho" (food), the
women and children working for food only. The rate
of pay for casual labourers is Rs. 4/- to Rs. 6/- and
posho. In addition to settlements of Walumbwa,
there are also considerable numbers of Wakikuyu
squatting on the farms under the same conditions.


GRAZING. Though the formation of the country renders it

more suitable for agriculture, stock raising can be
pursued with success, the excellent pasture on the
hills maintaining cattle in first class condition all the
year round. Cattle do extremely well, but sheep
have not proved a success, the heavy rainfall and the
rapid growth of the grazing being against them.
Dairying has proved a good paying proposition, the
Lumbwa Co-operative Creamery affording a ready
market at remunerative prices for milk and cream.
The Walunibwa are good herds, and prefer looking
after stock to most other useful occupations.

STAPLE So far the two principal crops that have been

PRODUCTS : thoroughly proved in the district are coffee and maize.
COFFEE. The prices realised on the London market for Fort

Ternan coffee are as high as the average for East
Africa, and the planter can reckon on half a ton to
the acre after the third year. There are now about
700 acres under coffee in the district, and the area
is being steadily increased.

MAIZE On an area of particularly good and well culti-

vated land as much as twenty six bags of maize to
the acre has been reaped. This is exceptional, and is
mentioned as testimony to the productivity of the soil
rather than as illustrating what the maize grower may
expect. With ordinary good farming, fifteen bags
to the acre may be expected, which is still high, and
well above the average for even good maize growing



Experimental patches of citrus fruits are common,
and are doing so well that further development in
this direction is likely. Flax of excellent quality has
been grown in the adjoining district under similar con^
ditions to those existing at Fort Ternan.

GAME. The farmer has nothing to fear from the presence

of game and suffers very few losses from wild animals.
As a precaution against stray leopards, small calves
are housed at night, but with the exception of a few
wild pigs and monkeys, the only game are small
antelope, which do no harm, while providing a wel-
come addition to the larder when opportunity offers
to procure one.


Almost all the vegetables common in England do vegetables
remarkably well. Oranges, lemons, figs, mulberries, and fruits.
paw paws, pineapples, grenadillas (passion fruit) and
Tjananas are common in every settler's garden, while
apples, peaches and plums are also grown, but have
not sufficiently matured to bear fruit in any quantity.

Compared with the older coffee planting districts price OF
around Nairobi, the price of land at Fort Ternan is land.
low, and although it has been rising at an average rate
of ten shillings per acre annually during the past few
years, it is still very much below its intrinsic value
when its revenue producing capabilities are taken into
consideration. If for no other reason than this. Fort
Ternan would be certain to attract attention from
prospective settlers, but when comparative cheapness
of land is combined with delightful scenery, an excel-
lent climate, fertile soil, and abundant rainfall, some-
thing more than passing attention is assured.



^T^HE Uasin Gishu Plateau is situate to the north- situ.ation.

west of Londiani between the Burnt Forest on
the south, the Nzoia River on the north, the Algao
Reserve on the east and the Nandi Reserve on the
west. It is about 20 miles across from Nandi to Algao
and 40 from the Burnt Forest to the Nzoia River.

The altitude of the Plateau varies from about cijmatic
6,000 to 7,000 feet. The climate is \'ery pleasant and conditions.
healthy. It is seldom too hot, and though fires are
welcomed in the evening it is more for the sake of
appearance than for comfort. Sixty inches is about
the average annual rainfall, and though the greater
part falls between March and September, it is on the
whole well distributed throughout the year.

In the matter of communications the Uasin COMMUNICA-
Gishu district is still far from favourably circum- Tions.
stanced. Londiani, wdth which the Plateau is con-
nected by road, is the nearest point on the Uganda
^Railway, but a new hne has been surveyed from


Nakuru to Mumias which will cross the Plateau and
place stations within easy reach of most of the farms.

TRADING The principal trading centre of the district is

CENTRES. Eldoret, situate 64 miles from Londiani. It has

several up-to-date stores, a good hotel, a bank and a
Government school. The township is pleasantly
situated on the Eldore River; building stone is plenti-
ful and good bricks are made in the neighbourhood,
and timber is cheap. There are branch post offices and
stores at Sergoit and Soy, the latter place being a
trading centre of some importance.

SOIL, WATER As might be expected over such a large stretch

AND TIMBER, of country, the soil varies considerably, that most
suitable for agriculture being the rich sandy loam of
which many of the farms are composed. This land
usually carries considerable growth of scrub, which,
however can be cleared at a cost of less than ten
shillings per acre. It is then easily ploughed and
brought into cultivation. Water is plentiful and
good, most of the farms being served by several fine



Labour is at present ample, and consists of Kavir-
ondo, Kakemega, Kitosh and Wa-gishu. Nandi make
good herdsmen and can be obtained for certain other
classes of work. The current rates of pay are fiom
2S. 8d. to 6s. Sd. per month with posho.

The farms to the south and east of Eldoret are-
particularlj'- suitable to cattle. There are already
many fine herds in the district, and sales are fre-
quently held at Eldoret, which provide opportunities
of securing the foundations of a herd at reasonable
prices. The many advantages of dipping are generally
recognised. A number of dips are already in use, and
others are in course of construction.

Horse-breeding has long been regarded as offer-
ing great possibilities, and were it not for the preva-
lence of lymphangitis would be more generally
pursued. The number of horses on the Plateau is
steadily increasing. Several high class stallions are
available for the use of those possessing mares, so that
once lymphangitis has been eradicated the breeding
of horses should prove highly remunerative.


In some districts sheep breeding is making steady
headway, and where maintained in sufficient numbers
to keep the grass short sheep are proving successful.
Pigs are being kept in increasing numbers, sufficient
to justify the erection of a bacon factory.

jMaize is growing in varying quantities on practi- MAIZK.
cally every farm. Yields of 20 bags per acre and even
more are obtained, and notw'ithstanding the heavy
cost of transporting to Londiani can be disposed of
at a fair profit. When the new railway is running,
maize should be a source of steady income, besides
providing the newcomer going in for coffee or citrus
with a means of reducing his working costs v/hile
waiting for his plantation to reach the productive

During the past few years the cultivation of WHEAT.
wheat has assumed considerable importance, and
many farmers are producing large quantities. The
Plateau compares very favourably with any other
part of the Protectorate as a wheat country, as
regards both yield and quality. On some farms rust
has proved troublesome, but as the result of govern-
ment and private experiments rust resisting varieties
of seed are being found, and it should be only a
matter of a few years when the Uasin Gishu Plateau
is producing wheat on a very large scale. Wheat
growers can obtain the use of a threshing machine
from So\' and can, if they so desire get their wheat
converted into flour at the same place.

Though the appearance of flax on the Plateau flax.
is very recent, it already bids fair to outstrip all other
crops in popularity. One factory is already operating,
two others of large capacity are at the time of writing
nearing completion, while several others are in course
of construction. This is sufficient evidence that
growers are' perfectly satisfied with the prospects
ahead of them. Sample shipments sent to England
have been most favourably reported on, and realised
£115 per ton.

So far none of the diseases met with in other COFFEE
coffee producing areas of B.E.A. have appeared on the
Plateau, and though these may not have proved
serious in the parts where found it is as well to be
without them. The larger part of the Coffee area of


the Plateau is situated along the Nandi border and up
the Nzoia valley. Here one may see blocks of 200
acres and upwards of healthy young coffee, much of
it already bearing. The growth is rapid, the crops
heavy, the berry of good size and excellent quality.
Samples sent to England for report are said to be

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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 11 of 16)