British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by J D Hunter-Smith, OBE, BSc Agric, AICTA
Safari - Old Style
Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture
I qualified in 1945 as an Associate of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (AICTA) and was then given the chance to state "country preference". I chose Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika in that order. I was "allocated" Tanganyika.

Safari - Old Style
SS Ile de France
After hanging around "on call" for about three months I received instructions to board the SS Ile de France, departing Southampton 12 November 1945. From the Crown Agents I received tickets to get to Morogoro, about 120 miles up-country from Dar es Salaam. There I was to report to the Department of Agriculture. The Crown Agents also referred me to a shop in Golden Square, near Piccadilly, to get fitted out, using my allowance, with such things as Bombay Bowler (sun helmet), safari bed, chair and table, mosquito net, mosquito boots, safari bath and Tilley lamp.


We reached Mombasa on 28 November. The troops on board - said to number 5,000 - were going on to Burma, and I, after two days by rail and road, reached Morogoro, in Tanganyika's Eastern Province.

Safari - Old Style
Morogoro Boma
I had assumed that the HQ of the Agricultural Department was in Morogoro, but on arrival there I had no success in reporting to it because (a) it happened to be Sunday and (b) the Director of Agriculture was based in Dar es Salaam. Thanks to a helpful telephone operator, I was put through to the Acting Provincial Agricultural Officer, Mr Krige. He kindly collected me with his pickup and conveyed me and my baggage to his house. The next day he recruited for me a cook and a houseboy and then took me to the government quarter which had apparently been reserved for the "new agricultural officer". The post had been vacant for some time. The house, which was just below the old German-built Boma, had two rooms and a veranda. There was a bath, fed from a 44-gallon oil drum beneath which a log fire could be made. The furniture, which I thought was more than adequate, included a water filter and a perforated galvanisedsheeted meat safe. Behind the house were the servant's quarters and kitchen.

Mr Krige also took me to what was to be my office and introduced me to Mr De Souza, the Clerk, who had kept the place ticking over for many months. He had attended to the payment of the 50 agricultural instructors out in the District and the gardeners at the small nursery which supplied fruit and ornamental plants to government schools. There was also a foreman responsible for the small farm which pre-war had been an experimental station but during the war was used solely for food production. To await my arrival Mr De Souza had piled files on my desk with many pages tagged: 'for attention'.

Foot Safari

Morogoro District comprised about 8,000 sq miles, mostly thinly populated tsetse fly-infested bush (pori). The production of cotton was encouraged as was the planting of cassava; a root crop useful in periods of famine. The tsetse, as the carrier of trypanosomiasis, saw to it that there were no cattle and that sleeping sickness in humans was endemic. In contrast, there was also within the District some 1,000 sq miles of the Uluguru Mountains densely populated and rising to 6,000 ft, below which was a belt of indigenous forest. In these fertile mountains, soil erosion was becoming a severe problem; not only for the people living there but also for the preservation of water supplies on which lower areas depended. It was in this fertile but rugged area that most of the 50 agricultural instructors were based.

Safari - Old Style
Mr Krige - who had just returned from secondment to Somaliland - told me I should go on safari as much as possible. He also showed me the ropes (so to speak) by taking me out to the south of the District for one night under canvas at Kisaki. The procedure for arranging a safari was to inform one of the senior instructors who came in at the end of each month that I had selected his area for a visit. Then using a Dodge pickup I duly arrived at the agreed starting place, complete with tent, cook and the cook's assistant (the "house boy"). I was entitled to have up to 20 porters. If all went well I would find them ready and waiting at trackside, having been procured by the local agricultural instructor and local chief. From the pickup the loads were allotted, eg tent divided into four or five head loads; centre portion (bedroom), rear portion (bathroom). front part (veranda). My safari table, chair, camp bed, bedding, mosquito net, small folding canvas bath, hurricane lamp, and food boxes were also put into head loads. I would follow the porters or take a different route with the agricultural instructor. Either way, if all went well, I would arrive at the night's stopping place to find the tent pitched and at a suitable distance a small choo dug.

In time - I must have done about 20 safaris like this - 1 found it best to get into camp by mid-day and for a safari to be for not more than 10 days. There was much to do back at base, besides which my provisions would be running low by then. On the other hand, my cook, Ramazani Mapocoro, was miraculous in keeping up the supply of bread even when we were on the move. Ramazani fortunately spoke no English. This was an advantage in my learning of Swahili, the lingua franca, which is easy to speak badly but difficult to speak well. In Tanganyika the recognised procedure was not to use an interpreter and these foot safaris offered much scope for learning the language quickly. Initially I took to read only my grammar and dictionary. Later I found that after sunset a good book was a blessing; on camp chair, feet on box, hurricane lamp at shoulder (but not too close because of insects attracted by the light), and enveloped in the many and varied background sounds.

But what was all this safari business in aid of? Did it do any good? There are some folk now who would say that it was just an example of exploitation. Instead of taking a tent and having all those porters why didn't I sleep in a native hut? But it is simplistic to apply to the past the standards of the present. Conditions were very different. As the overall objective was soil conservation, it can hardly be regarded as exploitation; in fact it was just the opposite.

In due course, under a Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme for the "Rehabilitation of the Uluguru Mountains", 50,000 pounds of UK taxpayers money was made available to help tackle the problem.

Soil conservation

Simply stated, the aim was to stop soil being carried off the land by rainfall. To this end the agricultural instructors demarcated contour lines along which grasses (eg Napier or Elephant grass) were to be planted. These "grass strips" had to be at appropriate vertical intervals and of reasonable width. If too far apart or too narrow they did not reduce the "run-off' adequately.

My job was to supervise and support the instructors and propagate the cause of soil conservation. We held many meetings (barazas), some quite small and some with the chief (Ndewa or Jumbe) present. The message was (a) plant grass strips, (b) do not encroach on the forest line, (c) plant a small plot of cassava (muhogo) as an insurance against the rains failing. There was no legal backing but the District Commissioner was supportive.

Safari - Old Style
Uluguru Mountains
Some farmers criticised "grass strips" because they occupied too much land and harboured pests. The steeper the slope the more these criticisms were justified. On very steep slopes a different practice was required, namely bench terracing which entails the cutting of steps down the hill along the contour and making sure that the top soil remains on top. We did some trials/demonstrations of bench terracing but it never took on, the basic trouble being the enormous input of labour required.

There are also various agronomic practices inherent in soil conservation. For example, maintaining the soil in good heart, with a good tilth, so that rainfall can seep in quickly. Also important is crop selection and rotation to ensure good soil cover at critical times.

The supreme method for controlling "run off' is to plant trees which could also supply much needed building poles and firewood. But the Waluguru had land tenure customs which inhibited tree planting and other perennial cropping. The right to land was usufruct; the person using it could claim it as long as he was using it. If he ceased to use it then his shamba could be reallocated. Therefore the planting of trees, or any perennial crop, implied perennial occupation and permanent removal of land from the common pool. By tribal custom such plantings were not permitted. Furthermore, the population pressure on the land entailed that priority be given to food crops. A further very important negative factor was the division of individual holdings into many small plots, often with long distances between them.

Such were the difficulties, and such was the manner of Safari - Old Style. I happened to catch the end of an era.

Tanganyika Map
Morogoro Map, 1958
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 93: October 2007


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