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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by milling. But I hear that the growth looks very
good.

The following are some of the most important difficulties
difficulties to be considered by an intending planter : to be con-
sidered.

As already pointed out, reliable figures as to
yield are very scarce, and at present only apply to
one area. Skilled workmen for the factory are en-
tirely absent. If good results are to be uniformly
obtained the most careful personal supervision is
necessary in the factory. Where water power is not
available the next best is steam power, as the waste
steam can be used in the various evaporating arrange-
ments. But the use of a steam engine will involve
the employment of an expensive engineer, and extra
expense for fuel probably. Any other power but
water will considerably increase the capital expendi-
ture on machinery. At present it is difficult to gez
any considerable supply of cuttings to plant out,
even of the Native varieties. In any case the ques-
tion of the supply of cuttings is quite a serious
problem, as it takes about 10 tons of tops to plant
up an acre.

Up till a few months ago the Native trade was the native
large and rapidly increasing, and gave an outlet for trade.
one's worst produce at a useful price. But in this
-district the Government has recently put a stop to

27



this trade, on the plea that a good deal of the sugar
was used for making Tembo. This has made an
enormous diflference to the total consumption in the
country — if such figures as I can get are correct it
must have cut off nearly half the total. Whether
this prohibition is to be extended to other districts,
or even continued, it is impossible to say. But it is
obvious that it has already very adversely affected
the prospects of the establishment of a local Sugar
industry on any large scale. This action was taken
without warning and without any legal sanction so
far as can be seen. It cannot be expected that
people will invest large sums in an industry that is
liable to be suddenly raided in this manner.

LIKELY The total pre-war imports of the country could

MARKETS. be produced by one moderate sized modern factory —

so it would not be hard to overtake purely local needs.
Once these needs are overtaken the whole proposition
will assiume a very different appearance. If produce
has to be exported overseas it means working for
a much lower price. To do this successfully would
require the best of modern plants and management
and a high yield from the canes. Presumably it
would suit us best to look for new markets further
up country rather than seawards. The possibilities
in this direction are very great, but still latent.

ADVANTAGES OP Perhaps the most attractive point about a highly
CLOSE SETTLE- developed cane growing industry is the excellent
MENT. prospects it holds out for closer settlement. A group

of settlers round a central factory could do very com-
fortably off farms of 150 acres each with even 20
acres of good irrigable cane land. If the land were
already under a main irrigation canal, a return from,
the canes could fairly be expected in 2 years from a
start. Cattle work in excellently with any scheme
of cane growing, as their manure is valuable to the
canes, and spare cane tops and molasses are good
cattle foods. It has long been my hope to see this
section of the country — Donyo Sabuk — developed on
such lines. It has always seemed to me to afford
a quite unique combination of all the necessary quali-
fications for success.

FINAL ADVICE. On the whole I am inclined to say to any intend-

ing planter just at present, " Go slowly, and feel your
way very carefully. Don't trouble about it at alt

28



unless all your conditions are quite favourable."
Experiments with a small plant and carefully kept
records will show what yields can be expected and
what canes do best in each case. But a good deal
more wants to be known on these points and above
all about future economic conditions before launch-
ing out on a large scale.

Above all, remember that there is no other
branch of Agriculture in which Combination and
Co-operation are most essential, or in which they
meet with a higher reward.

" A."

(Some notes of varieties and yields at Kiboko varieties
Flats, Donyo Sabuk. No fertilisers used.) and yields.

There are some 9 varieties on trial. Of these none
has so far given better results than the Native Red,
which has given close on 50 tons of canes ready for
milling per acre. The plot which gave this figure
was by no means a picked one, in fact nearly a
quarter of it was quite poor.

A Ribbon cane from Mazeras is a very nice quick
growing cane with many good points, but not such
a heavy yielder as the above.

A cane called No. 33 which we imported from
Natal promises very well.

The Natal Uba cane is yielding heavily, but has
a tendency to split — possibly it has had more water
than it wants. The plot we have milled was too
small to be worth calculating yield per acre from.

Of the W. Indian seedlings received from the
Agricultural Department, the most promising is the
Seely Seedling. But we have not yet enough of
these canes for any milling trials.

The juices analysed by the Government Analyst
have proved rich — giving from 18% up to 20%
sucrose.

We have as yet no Laboratory figures of per-
centage of sucrose to weight of canes. But the

29



following are some actual figures of results obtained
with the bullock mill, making Muscovado sugar.
Separate records of molasses were not kept.

Native Red canes. — 21. i lbs. cane gave i gaL
juice; i gal. juice gave 1.53 lbs. sugar.

Mixed Native canes. — 19.2 lbs. cane to i gal.,
juice; i gal. juice gave 1.3 lbs. sugar.

Uba canes. — 23.7 lbs. cane to i gal. juice.

No. 33 canes. — 20.75 lbs. cane to i gal. juice.

Mazeras Ribbon canes. — First ratoons : —

(a) 21.4 lbs. cane to i gal. juice.

(b) 21.17 lbs. cane to i gal. juice.

" B."

Estimated areas of land suitable for sugar cane
growing in B.E.A. : —



(a) Tana River Valley ...


241,000


(b) Sabaki „


20,000


(c) Juba „ „ ... .


50,000


(d) Voi Swamp


1,500


(e) Kibos and Kibigori ...


10,000


(/) Kibwezi District


2,300


ig) Donyo Sabuk District


2,950


Total Aa


-es 327,750



R. V. Versturme-Bunbury.



30



SISAL.



FLUENCES.



QlSAL Hemp is a fibre of considerable industrial origin.

importance, and is derived from the leaves of the
Agave Rigida and, probably, also from a few other
species. The name Sisal was applied to the fibre
since it was originally exported from the town of that
name, which is near Merida, the capital of the State,
and the great centre of the Yucatan Fibre market.

It is usually supposed that Sisal thrives on poor soil.
and rocky land, but experience shows that while it
will grow almost anywhere, poor soil is not congenial
to the growth of a large full-sized plant, while sisal
grown on good land has a longer and more flexible
fibre.

The plant is not adversely affected by hot seasons, clujatic in-
in fact it appears to benefit by a humid heat. Long
drought, although delaying the plant, cannot stop its
growth. Rainy seasons do not injure it, nor is it
seriously affected by cold : in fact it seems to grow
anywhere except in standing water.

So far, no disease or beetle has been known to
attack the plant in East Africa, though I understand
there is a beetle in Mexico that injures it.

Sisal can be propagated either by bulbils, which I'ROPAGAtion.
are the flower of the plant, or by suckers. The
suckers sprout from under the parent plant, and are
the most commonly adopted means of planting out
sisal, as the plants mature at least six months earlier
than those grown from bulbils.

The leaves are ready to cut three years from the
date of planting, and one cutting can be obtained each
year until the plant is six years old, when it poles and
dies.

Sisal is planted out in squares, about i,ooo plants
to the acre, and as between 175 and 200 leaves may
safely be expected from each plant, and each leaf
should average .05 lbs. of fibre, 3^^ to 4 tons of fibre
to the acre may be reckoned on.

The cultivation of Sisal was started in the High- history of
lands of British East Africa by Messrs. Swift and planting in
Rutherford of Punda Milia, who obtained bulbils from b.e.A.

31



German East Africa in the middle of 1907. In Sep-
tember of that year the Germans stopped the export
of sisal bulbils by imposing an export tax. But our
Government had already a number of plants estab-
lished on their experimental farms, and with the help
of the sisal growing on Punda Milia they were soon
able to supply settlers with suckers for many projected
plantations. It is estimated that there are now 10,000
acres under sisal in the Highlands alone, and nearly
as much again at the Coast and in the Ivow Veldt.
There are still vast tracts of land suitable for sisal yet
awaiting development.

SELECTIONS. When selecting a farm with a view to planting

Sisal, it would be well to remember the following
points : —

PLANTATION ^^ ^ tramway has to be laid through the whole

3jYg_ plantation, steep hills and deep gullies should be

avoided. The factory should be central and lower

than the plantation, so that the full trucks can be run

down by gravitation.

A permanent stream of water is essential. This
does not mean that one requires a river on the farm;
a stream delivering one hundred thousand gallons per
hour in the dry season is ample. After the surround-
ing land has been under cultivation for a year or two,
the flow is increased.

Electric power appears to be the most suitable
for a Sisal Factory. As British East Africa is well
provided with falls capable of developing power, the
prospective planter should endeavour to select land
with water power facilities. Otherwise charcoal, gas,
or steam will be required, and all of these will require
timber. Oil engines are used on some plantations, but
they would prove expensive if the plantation were any
distance from the railway.

The cost of transport is about one shilling per ton
per mile, so that the nearer the estate is to the rail-
way, the better.

The quality of labour is improving every year,
and this is enabhng estates to reduce the costs of
supervision. Sisal machinery is also being consider-
ably improved with this end in view.

32



A sisal plantation turning out 650 tons per annum, labour.
which is well within the capacity of one decorticator,
can now be run with an average of 350 labourers per
day, and as time goes on this number may be re-
duced. Should the Government start a Laboiir
Department, and distribute labour fairly all over the
country, sisal growers will have little to fear where-
ever they live; but at present those near the native
reserves find labour easier to obtain than those further
off.

Appended are an Estimate of Expenditure for the
first period of four years of an eight hundred acre
plantation, a Balance Sheet drawn at the end of the
fifth year, and a Trading Account for the fifth and
subsequent years.

The expenditure is estimated on a very liberal
scale, and no allowance is made for revenue derived
from catch crops, such as beans, peas, maize, etc.,
which may be profitably grown between the young
sisal for at least one season and possibly two.



ERRATA.
,L°: :i;,!rf ''■ ^^°"'.vering twe.ve



thousand gallons



managed estate is distinctly a conservative esuiuatc.

The intending sisal planter should be prepared for
a capital expenditure of ;£2o,ooo, although it is safe
to assume that after expending ;;^i 2,000 the balance
might be obtained on mortgage.



aa



German East Africa in the middle of 1907. In Sep-
tember of that year the Germans stopped the export
of sisal bulbils by imposing an export tax. But our
Government had already a number of plants estab-
lished on their experimental farms, and with the help
of the sisal growing on Punda Milia they were soon
able to supply settlers with suckers for many projected
plantations. It is estimated that there are now 10,000
acres under sisal in the Highlands alone, and nearly
as much again at the Coast and in the Low Veldt.
There are still vast tracts of land suitable for sisal yet
awaiting development.

SELECTIONS. When selecting a farm with a view to planting

Sisal, it would be well to remember the follovdng
points : —

PLANTATION ^^ ^ tramway has to be laid through the whole

gjYg_ plantation, steep hills and deep gullies should be

avoided. The factory should be central and lower

than the plantation, so that the full trucks can be run

down by gravitation.

A permanent stream of water is essential '^'
does not mean that one requires -^ -''
a stream delivering- oi->- '
hour in +^'



_- lb well

^^vexoping power, the

- ouould endeavour to select land

..^ucr power facilities. Otherwise charcoal, gas,

or steam will be required, and all of these will require

timber. Oil engines are used on some plantations, but

they would prove expensive if the plantation were any

distance from the railway.

The cost of transport is about one shilling per ton
per mile, so that the nearer the estate is to the rail-
way, the better.

The quality of labour is improving every year,
and this is enabling estates to reduce the costs of
supervision. Sisal machinery is also being consider-
ably improved with this end in view.

32



A sisal plantation turning out 650 tons per annum, labour.
which is well within the capacity of one decorticator,
can now be run ^vith an average of 350 labourers per
day, and as time goes on this number may be re-
duced. Should the Government start a Labour
Department, and distribute labour fairly all over the
country, sisal growers will have little to fear where-
ever they live; but at present those near the native
reserves find labour easier to obtain than those fiu-ther
oflF.

Appended are an Estimate of Expenditure for the
first period of four years of an eight hundred acre
plantation, a Balance Sheet drawn at the end of the
fifth year, and a Trading Account for the fifth and
subsequent years.

The expenditure is estimated on a very liberal
scale, and no allowance is made for revenue derived
from catch crops, such as beans, peas, maize, etc.,
which may be profitably grown between the young
sisal for at least one season and possibly two.

It will be noticed that 800 acres are suggested as output.
a unit for a sisal plantation, and that the output over
three years is stated at from 3 5^ to 4 tons per acre.
But as it is necessary to allow the land to lie fallow
for twelve months after the last cutting before re-
planting, I have taken only 600 tons as the annual
output, which in the case of a properly equipped and
managed estate is di.stinctly a conservative estimate.

The intending sisal planter should be prepared for
a capital expenditure of ;{;2o,ooo, although it is safe
to assume that after expending ;;{^i 2,000 the balance
might be obtained on mortgage.



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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 5 of 16)