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 12 of 16)
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superior to Nairobi sorts. A great asset of the coffee
planter is the long planting season which extends
from March to September. It is expected that an
up-to-date curing factory will be built shortly.

OTHER Citrus fruits are doing well, and there is likely to

CROPS. be considerable development in this direction in the

near future. Sisal is being planted on a large scale
by at least one farmer, and gives great promise.
Wattle makes remarkably rapid growth, and the low
cost of planting should induce those thinking of going
in for wattle to try the Plateau. All the usual tropical
fruits do well, and many of the temperate kinds, such
as peaches, plums and apples are producing crops.
Potatoes, turnips and practically every variety of
vegetable common in the home countries can be
grown with little trouble.

THE FUTURE. Agricultural development is really only just

commencing on the Plateau. But comparing the
amount of land now under cultivation with that of
three years ago, the increase is most remarkable. The
transport riders are all busy; every wagon going out
is loaded high with wheat, coffee and other produce,
returning with large quantities of machinery, empty
sacks and other necessaries for the farmer.




TT'ERICHO, situated between the Lumbwa and situation.
-*-^ Sotik country, about 20 miles south-west of
lyumbw^a Station, though not a separate administrative
area, is nevertheless distinct from the neighbouring
w'hite settlements of Lumbwa, Fort Ternan, Koru and
Sotik, as regards soil, vegetation and climate. It is
probably less known than some of the districts men-
tioned because of the smaller number of fanns under
European cultivation, and the large areas of Crown
lands lying waste, or only sparsely populated by
natives. As considerable portions of this presenth'
waste land should become available for settlement
later on, Kericho is well deserving of attention from
the new comer.

The country is more like Kikuyu than any other TOPOGRAPHY.
of the well known districts, in that it consists of
rolling hills of immensely deep red soil, intersected by
frequent rapid streams lying in narrow forest clad
valleys. The altitude is also about the same as that of
Kikuyu — 6,500 to 7,000 feet — but the rainfall is
greater and better distributed, and is further distin-
guished by the rarity of rain occurring before noon, as
is perhaps generally the case on the western slopes
of the Mau. On account of the rain falling in the
afternoon, Kericho may have earned an undeserved
reputation for exceeding wetness, from the
fact that travellers from the' Station arrive here
in the afternoon. The good rainfall, is, on the con-
trary, a great asset to the planter — the mornings being
dry, work is not unduly interrupted — and on account
of this well distributed rainfall, growth is most prolific
and planting greatly facilitated.

It is almost obvious that at this altitude, with its CUMATE.
cool nights (the annual mean temperature is 51.5)
fever is quite unknown, and the district is second to
none in the country from the health point of view.
And yet this climate, which permits of Europeans
working out-of-doors all day, has now been proved
to be suitable to coffee, in spite of the doubts cast
upon the enterprise in its early stages. As might be
expected, coffee comes into full bearing rather later
than in more tropical climates — at 37:2 years old from
seed it only bears a small crop, but in the following


seasons bears heavily. The oldest coffee in the
district has now reached this stage, and is giving
over half a ton to the acre.

PRODUCTS. Besides coffee, the district seems exceptionally

suitable for citrus fruits and tea — both of which are
doing exceedingly well on a small scale. The dis-
trict is too young to have made much progress in fruit
growing as yet, but what fruit trees there are, are
doing well— even so tropical a fruit as the pine-apple
gives good though not large fruit. Of course flax
has its devotees in the district. The fibre is of excel-
lent length, but its quality remains to be tested on
the market.

Maize growing and grinding is a source of pro-
fit to most of the settlers while awaiting the matur-
ing of their plantations. There are five mills in the

The short green grass and absence of horse
sickness should make it an excellent place for horse
breeding; but with only a handful of settlers in the
district little progress can be made in th-^many poten-
tial industries. It is, however, to be hoped that the
day is not far distant when much of the land avail-
able for white settlement will be given out by the
Government. Land sufficient for 50 or more farms of
500 acres each exists 16 to 30 miles from Lumbwa
Station, and is situated near one of the best roads
in the country.

In conclusion, the Kericho district combines
the two chief requisites — Productiveness and Health,
and has the further advantage of the proximity of
the L/Umbwa Native Reserve, which ensures an ade-
quate labour supply. If the district were only open-
ed up to white settlement, there seems splendid pros-
pects for the development, besides coffee, of tea,
citrus, and flax on the co-operative system.




nnHAT portion of the Sotik country which has been situation.

open to settlement for some years is confined
to a narrow belt of 5,000 acre holdings lying about
50 miles south of Kericho and south of the Lmnbwa
Reserve, bordering on the Chepalungu Forest and the
Indanai Hills. It is only in recent years that any
serious effort has been made to settle the district :
since 191 2, when the farmers with the help of a
financial grant from Government constructed a wagon
road from Kericho to Sotik Post, a distance of 50
miles, and two branch roads bridging close on twenty
rivers and streams in the task.

Like most other parts of the country with an CLIMATE,
altitude of 6,000 feet, the cHmate is dehghtfully
healthy and bracing. The average annual rainfall
since 191 1 has been 51 inches, spread over 1S5 days in
the year. Even during the heaviest rainy season it
is seldom that any falls before the afternoon, which
greatly facihtates work.

The country was originally surveyed for grazing STOCK raising,
farms, but the district being an endemic East Coast
Fever area, and so far removed from the Railway, as
to make the cost of building and maintaining dips
very difficult, comparatively little attention has been
given to stock. The native herds shew of what the
country is capable. Trek oxen from the Sotik are
in keen demand among the European settlers through-
out the Highlands, being strong, hardy animals, and
they provide evidence of the suitability of the country
for stock raising on a large and progressive scale. At
present, while the fanners are developing their coffee
plantations, the grazing is mostly left to the herds of
the native workers.

Occurring in strips and patches and bordering the COFFEE,
streams, are areas of good arable soil of deep red and
chocolate loams, suitable for a great variety of crops,
including coffee. Three or four coffee plantations are
now coming into bearing, and the vigorous appearance
of the trees and the heavy crops are sufficient evidence
of the suitability of the soil and climatic conditions.
No disease of any kind has made its appearance, and
the ample sunlight and cold nights will probably
keep off any danger of that kind. Some of the





planters have cleared heavy forest for their planta-
tions, ^Yhile others have taken the lighter scrub land
on the red soil, but the coffee appears to thrive equally
well on either. It is the local custom to raise maize
as a catch crop between the young coffee trees, and
quite big returns have been reached. A ready market
is found locally among native traders at prices equal
to those ruling at Railway centres. An experimental
crop of wheat yielded 40 bushels per acre. Citrus,
api^les, peaches, plums, figs, pineapples, paw paws,
bananas and several other fruits are all being suc-
cessfully grown, while every farm has its patch of
delicious strawberries. Flax has been experimented
with on several farms and proved quite a success.
Sugar also is being grown experimentally and pro-
mises well.

Horses are likely to be a feature of the district
in the future. They have thriven for the past ten
years, and there seems to be no disease. Some nice
South African brood mares have lately been im-
ported, and are doing excellently.

With the extension of roads and general opening
up of the district it is inevitable that the Sotik will
receive considerable attention. The land next for sur-
vey, the Indanai hills, adjoining the Sotik in the
direction of Kisii, is among the richest in the Protect-
orate if not in the world, and a great deal of it is suit-
able for small holdings. The wonderful scenery of
the Sotik is probably the feature that impresses itself
on most people on their first visit. The wooded hills
and beautiful parklike plains, interspersed with belts
of forest fringing the rivers, make the views except-
ionally attractive, especially when viewed in the bril-
liancy of the morning sunshine.




nn HE Rongai Valley, in the Naivasha Province, situation.

situated some 15 to 20 miles north of Nakuru, at
an altitude of 5,500 feet, is composed of undulating
plains, lightly covered in places with thorn trees.
The district is extremely healthy, and free from
malarial fever.

The soil ranges in many varieties from black soil.
cotton to a sandy loam, most of it being of volcanic
origin and very fertile. It is easy to work, and as
an instance of its fertility the writer may mention that
he has seen a field from which eleven crops of maize
have been taken in eight years, which is still return-
ing 10 bags to the acre without manuring of anv

The average annual rainfall, taken over the past ci.niATic
three years, is 38. 66 inches. The heavy rains last coxditions
from March to September; the light rains start in
November and finish about the middle of December.
The best months for ploughing are May to August,
though the work may be carried on all the year
round. The average maxinuun temperature is 76.5;
average minimum 54.8. The weather conditions may
be likened to those of an ideal Enghsh summer.

The main wagon road runs from Nakuru Station communica-
through the centre of the valley; while there is also a tions.
branch road to Njoro Station, both of easy gradients.
The surveyed route of the proposed Nakuru-Mumias
Railway crosses the valley, so that when this line is
built most of the farms in the district will be within
easy distance of a railway.

The valley is well watered by the Rongai River, waterways.
which, rising in the Elburgon Hills, flows through the
centre of the valley; and also by numerous small

Labour is very plentiful, the supply being drawn labour.
from several tribes, notably the Wakikuyu and Kavi-
rondo, while in recent years Walumbwa from the Keri-
cho district have been supplying an increasing propor-
tion, and prospects in this respect leave no cause for
complaint. The wages paid are from five to six rupees
for Wakikuyu and Walumbwa, and six to eight
rupees per month for Kavirondo, with food, equi-
valent to a further two rupees.



There can be little doubt that in the future
this district will be known as the Granary of
East Africa. The largest and most useful crop grown
is maize, under which there are about 7,000 acres,
producing about 77,000 bags. New land gives about
8 to 9 two hundred pound bags to the acre; old land
12 to 14. With the establishment of the B.H.A.
Maize Growers' Association, the prospects ©f export
trade have been materially improved, and it is
extremely probable that in the near future the area
under maize will be greatly extended.

An increasing acreage is being put under this crop
every year, and last year's returns shew an average
of 17 bushels per acre. This is sufficient evidence
that the district can hold its own in wheat. This
3-ear the area under it will be doubled. Local
markets wi'll consume all the country is likely to
produce for some years yet — as is evidenced by
statistics — so that growers have an assured market at
their doors.

Beans in large quantities are grown, the favourite
varieties being Noyau-au-Blanc, Canadian Wonder
and Rose Coco. All of these give good yields, and
find ready markets at profitable prices, both locally
and overseas. Beans, not being affected by drought
to the same extent as most crops, are well deserving
of attention as a side line.

WATTLE. There are over 3,000 acres under wattle in the

district, and the area is being steadily extended. The
two rainy seasons per year, and other favourable
climatic conditions, have the effect of bringing the
trees to maturity in three or four years instead of the
six or seven usual in most wattle growing countries.
Samples oi 3% year old wattle from the district, sent
to the Imperial Institute some time ago, were stated
to contain 39,6 per cent of tannin, and reported to be
of readily saleable value. Before the outbreak of war
a scheme was on foot to erect a tannin extract factory
at Naivasha, capable of handling seven to ten
thousand tons of bark per year. Should this or
some similar scheme be gone on with on the return
to normal conditions, wattle growers in the district
should reap a handsome return on their outlay of


The acreage under this most valuable crop is being coffee,
added to yearly, and in a short time the Rongai Val-
ley coffee will be known on the home markets by its
distinctive bean.

The output of citrus products from the Rongai citrus.
Valley is likely to be considerable within a few years.
The acreage under citrus is being rapidly increased,
and prospects are most encouraging. Trees bear very
heavily, and so encouraging have been the results
obtained so far, that settlers are giving this crop in-
creasing attention, and an extracting factory is already
being talked of.

Great interest is being taken in this crop in the tobacco.
district, from which tobacco has already been put on
the market, with good results. Messrs. Armstrong
Bros., who took first prize for their tobacco at the
last Nakuru Agricultural vShow, and whose cigars are
favourably known on the local markets, have erected
a modern flue barn for the curing of their crops, and
their success is proving a powerful stimulant to the
industry in the district.

Flax, Soya Beans, Ground Nuts, Cotton, Tea, Up- miscellan-
land Rice, and numerous varieties of fruit and eous crops.
timber trees are all being tried, many of them with
great success. These help to open out a wide field
of choice products to be grow^n by the incoming

The grazing of the Rongai \'alley is composed of stock and
Tall Oat grass, Rhodes grass, conch and another dairying.
creeping variety, which seem to make up an ideal
ration for cattle. In no other part of the country has
the writer seen cattle do better. Even oxen that
are being continuously hard worked not only keep fit,
but fatten, with no other feed than the wild grasses;
and stock from adjacent hills sent down to the Valley
when grazing there is scarce shew wonderful improve-
ment in a month or two. Owing to distance from
the Railway dairying is only carried on in a small way
at present, but is capable of considerable expansion.
Pigs do well, and can be raised at small cost, so that
'when an export trade is established the district should
he able to supply its quota.


The intending settler should understand that, in
ilic kon.yai Valley, as elsewhere, the personal factor
is an important consideration in farming. Even the
best of land will not give the same return for bad as
for good cultivation. The man who contents himself
with giving his labourers the seed to plant, and return-
ing in time for the harvest, must not expect the best
results. On the other hand, one need not have been
engaged in agriculture all one's life to make a success-
tul srart. vSome of the crops grown — maize and beans
for instance — require no great expert knowledge, and
can be made to pay general expenses while experience
in other and more profitable lines is being gained. In
no other country that the writer knows of can a man
of moderate means take up farming with such pros-
pects of success. Taking into consideration the
variety and value of the crops it can produce, the
cost of land is low, though steadily on the increase;
it can be brought into bearing at the minimum of out-
lay, and the revenue derivable from its products, at
present market values, enables one to recover the
initial cost of the land and farm implements within
two years from making a start. This is not theory,
but practical experience; and is the source of the high
opinion held of the Rongai Valley




^HERE is, unfortunately, a constant confusion of
the Molo and Molo River districts in the mir.ds
of many, and it is to be regretted that such similar
names were given to two such dissimilar districts. It
is to be understood that the following notes refer
to the Molo district, which gives its name to the
Railway Station in the vicinity.

Molo is generally recognised as one of the
healthiest spots in the East African Protec-
torate, with a climate more like that of England in
summer time than any other. The days are warm
and the nights always cool, an advantage not always
found in tropical countries. The rainfall is about
60 inches, and is well distributed throughout the year.


Mornings are fine as a rule; raiu onh' starting about

The land rises in rolling hills from S,ooo feet at (;KN'ERAr
the Railway Station to about 10,000 feet above sea i-e\tures.
level at the back of the district, which is pre-eminently
suited to stock and dairy farming, though European
cereals of all sorts may be grown with success, as
also vegetables. The land is well watered with
permanent and shady streams, which for the most
part have a rocky bottom. The district is shut
in by forests, and has no native reserve in close
proximity. This, from the stock farming point of
view, is an important consideration, as though a
valuable adjunct to a plantation or an agricultural
district, a native reserve may prove a serious menace
to a stock country owing to the liability of native
stock carrying disease into the settlers' herds. The
supph' of native labour is, however, ample for the
needs of the farmers.

At Molo, the Caravan Road runs with the Rail- stock disease
way. There are two cattle dips close to the road safeguards.
and others at the back of the district. Practically
all the cattle in Molo are doubly inoculated for
rinderpest, and only immune beasts are used for
station transport work, so that the risk of any serious
outbreak of infectious disease among cattle is re-
duced to the mitiimum.

It is indeed a treat to visit the farms here and see dairying and
the herds of grade cattle and sheep. Molo being so stock
excellently adapted to dairy work, the majority of raising.
settlers are crossing the native cattle with the
recognised milk breeds, and of these the Shorthorn
easily leads the way in local favour, though there are
advocates of the Ayreshire, while the beef breeders
use the Hereford. The high quality of Molo grade
stock is borne testimony to by the fact that many
down-country breeders pay high prices for it, and
many head leave the district each year. Pure bred
bulls of high quality, and in man}' cases animals
imported from England, are in use on the farms.
A few of the settlers have imported pure bred cows
and heifers, which are doing very well, and fully
justify the high expectations of their owners.



The dairy produce of Molo is well known on the
local markets. Butter in large quantities is produced,
while cheese, of both the blue veined and soft French
variety, is being turned out in steadily increasing
volume. Cream is also sent to the Co-operative
Creamery at Lumbwa,

Horses thrive, and the district has produced
many winners at the Nairobi and Nakuru race
meetings. There have been one or two outbreaks
of horse sickness, but these have not seriously affected
the horse breeding industry. Sheep do excellently
on the veldt when once it has been eaten down.
Wool is the chief object of the breeders, though Molo
mutton has its place in the local markets. The breed
mostly favoured for crossing with the native is the
Merino, and the wool already exported has been very
favourably reported on and fetched good prices.
Pigs receive their share of "ittention, as is only to be
expected in a dairying dis:r:ct, and the fat pigs sent
away have the reputation of being among the best
turned out in the Protectorate. Bacon, eggs, poultry
and garden produce are also distributed from Molo

MAIZE, A variety of maize has been found which will

WATTLE ripen at an altitude of 9,000 feet, but its success as

AND FLAX. ^ fifil^ crop has not yet been established on an

. extensive scale. Black Wattle is being grown in Molo

and trial samples have been submitted to analysts

who reported them to be of exceptional quality for the

age of the trees from which the bark was taken. Flax

has also been experimented with and promises well.

There are two up-to-date and progressive saw mills

in the district, which not content with helping to

supply local requirements were, prior to the outbreak

of war, testing overseas' markets.

BUILDING Building materials are plentiful. Good stone is

MATERIALS. to be found on almost every farm, while excellent

bricks can be made in places. For the less ambitious

there is a plentiful supply of cedar, which, when split,.

makes very comfortable and picturesque houses.

AVAILABLE The amount of land in the district at present

LAND. available for new comers is rather limited. There are

!a few surveyed farms for sale, but much larger areas-


are in the hands of private owners, and on the wil-
lingness of these men to sell their surplus holdings
largely depends the future progress of the district.

If they do so, much of the land that is at present
lying waste would be profitably utihzed for the benefit
of the individual and the country alike, and it is to
be hoped that owners will be induced to either make
use of the land themselves or sell it to others who are
prepared to do so. If this is done, the Molo district
will certainly become of considerable importance as
a stock and dairying centre.




HE Limuru district, which lies north-west of situation.
Nairobi, between Kyambu and the Railway
line, comprising, roughly, the upper ridges of the
Kikuyu hills, was among the first to attract
European settlers. To some extent on that account,
but more because of the healthy climate, extremely
rich soil, excellent water supply, and dehghtful
scenery, it is one of the most closely settled areas in
the Protectorate.

The farms were originally a square mile in i healthy
extent, freehold for the most part, but many of district.
them have been sub-divided into smaller areas —
Limuru being one of the few districts where hold-
ings of about loo acres are met with. This is made
possible by the innumerable perennial streams flow-
ing through the valleys between the ridges. Malarial
fever among humans. East Coast fever among cattle
and horse sickness among horses, are unknown in
the district.

In the higher reaches of the hills — runninig WATTLE
from 6,500 to 8,000 feet — most of the cultivated and coffbb.
land is under wattle. At the lower levels coffee is
doing well; and the area under this crop is being
steadily increased. Although slower in reaching the
productive stage, coffee suffers less from disease at
Limuru than at lower altitudes, and it is now being
generally conceded that the higher the altitude at








which cofifee can be successfully cultivated the less
the chances of such a visitation of disease as ruined
the industry in Ceylon.

Enjoying as it does a plentiful supply of good
water and excellent green pasture all the year round,
Ivirauru makes a strong appeal to the dairyman and
stock breeder. Ranching on a large scale is hardly
possible because of the comparative dearness of land,

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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 12 of 16)