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

. (page 3 of 16)
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 3 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

horns, Herefords, Holsteins, and their grades, all meet
with a keen demand. The few breeders who have
been enterprising enough to import pure bred cattle
of both sexes have also reaped a rich harvest by the
sale of their young bulls, even a moderate Shorthorn
commanding a price of £s^ at any time.

TN this connection it may not be out of place to popularity
-■- enquire into the cause of the popularity of the of the
Ayreshire. First and foremost, this breed appears to ayreshire.
"nick" extremely well with the native cow, to which
it imparts the deep milking quahties for which it
is renowned. But it is only fair to state that the
Government Farm has been the fortunate possessor
of several exceptionally good examples of the Ayre-
shire, whilst the representatives of the Shorthorn and
Hereford breeds which have from time to time been
imported for the Naivasha farm have seldom been
more than fair specimens of the average " farmer's
bull." Indeed until quite recently the principal sire (^ther
of the so called Shorthorns at that establishment was lopur.Ak
a Lincoln Red — an extremely good animal imported i^RHED.^^.
from South Africa — but one in whose veins was not a
drop of Coate's Herd Book blood. The Hereford has
not been popular at the Government Farm of late
years, although several settlers in the Naivasha dis-
trict are great admirers of the breed, which has done
well in their hands. Holstein-Frieslands have done
well, and owing to their deep milking propensities are
very popular with the settler. One or two Devons,
a few Red Polls, a Guernsey and a Jersey, are others
that have been used elsewhere, and in every instance
the improvement noticeable has been most marked.
Hitherto the milking strains have been the most
popular, but breeders are gradually awaking to the
necessity for producing a big and powerful animal vauje of the
suited to draught purjwses, whilst later on the shorthorn.
demand for meat, which is sure to be felt, will
give them more encouragement to turn their at-
tention to the Shorthorn and other dual purpose
breeds. When this time comes the East African
will reahse, as others have done, that the Shorthorn
is not only suitable for the butcher's block, an idea
very prevalent at the present time, but is the best
all round animal.

One of the greatest attractions of East Africa ^^^^ inimical
to the average Britisher is the marvellous abundance ^q stock
of its wild fauna. From the point of view of the
Sportsman and Naturahst it woidd be an evil day
when the herds of game disappeared from the
veldt, but there is no gainsaying the fact that their
presence on a cattle farm is always a menace on
account of the diseases they may bring. The buffalo.

eland and some others are peculiarly susceptible to
rinderpest, which they spread broadcast, whilst even
the zebra disseminates an intestinal worm harmful
VALUE OP to domestic stock. L,ions abound in many parts, and

DIPPING. occasionally take toll of the settler's herd, whilst ren-

dering yarding at night essential, and thus preventing
the practice of ranching, which otherwise would be
advantageous. Now and then snake bite causes the
loss of an animal, but for a tropical country. East
Africa is wonderfully free from poisonous reptiles,
while comparatively few of its rivers are infested by
crocodiles. The tick bird is probably an ever present
disseminator of disgase, but here again the use of the
dip is efficacious in exterminating the insect on which
it feeds.

THE IDEAL Throughout the country may be found land suit-

STOCK FARM, able in every particular to stock, but should the
prospective cattle farmer fail to find such a locality
within the reach of his means, he need not be dis-
heartened, for tens of thousands of acres of land at
first sight unsuitable may well be turned to account
for the purpose. The East African cow wanders great
distances whilst grazing, and, also, requires water at
less frequent inteivals than its European sister; one

WATER drink at mid-day being ample for its requirements.

SUPPLY. Hence an otherwise desirable cattle farm should not

be rejected on account of the distance of water from
the homestead — even several miles being none too
long a journey for the mid-day drink. The power
of the sun at mid-day is trying alike to man and
beast, so that a farm possesses a valuable asset if
there are shady trees upon it; and cattle will thrive
well if they can rest in the shade during the heat
of the day. In certain districts, notably on the bord-
ers of Nairobi, buffalo grass grows in profusion; and
where this is the case the cattle farmer may con-
sider himself fortunate, for no better feed exists in
the world. As already mentioned, clover and sain-
foin are found elsewhere, whilst all the native grasses
appear to contain an immense amount of nutriment,
even during the driest periods of the year; but these
periods are of short duration, for East Africa is for-
tunate in having two rainy seasons, so that the grass
is growing for more than half the year.

THE NATIVE Several of the East African tribes are born herds-

HERDSMAN. men, whose sole thought is for the welfare of their


-cattle. Each mob is usually under the care of a
Masai, Lumbwa or Nandi, who, armed with an
umbrella and a spear, accompanies his charges to the
grazing ground, whistling soothing notes the while;
and brings them back to the "boma" or yard at
night. He is ever ready with assistance to the calv-
ing cow or animal in trouble, and will if necessary
pass the whole night in attendance upon it. He
usually has a remedy ready for every ailment, but is
generally willing to call in the assistance of the white
man, whose cures he is gradually learning to regard
as more efficacious than the bleeding, searing with hot
iron, or puncturing of the ear, which are the usual
antidotes of all cattle ills with him. But good herds-
man as is the native, his qualities as a stockman are
limited. As a rule, he is a shockingly bad milker,
and his knowledge of the principles of breeding are
limited to the selection of his breeding stock by
colour alone. A few natives, notably the Kavirondo, kavirondo
use both hands for milking; but the usual method good
is to milk with one hand, as the operator squats on milkers.
his haunches, holding a tin in the other. Here and
there one may find a Kikuyu who has learned the art
of using both hands, but they are few and far
between. Nearly all natives are extremely fond of
milk and vigilance is necessary to guard against
pilfering; the attendant being, as a rule, fully con-
versant with such tricks as watering the milk, in order
to secure some for himself. Cattle thefts by natives
no longer cause so much annoyance as was formerly
the case, but care must be taken to guard against
it, the native considering that, if the owner does not
make a frequent covmt of his stock, he will not miss
the one or two head annexed by him. The cause of
all deaths should also be fully investigated, as the
wily native has been known, not infrequently, to aid
the departure of a beast to another sphere, in order to
gratify his craving for meat.

In spite of its drawbacks, East Africa is prob- ^ promising
ably destined to be — for its size — one of the greatest outlook.
cattle breeding countries in the world; for it is one
of the very few parts in which no artificial feeding
is required; while its climate is perfect, and grass
^ows luxuriantly during many months of the year.
Moreover, its cattle are constitutionally strong, and
many of them immune from the diseases which pre-



vail, whilst they readily respond to the process of
grading. Possibly, the best advertisement the Pro-
tectorate possesses at present may be found in the fact
that, although still in its infancy, cattle breeding has
already progressed so far. Without in any way
disparaging the efforts of those who have built up
good herds of graded cattle, it may be stated as a
fact that with very few exceptions this has been
accomplished by amateurs in cattle breeding. Some
have made the mistake of using bulls of difiFerent
breeds — mainly owing to the difficulty of obtaining
sires — but even in these cases the results have been
little short of amazing. Go where one may through-
out the length and breadth of the Protectorate, one
finds that every farmer is firmly convinced that his
own farm is the best in the country — and where such
a happy state of affairs exists there cannot be much,

J. H. D. Beai.es.




lyTAlZE is one of the staple food crops of the world.
The quantity produced is greater than that of any
other cereal, and climatic conditions alone limit its
more widespread cultivation. In those countries
adapted to its production, it is more extensively
grown than any other grain. The total world's crop
reaches the high figure of 1,085,700,000 two hundred
pound bags, of which more than 75 per cent, is pro-
duced in America. Only about one per cent, of the
world's supply is produced by Africa.

Maize is one of the easiest grain crops to grow,
and it stands more rough usage than perhaps any
other. Its farm value must not be calculated solely
on the yield of grain, important as that is, for its-
total yield of vegetable matter is larger than that
of almost any other crop. Maize produces a large
amount of stalk and leaves of considerable value
after the ears have been harvested, for the feeding
of stock. As silage material maize is one of the very-
best crops than can be grown, on account of its
heavy yield per acre and also because of the succu-
lence and physical character of the plant, which
renders it peculiarly suitable to the process of en-
silage. Maize is a white man's crop — by which is-

meant that the margin of profit derivable from its
production amply compensates the European for his
expenditure of enterprise, energy and capital. Even
in rVmerica where the rate of wages is high, this is
so; how much more profitable should it be then in
B.E.A. where the soil and climatic conditions are not
less favourable to its cultivation and where the cost
of labour is considerably less.

At the present time East Africa has only begun possibilities
to shew that it can produce a maize equal to any- of maize in
thing found in the world's markets The traveller b.E.A.
is impressed by the enormous areas of fertile land
suitable for growing maize in the Nakuru districts,
which are at present untouched by the plough. So
far the average yield is about f.i bags per acre, but
it has been clearly proved that this yield can be
brought to as high as i6 bags per acre by means of
good farming, good management, and careful selec-
tion of seed. No countrj^ in the world has siich a
perfect climate that the farmer is entirely free from
worry whatever his crop may be, and no claim is
made for East Africa being an exception to this rule.
But it is claimed that the climate of the Highlands
is as near to being perfect as could be reasonably
expected, and certainly as regards the cultivation of
maize it has less drawbacks than have to be con-
tended with in most other maize producing

Maize lands should be well drained, for wet soils soils.
are usually cold and retard germination. Its
growth is also backward on water-logged soils, the
stalks remain dwarfed, and the foliage turns yellow.

Shallow ploughing causes the maize plant to PREPARING
suffer from drought in a dry season, and on some the land.
soils from water logging in a wet one. It has been
clearly demonstrated that deep ploughing conserves
soil moisture, and on wet soils deep ploughing allows
the surplus moisture to drain away better. Seven
to eight inches is a good depth for ox ploughing and
twelve to fifteen for steam ploughing. Whether it
is done well or badly, ploughing is a slow business,
so that it should be done well.

Maize requires a deep, loose seed bed, and to
provide this it is essential that particular attention


be paid to after preparation of the bed. This will
vary in different soils and districts. New land
broken before the short rains may be allowed to lie
fallow to weather and kill the sod; old lands broken
in the short rains should be pulverized at once and
harrowed to conserve moisture for early planting.
Cross ploughing is a useful method of treatment for
closing up air spaces by drawing together the sod.

METHODS OF East African farmers enjoy a distinct advantage

PLANTING. in having a planting season sprfad over six to eight

weeks — starting early in March and continuing into
the beginning of May — as against three weeks in
America. Maize may be planted either by listing,
which is the general practice in America, or by
planters, which are in general use in Africa. Plant-
ing by listers is for dry districts, where the maize
must be planted deep to get sufficient moisture for
germination. Planters are used for surface planting,
when the seed needs to be dropped only about two
inches below surface. The great advantages of the
planter are tmiformity of distance and depth,
rapidity of work and economy of labour. Check
rowing on small areas has an advantage, in that it
enables the planter to cultivate both ways, but it
takes up time. Moreover, when check rowing three
or four plants to a hill the results appear to be un-
satisfactory unless the surplus plants can be pulled
out, which entails a lot of labour. If check rowing
is practised, care should be taken in removing sur-
plus plants. The continuous planting known as
drilling seems to be the best for East Africa.

PLANTING The distance of planting is an important con-

DISTANCES. sideration. Too close planting reduces the amount
of plant food available for each plant, maize being a
surface feeder; and in dry weather it reduces the
amount of moisture available. It also prevents
proper weeding. On the other hand, too wide a
distance leaves over much land lying waste. The
average distance found satisfactory in some of the
maize districts is three feet by one foot in the case
of new land, and three feet four inches by fourteen
inches in the case of old. For fodder maize, the
distance may be three feet by eight inches.

CXJLTIVATION. j\Iaize requires good cultivation, the prevalence

of weeds being a serious hindrance to heavy yields.


The eradication of pig weed, quick grass and other
weeds is one of the most important problems for the
farmer. Fallowing of the soil and rotation of crops
do much to reduce the weed crop, but frequent use
of the cultivator is most successful. Cultivation not
only helps to keep the soil clean, but also assists to
retain moisture in the soil by forming a mulch. ^Nlaize
should be cultivated between the rows at least eight
times in the season, and it is a good plan to reckon
■one small cultivator to every forty acres. Care should
be exercised in cultivating, as if the implement goes
too deep or too close to the plants it may prune ofiF
a proportion of the roots, which will considerably
reduce the vield

With the exceptions of rust, smut and blight, diseases and
which do not affect the yield at present, maize is, PESTS,
broadly speaking, very free of disease. The principal
insect and animal pests are cut worm, porcupine and
wild pig. These may be easily kept in check by
poisoning and shooting, but we are ver\- favourably
circumstanced when compared with America, where
there are 214 species of insects known to be injurious
to maize.

The usual method of harvesting in East Africa HARVESTING,
is to pick the ears by hand when they have become
thoroughly dried by the sun. Maize is less easily
harvested than almost any other cereal crop because
of its large size and hard stem. But while native
labour is cheap and plentiful hand labour is the
cheapest, and likely to remain so until the maize
harvesting machinery placed on the market in recent
years is made less costly and less complicated.

The methods of cultivating maize in East Africa advantages
have been dealt with at some length for the reason of starting
that maize should make a strong appeal to the new with maize.
settler starting in agriculture. It enjoys distinct
advantages over coffee, flax or citrus, for instance,
to make a start on. It entails less expenditure of
capital, less labour, less expert knowledge or
acquaintance with local conditions, and gives quicker,
if smaller, returns. Xew land intended for coffee or
citrus is improved by having had a crop of maize
raised on it beforehand; it takes comparatively little
nutriment out of the soil and leaves the land in a
better state of tilth than would be possible otherwise
without considerable labour. Maize gives a quick




return, and unless the new comer is furnished with
ample capital, he will find it a distinct advantage to
start off with maize, gradually planting up with
coffee or citrus as he is able to increase the amount
of land broken up, even when the ultimate intention
is to raise coffee or citrus.

Although at the present time the whole of Africa
produces only about one per cent, of the world's
output of maize, and of this East Africa contributes,
but a small proportion, the areas available for maize
in the Highlands — without including doubtful land
— are sufficiently large to give East Africa a position:
of importance in the maize markets of the future.
No export trade worth mentioning has been done up-
to the present, and, in view of the immense local
consumption (maize iDeing the staple food of the bulk
of the native population) the surplus available for
export in the immediate future is not likely to run
to very big figures. But the prospects ahead of maize
cultivation in B.E.A. are immense, nevertheless.
There are hundreds of thousands of acres capable of
producing heavy crops. The cost of production is-
low — ^probably less than in any other part of the
world. The local market is in itself sufficient to
absorb a large proportion of the output, and, given
proper export facilities such as are enjoyed by other
maize countries, the overseas markets available for
the surplus represent a demand that should guarantee
a profit to the producer. At the present time the
Nakuru district is responsible for the bulk of the
maize produced in East Africa, buu the amount of
land devoted to it in other districts is being steadily^

On the question of yield it has been stated that
the average is about eleven bags. This, let it be
clearly stated, should be read as a conservative
estimate. There are parts where an average of 15
bags over large areas is claimed, and the writer has
heard of much larger yields over small acreages, but
he prefers to confine himself to a statement that will
bear the closest investigation, and leave a margin,
rather than inspire unfounded optimism. Eleven,
bags to the acre, with the cost of production as low
as it is, give a sufficient financial return to make
maize highly profitable, and should go far toward
making East Africa better known on overseas^


J. Browne.


A IvTHOUGH we are on the equator the altitude is climate
^^^ such that the heat is not so much felt as it favourabi,e.
often is on a hot summer's day in England. No
doubt this is also due in part to the dry winds that
blow even in our hottest seasons. The highlands
extend over a great portion of the Protectorate, and
are suitable for stock farming and a great part of
them for dairying.

The natives own large herds of cattle and -native stock.
sheep, which have increased enormously in spite of
outbreaks of diseases of one sort or another that
in the past killed oflf their cattle in hundreds.
Now that we have the advantage of recent veterin-
ary discoveries, most of the diseases which deci-
mated herds are things of the past on a progressive

The native cattle are humped like the Indian '-RADE stock.
Zebu to which they are doubtless related. These
have been successfully crossed with most of the
European breeds of cattle; though the Shorthorn,
Hereford, Ayrshire and Friesland crosses predomi-
nate. This grading up has progressed so far that
i5/i6th pure bred cattle are frequently seen, and
in some cases even higher grades have been at-
tained by the earlier settlers.

Pure bred cattle of both sexes have been im- i-ure bred.
ported both by the Government and by private
individuals. The former hold a sale annually of
surplus bulls bred by them and these sales are well
attended and competition is keen.

The dairy districts are already turning out butter
butter in large quantities which find a ready mar- output.
ket in the towns of the Protectorate. Doubtless
co-operative dairies will be started in the best
centres as soon as the demand for them warrants.
There is already one doing business on a large
scale at Lumbwa. The future of dairying in this
country is enormous and there is no reason why
we should not rival Australia, New Zealand and
Canada in the world's markets. We may confi-
dently rely on the Government to grade export


dairy produce when the supply of it warrants, in
the same way that they grade maize, etc. Natur-
ally we cannot hope to get the same price for ex-
port as we do in the local markets; but who will
deny that handled by a co-operative society on a
sufficient scale and with our low running expenses,
we can do as well as other colonies with high rents
and wages.

LIFE ON THE Now let US take a look at the life on a small

FARM. dairy farm. Here we have one of say looo acres,

that will carry a beast to a couple of acres with
ease. In parts you can run more, such is the luxu-
riance of the growth, and that without stall feed-
ing. On the farm we are looking at, there is a
comfortable house of stone and thatch for the settler
Stores, stables, dairy, pigsties, and native huts are
near by, as well as a flower and vegetable garden.
The whole gives one the idea of a miniature village.
The cattle are in a wire fenced paddock not far
away, with the herd-boys' huts near the entrance.

EARLY The sun rises shortly before six and the morning

MORNING is like a spring one in the Old Country, bright sun

WORK. and a clear sky, but there is a nip in the air. We

are out by 6-30 to see the cattle milked, and it is
a curious performance. All the calves have been
in sheds for the night and they are let out one at
a time as required. Directly a calf leaves the shed
it goes straight to its mother and has a suck, then,
when the milk flows, the milker squats beside the
cow with a switch handy and with a tin in one
hand he milks with the other, every now and then
admonishing the calf with the switch. When he
has taken enough milk the calf is left to finish off
the supply. The amount taken is governed by the
condition in which the calf is to be kept : from each
cow the milker will get from one quart to half a
gallon at a milking. When the milking is finished we
go with it to the dairy to see it separated while
the cattle are taken out to grass by the boy in
charge of them.

AFTER BREAK- After separating is finished we breakfast and

FAST : DIPPING, then, if it is dipping day, go to see the cattle
through the tank and to see that there are no ac-
cidents. Dipping is one of the greatest boons to the


stock, it frees them from ticks and so keeps down
the spread of diseases. The cattle are driven into a
crush and from that to the tank, where they jump
into six feet of medicated water and swim to the far
end, whence they walk out and up a concrete floored
race where they drip and partially dry. Dipping
done we have work of one sort or another to do,
either butter or cheese to make, a house to build, a
fence to mend or any one of the things that
constantly need attention on a farm.

About mid-day we knock o9f for lunch and
the work boys, who started work at 6-30, get an
hour off, and then work on till 5-30, when work for
the day is over for them. After tea, which we
have about 4 o'clock, we go to watch the milking
again. The calves of those cows that are milked in
the evening were separated and herded by them-
selves after the morning's milking was finished.


The sun sets about six and it is dark about half
an hour later, so we finish up our day with a spell
in the office before supper and then after a chat round
the log fire we turn in.

Sunday is the one day of the week when there
is no work save for the milking, and as a rule we
go off to visit a neighbour or he spends the day

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

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 3 of 16)