British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Andrew Seager
(Agricultural Officer, Somaliland 1951-59, Northern Rhodesia 1959-60)
Remembering agricultural development
in Somaliland
Hargeisa District
As a former agriculturist, I hope to see more about non-administration matters remembered: agriculture, veterinary, livestock, livestock management, road building, all things that helped to develop the territories in which we ex-Colonial Servants served. I only had three jobs in Africa: Somaliland and Zambia/Northern Rhodesia with the Colonial Service and Nigeria with FAO.

A colleague and friend, Roy Green, known in Somaliland as "Gadleh", the bearded one, and I were the two agricultural officers in what was the Somaliland Protectorate in 1951-1959, now the, alas, non-recognised Republic of Somaliland. Between us we dreamt up a system of soil and water conservation and water harvesting to support and make it possible to extend crop production, highly necessary to feed the increasing population.

I finally ended up in the World Bank, working mostly in South Asia. Soon after I joined the Bank in 1973 we had to expand a former World Bank-financed project in Pakistan. We had a meeting with the staff member who appraised the original project but by then was working in another part of the Bank. We met for lunch and introduced ourselves:

"In which part of the Bank are you?"
"East Africa".
"Which part of East Africa?"
"East Africa North".
"Have you ever been to Somalia?"
"Yes, just come from there."
"Where did you go?"
"Hargeisa, Gebileh, Borama".
"What were you doing?"
"Appraising a soil and water conservation project I did not begin to understand; why, what are you grinning at?"
"A colleague and I invented it."

The Somalia project duly materialized, with Roy Green and I contributing to the appraisal report and its implementation, even though I was in a different part of the Bank and Roy Green was an agriculturist in Kent and not a Bank staff member. A second project, a continuation, was appraised in 1985. The staff member who appraised it and I went on the first Supervision Mission of the second project. I was by then retired and went as a consultant. The project consultants got the implementation quite wrong; while technically they were correct, the way they collected the runoff from the surrounding non-cultivated area did not make it possible to prevent the livestock from entering the cropped area. This I saw in Hargeisa district, where my face was not known. I asked people I met on the farms -- in Somali, we all had to learn it while serving in the country -- how they liked what was being done. They gave a vague and polite reply. The next day, we went to the same farm with the mission leader and met the same people. They each had a big heavy stick.

"We did not know you yesterday, we only knew Gadleh (see above), we knew your name but not your face. You know better than this. Stop this nonsense; if you do not we will hit you with our heavy stick."

Needless to say I stopped it and we parted good friends. The system of soil and water conservation and water harvesting is going on to this day, so a former colleague tells me: it is the basis of agriculture in the Republic of Somaliland. So we can say that Roy Green and I did some good.

Andrew Seager: An Appreciation (and a Close Encounter) by Ali Ege Duali
Andrew Seager is a magnificent man. I just came across his reminiscence of the days he spent in Somaliland and his valuable contributions to the development of agriculture in Somaliland and his efforts to curb land degradation in the same. My cousin, Abdirahman Mohamed Ali, served as his assistant during Mr Seager’s tenure and his name has been a household name. My brother, Mohamed, was also trained as one of the tractor drivers during the farm extension project in Sheikh and Suuqsade areas of the territory. I am thrilled to see his reflections, first hand, of the successful project he led.

On the lighter side of things, I had an unforgettable encounter with one Mr Seager. As a young boy heading home (northwards) near the elementary school playgrounds at Sheikh town, accompanied by my mother, I saw a Humber vehicle coming racing down the road, pillowing dust as it came towards our direction. It probably came from Berbera and was to Sheikh town or Burao. Just being mischievous at my age of 7 or 8, I picked up a rock (large enough) and threw it into the path of the oncoming vehicle. The vehicle came to a screeching halt and those inside almost hit the dashboard. I saw the door of the vehicle open and out came a tall, white man wearing shorts and yelling 'choice' words. I took off towards the playgrounds and after me came this lanky figure billowing with fury. He could not come anywhere close to me as I was as fit as a gazelle. My mother screamed at him as he went past her running after me. He went back after a short futile sprint, to my relief. I was frightened. If he had been successful in his pursuit and caught up with me, I would have ..…ed in my pants!

Luckily, the co-rider of the vehicle happened to be my cousin, Abdirahman. He later emerged from the car and spoke to my mother. He sent severe admonishing words via her. The horror of a white man coming that close to catching me remained with me for many years to come. I disappeared whenever I saw a white man appear in the horizon. I thought they all knew about the calamity I caused one Andrew Seager. Other kids went for ‘Bakshiish’, whenever they encountered a white man. As for me, …Ah..Ah.. I hid myself from view. I was sure I would be recognized.

Andrew Seager and Roy Green organized an exhibition of agricultural products in Sheikh in 1959. I remember the bumper crops they initiated and the variety of agricultural produce from Borama, Gabiley, Hargeisa and Sheikh. It was a wonderful display of agricultural knowhow dissemination and general awareness for farmers. The ox-driven ploughs were particularly awe-inspiring. As a result of these gentlemen’s efforts every farmer harvested enough grain in maize and sorghum to last the family a couple more years - the last food security initiative in the territory. We are grateful to them for their efforts.

map of British Somaliland
1948 Somaliland Protectorate Map
Colony Profile
British Somaliland
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 104: October 2012


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