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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that hitherto were considered unsuitable, and has
made good gro-\vth. None of it has been sufficiently
long in bearing to prove whether such a policy is
sound. In selecting land for coffee, therefore, the
intending planter would be well advised to choose the
red or dark chocolate loamy soils that have proved

WINDBREAKS. In places exposed to strong winds, windbreaks

are essential, and even in the case of well sheltered
areas it is generally advisable to protect the planta-
tion by a few rows of trees on the side of the prevail-
ing wind. Grevillea robusta has proved itself one of


the best trees for this purpose, while the Eucalyptus
saligna is also recommended, as in addition to making
a good windbreak it is a useful timber tree. Neither
should be planted within 30 yards of the coffee.

Shading is not generally practised in East SH\ding.
Africa, though it has been recommended on several
grounds. It is claimed by those in favour of the
practice that it ensures a more uniform crop,
lengthens the life of the coffee plant, and is a safe-
guard against over bearing. However, that may be,
it has been found in practice that shading can be
done without.

If the planting up of an undeveloped property mrseries.
has to be proceeded with immediately the land has
been purchased, plants have to be bought, but for
several reasons it is advisable to raise one's own.
A piece of gently sloping ground where the
mould is rich and crinnbly, is the most suitable for
a nursery : not too near a river or stream where the
water is likely to overflow the banks during heavy
rains. The beds should be about four feet wide and
raised six inches, the distance between them being
about two feet six inches. This pathway between
the beds also acts as a drain. The seed, which
should be large sound beans selected from mature
healthy trees, is planted in drills one inch deep, two
and a half inches apart : the drills being five inches
apart. The beds should be kept free of weeds, and
for the first three or four months be shaded by
screens about four feet high. They should be kept
moist, but not be allowed to become waterlogged.

The laying out of a plantation so as to ensure lwing out
economical working requires careful study, and the \ plantation.
intending planter who has not had previous experi-
ence would be well advised to spend some time
studying the work on a plantation where develop-
ment is still in progress before undertaking the task
on his own account.

Over the greater part of the Highlands there are pr.ANTiNG.
two planting seasons, approximately April-May and
October- November, coinciding with the "long" and
"short" rains. Planting should commence as soon
as the soil has been thoroughly moistened by the
Tains, every advantage being taken of dull cloudy



days, to save the freshly planted saplings from the
scorching rays of the mid-day sun. Great care
should be taken in carrying the plants from the
nursery to protect the roots from exposure to the
sun. As the coffee plant is a tap- rooted shrub, it is
of the utmost importance that this root be straight
and carefully put into the ground. The plants
should be set firmly and not too deeply — not deeper
than about one and a half inches above the nursery
mark on the stem. Wit^ some it is the practice to
plant up with nine months old plants, keeping them
shaded until they are firmly established, but the more
general custom is to use hardier plants and do with-
out the shading.

Frequent tilling or cultivation is essential to
the healthy life of a plantation, more especially in
those districts where the rainfall is scanty; and, as
a matter of fact, in those parts where the rainfall is
heavy frequent cultivation cannot be avoided, as if
left to themselves the coflfee plants would soon be
buried under weeds. Weeds harbour injurious
insects and are the source of infection of fungoid
diseases. In a neglected plantation diseases of one
sort or another soon make themselves evident, and
the planter has only himself to blame if he suffers
through neglect to keep the plantation clean.


Though East African coffee planters differ in
their views on many points connected with the
cultivation of the plant — further experience being
necessary to prove or disprove the value of theories
still subject to experiment — there is unanimity of
opinion as to the necessity for and value of skilful
pruning. No finality as to the best methods of
pruning has yet been reached, however, and the in-
experienced planter would be well advised to give
this branch of his work close study. In an excellent
pamphlet on coffee cultivation and diseases recently
published by the Department of Agriculture, the
subject is exhaustively dealt with, and a copy of the
pamphlet should be in the hands of every intending

Except at the highest altitudes where coffee is
successfully grown, a "fly picking" or "maiden
crop" is obtained in the third year. This seldom
amounts to more than three or four hundred weight


per acre, but in the following year a much heavier
crop is reaped, and in the fifth or sixth year the
maximum yield is attained. As much as one ton of
cleaned coffee per acre has been obtained in different
districts, and it is usual to speak of the average yield
as half a ton per acre, but the writer prefers to
accept the conservative estimate of 800 lbs. of clean
coffee as quoted in the pamphlet above referred to.
Careful selection of the plantation site, efficient
management, thorough cultivation and unceasing
vigilance against disease have all important bearing
on yields, and the planter who pays due regard to
these matters may reasonably expect better results
than the one who does not.

In recent \'ears a number of diseases have made diseases
their appearance on coffee plantations in the High-
lands, and at one time it was feared that the
industry might suffer the same fate as brought
disaster to Ceylon. Such has not been the case,
however. Precautionar\' measures taken by the
Agricultural Department and the planters have been
successful in preventing the spread or combating the
effects of these diseases, and it may now be safely
asserted that they are no longer regarded as a .serious
menace to the industry. Hemelia vastatrix or
"coffee leaf disease," Thrips and Cut Worm have
been the most destructive. The first two may be
guarded against by spraying : the third by protect-
ing the young trees against their attacks. It is not
unlikely that as the area under coffee increases
other diseases at present of little account will have
to be reckoned vvnth, while still others will appear.
This has been the experience of most other young
countries in their efforts to acclimatise exotic plants
of economic vahie. Disease must of necessity
appear before science can find remedies for them.
Scientific study has already shewn that climatic and
other conditions in East Africa are not less favour-
able to the combative measures employed against
the present known disea.ses than they are to the
diseases themselves, and it is therefore only reason-
able to assume that the greater attention now being
given to the problem will at least result in me:ms
being found to keep disease in check.

As soon as the berries begin to ripen, picking iivrvesting
begins. For this light labour women, assisted by and market-
their children, are largely employed, and constant ing.


supervision is necessary to prevent unripe fruit being^
picked. The beans are then fermented for from
i8 to 36 hours, washed and dried. Great care
is necessary in all these operations, as on the
manner in which they are carried out the
market value of the coffee largely depends. If
machinery for shelling the parchment off the beans
and grading has not been installed, the coffee may
be sent to a curing works or shipped as it is "in
parchment." Shipping is effected in double bags
weighing about 200 lbs. Arrangements may be
made with one of several local firms engaged in the
work to take charge of the coffee from the time it is
put on rail until it has been sold in London or else-
where. Advances of up to 75% of the value of the
coffee can usually be obtained against shippmg
documents, a final settlement being effected on
receipt of the account sales from the brokers.

COSTS. It is not yet possible to give authoritative

figures of the costs of coffee planting. No other
branch of farming is subject to such widely
divergent estimates. This is in great part due to
the fact that two very different policies of planting
are pursued; and partly to the influence of local con-
ditions. The intending planter should bear this in
mind when during the first few weeks after his
arrival in the country he is apt to get bewildered by
the apparently contradictory information showered
on him. It is freely stated on the one hand that a
plantation of one hundred acres costs ;i^5,ooo to bring
to the bearing stage, and, again, that coffee need
not cost more than pi^io per acre if one goes the right
way about it. Much depends on how one goes
about it !

PRICE OF As a branch of mixed farming coffee planting is

i,AND. not a costly undertaking : as an independent

concern it is. Land especially suited to coffee is
more costly than mixed agricultural land — whereas
a choice selection of coffee land in such a district as
Kyambu would cost from £10 to £13 per acre, a
general purposes farm of 300 to 500 acres with from
one tenth to one-fourth of the area suitable for
coffee, in say the Nakuru district, might be had at
£2 to £2, per acre. Thus at the outset the man
whose sole object is coffee pays five times as much


i-hoto by w. n Y

Photo French ^Ziss'on-


for his land as is paid by the mixed fanner. He has
then to incur a heavy annual outlay for four years
without any return. The mixed farmer in the
meantime has been obtaining revenue from his
maize, barley, beans or stock as the case may be.

The estimate of ;;{^5,ooo being necessary for a the ExClusi-
plantatiou of loo acres is little if any in excess of vely coffee
what is required if the intention is to concentrate on policy.
coffee to the exclusion of everything else. For the
large capitahst or group the exclusive policy is pro-
bably the soundest eventually, having all the advant-
ages of concentration of effort, but it means waiting
for dividends, and efficient organisation and manage-
ment are essential if the capital and energy expended
are to be rewarded with the fullest measure of
success. The proportion of waste is, as a rule,
greater in the large undertaking, and in the case of
coffee planting in East Africa the cost of labour and
management is much greater proportionately in the
large undertaking than in the small.

The policy of the mixed farmer is to make the the mixed
farm pay the cost of his coffee undertaking as he farming
goes along. He puts 50 to 100 acres of his best land i-olicy.
under maize the first year. The following season he
plants up a proportion of that area with coffee (the
land being improved in condition by the previous
crop of maize) and inter-plants it with beans or some
other catch crop, at the same time increasing the
area under maize. And so he steadily goes on — each
year ploughing up fresh land for maize and adding
to his area under coffee, re-paying himself out of
the inter-planted beans for the cost of planting the

For coffee planting exclusively, the intending capital RE-
planter, if experienced, should be provided with not quired for
less Ihan ;;C2,5oo — if inexperienced, with as much coffee only.
more as he reckons his inexperience will cost him.
With this sum he can secure from one to three
hundred acres of land accordng to quality, erect all
necessary buildings, pay the cost of planting up 50
to 80 acres of coffee, and carry through to the fourth
year, when his first year's planting will have
reached the bearing stage. If he has expended his
money wisely, the value of his property should be
sufficient to justify the bank in advancing him what-


ever is needed for the purchase of machinery and
working capital for the fourth year.

CAPITAL RE- In the case of mixed farming with coffee

QUIRED FOR included, a start may be made on as little as ;it50o if
MIXED FARM- the man is a practical farmer with colonial experi-
ING. ence, equal to plenty of hard work and of the type

that recognises and seizes oi>portunities. Five
hundred pounds is not, however, sufficient for the
inexperienced. Working on the minimum sum it
would be necessary to exercise the utmost care in
selecting the land (which would be brought on ex-
tended terms of payment), to lose no time in getting
the largest area possible under maize or some such
quick return crop, to be satisfied for a year or two
with primitive buildings, simple living and hard
work. B.E.A. has plenty of room for thousands
of such men, and can offer them as rich rewards as
any other part of the world. The first year no
attempt would be made to plant coffee (though the
nurseries would be got ready), but the following
year 20 acres might be planted and again 20 the
next. In the fifth year the first 20 would be bearing
and successive lots of 20 coming on.

RETURNS. Since it was first introduced to the home

markets, East African coffee has steadily won its
way into public favour, and of late years has in-
variably commanded the highest market prices.
Prior to August, 1914, it was selling in Mincing-
Lane at from ;£6o to ;£9o per ton. Since the out-
break of war prices have fluctuated considerably,
falling as low as ;,^5o and going as high as ;^i30. In
every case, however, the prices realized were equal
to the best market prices of the day. Assiuuing an
average price of £ys per ton (first grades selling
better and the lower grades at less); a yield of one-
third of a ton per acre (which is a conservative, esti-
mate), the cost of preparing and shipping at /,2i, (an
advance of 20% on pre-war rates), the gross return
per acre should be ;^i8. If from £2> to £s per acre
be allowed for cost of maintenance and picking the
crop, a nett return of £\s to £i2> is obtained. Tf^hese
figures, to the writer's knowledge, are well below the
average returns of existing plantations.

That they will be maintained for some years io
come is more than likelv.


Had it not been for disease making its appear- the future.
ance among the plantations at an early stage in their
development, and subsequently the outbreak of war,
the prospects of coflfee planting in the Highlands
would probably have been held forth as East Africa's
paramount attraction for the intending colonist, to
the exclusion of everything else. At one time there
was everj- likehhood of this happening, but the
appearance of disease chastened the unduly optimistic,
and the period of depression following the outbreak
of war gave time for reflection.

We have now been able to balance up accounts
and arrive at an accurate estimate of the situation.
For the tropical agriculturalist, especially those who
have already had experience of that branch of plant-
ing, coffee should prove the greatest attraction the
country has to offer. But for the inexperienced it
should be weighed in the balance — after arrival in
the country — with the several other branches of agri-
culture that have proved at least equally successful.
With the possible exception of flax — the price of
which is at present abnormally inflated — no other
crop may shew the same return per acre, but when
all the circumstances have been taken into considera-
tion it will be seen that coffee planting gives no
greater return than might reasonabh' be expected
of it. That it does give a reasonable return on the
capital invested is above question, and that it is
likely to continue so doing is a safe assumption.
East African coffee has now finuly established its
position on the world's markets. As, being of a
different class, it does not compete with the coarser
sorts exported from Brazil and neighbouring
countries, it would not be much affected as regards
prices by increased exports from these countries.
There is no fear of over-production for many years to
come. Consequently prices should remain finn, and
as the costs of production are not likely to increase to
any serious extent, the nett returns should not be
much less than they are to-day.

I am indebted to Claud R. Watson Esq., of acknow-
Khadini, Nairobi, and J. Gerald Ferguson Esq., ledgments.
General Mana,ger of the Uganda and East Africa
Coffee Curing Co., Ltd., for invaluable assistance in
the compilation of this article.




ORIGIN OF If, as many predict, the citrus industry assumes

THE LOCAL large proportions in East Africa, it will be interest-
INDUSTRY. ing to recall that it developed from very small

beginnings. Impressed by what appeared to be
favourable soil and climatic conditions, some of the
earliest settlers in the Highlands imported small
quantities of orange, lime and lemon plants from
South Africa and elsewhere in the hope of adding
variety to the fruit obtainable in the country, and it
is out of this humble origin that the citrus industry
has sprung. The trees grew so rapidly and fruited
so heavily that, inevitably, the possibilities of grow-
ing citrus on a commercial scale began to be con-
sidered, and had it not been for the outbreak of war
the acreage under citrus would have been increased
many fold during the past three years.

FAVODRABLH It is Only during the present year that the first

NATURAL citrus plant in East Africa started operations, so it

CONDITIONS. will be seen that the industry is still in its infancy.
The figures quoted in this article are based on the
work of the factory in question, and should not be
taken as final. Further experience and experi-
ment are necessary to show whether they cannot
be improved on. One can, however, speak
definitely on certain points. For instance, there
can be no question as to the soil and climate of
portions of the East African Highlands being suited
to citrus. The trees make at least as good growth
here as they do in the West Indies. Yields are as
heavy, and the percentage of oils and acids is as high.
Diseases and pests are few, and can be coped with.
These are the essential factors to success. Having
these, capital and efficient management only are
necessary to make the industry commercially sound.

I'REFERENCE Unlike the West Indies, where the lime is

FOR THE chiefly grown. East African conditions and methods

LEMON. seem to decide in favour of the lemon, and although

lime plantations have been laid down it is not unlikely
that greater attention will be paid to the lemon in
future. The lime being a surface feeder, it is very
difficult to keep a plantation clean, as if cultivators
are used the minute surface roots which play such
an important part in feeding the plant are broken,
Avith resultant injury to the plants; while the expense


of hand labour on a large plantation would seriously
affect the cost of production.

An important consideration in connection with selection
the selection of a citnis plantation site is that it need of the plan-
not of necessity be close to the railway, the cost of tation site.
transporting the finished product being relatively
small. A dry sandy soil is to be preferred, in a
district where the average annual rainfall is about
■45 inches. Citrus does not require the deep loamy
soil so much in demand for coffee, but anything in
the nature of swampy land is altogether unsuitable.

Timber for fuel purposes is a very desirable
asset, as the plant for a small plantation will consume
a ton per day. If there is no timber or insufficient
•on the land itself, close proximity to a Forest Reserve
will generally solve the difficulty, but the prospective
planter should satisfy himself before hand that he
will be given a permit to obtain timber in the

The land should be twice ploughed and harrowed methods GF
and reduced to a fine tilth : it will be all the better 1'i,.\nting.
for an initial crop of maize or beans. The holes
3ft. X 3ft. X 4ft. deep, should be dug at least three
months before the planting is to be done. The writer
has found 20ft. x 25ft. the most satisfactory planting
distances, the 25ft. lines being in the direction of the
prevailing wind. During the first year it may be
necessary to water the plants once a fortnight in the
dry season, but once they have got thoroughly
established this is unnecessary. A catch crop of
beans or maize may be grown while the plants are
still young without causing any loss of nutriment to
the plants, and as this practice helps to pay the cost
of establishing the plantation it is becoming general.

Whereas in the West Indies it seems to be the cuLTiVATiON.
practice to allow weeds and grasses to grow rather
freely in the lime plantations, in East Africa clean
cultivation is the general rule, as it has been found
that thorough cultivation results in healthier trees and
heavier yields. Single ox cultivators are freely used
for this purpose, as are also disc harrows.

The less pruning citrus trees receive the better, i-ruxing.
The young plants are trimmed to give a well shapen



tree springing from one main stem, and are topped
when they attain a height of not more then 12 feet.
A single spraying with arsenate of lead between the
rains is generally sufficient to ward off disease, but if
disease does make its appearance continuous spraying
is necessary until it has been eradicated.

The only disease that has given trouble up to the-
present is Red Scale, which has found its way into^
several plantations. This is effectively dealt with by
fumigation. A canvas cover is spread over the tree
and a pot or jar not less than 8 inches deep containing
a preparation of sulphuric acid, cyanide of potassium
and water is left under it for not less than forty
minutes. The fumes arising from this preparation
kill the disease but do no harm to the tree. It is
of the utmost importance that the cyanide of
potassium be absolutely pure, as otherwise it lacks
strength and renders the preparation ineffective.

In the third year the trees bear a light crop. In
the fourth a healthy tree should return 1,000
lemons, increasing until the trees reach maturity in
about the 6th year. If the trees are bearing too
heavily it is better to sacrifice some of the fruit for
the sake of the tree, but in the ordinary course of
events the fruit is picked only when fully ripe,
otherwise a loss of oils results. The sooner the fruit
is treated after picking the better, a fortnight being
the extreme limit that should be allowed to elapse
between picking and treating. The principal fruiting
season in most districts is from May to August, but
picking proceeds practically all the year round.

Apart from the local demand for fresh limes and
lemons, which is mainly supplied by small growers,
no attempt is made to export limes or lemons as fruit.
An export trade in fresh fruit or pickled limes may
possibly develop later on, but at present the aim of
citrus growers is to bu.ild up a trade in extracts.

TREATMENT The first operation in this process is the extrac-

OF THE CROP, tion of the essential oil from the rind. This opera-
tion is performed by putting the fruit through either
a hand or power-driven machine known as an
Ecueller, which extracts the oil from the rind, ready
to be bottled. The essential oil thus prepared is
allowed to stand for from three to four weeks, when


it is filtered to separate the deposit known as limettin,
and the oil packed in casks or copper vessels is ready
for shipment.

After the extraction of the essential oil, the citric acid
lemons are put through a mill consisting of a and citrate
scratcher that cuts them up and a pair of rollers of lime.
extracts all the juices; then through a strainer that
separates all foreign matter and leaves the juice
absolutely pure. The juice is then run into vats of
from six to eight hundred gallons capacitj-, and
brought to a boil by steam passing through copper
coils. When the product required is citric acid (or
concentrated lime-juice) the juice is boiled down to
one-tenth its original bulk. In the production of
citrate of lime it is brought nearly to a boil, mixed
with lime (of which there are large deposits in the

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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 9 of 16)