Home / 23 : NJORO — THE FINAL CHAPTER

23 : NJORO — THE FINAL CHAPTER

 At the Plant Breeding Station, many changes were also taking place. Giles Dixon, the Senior Plant Breeder had decided to retire early under the favourable compensation scheme negotiated for expatriate officers, and return to Britain. Pending the appointment of a substantative replacement, Michael Harrison, Senior Maize Research Officer from Kitale, and latterly Brian Dowker, a Plant Breeder from the Katumani Experimental station near Machakos acted in the post for varying periods. John Guthrie the Plant Pathologist eventually took over and was now designated Officer-in Charge of the station. The first African Plant Breeder, Festus Ogada had arrived to join the staff after graduating in the States. The senior staff was gradually being Africanized with the arrival of Messrs. Muruli, Ebagole and Waiyaki who supplemented the Plant Pathology and Plant Breeding teams.

In the country generally, the new African government was committed to a policy of Africanization not just in the civil service but various sectors of the economy. On the agricultural front, some two and a half million acres of land in the former White Highlands was still unallocated by the end of 1964. The settlement schemes drawn up earlier in respect of the first million acres had not proved successful. Its consequences affected the overall agricultural production which began to decline. Although the initial aim of Mzee Kenyatta’s government was to satisfy land hunger and resettle many of the landless Africans – a pledge that had been given after Uhuru, it did not take the Minister responsible long to find out that further fragmentation of the land into small units was not an economic solution. What was needed was large scale units which could at the same time be run on efficient lines. All this required money, and because of the lack of capital, many of the ambitious schemes had temporarily to be shelved. The million acres settlement scheme had alone cost some £23 million by 1965 but had resettled some 25,000 families. The Government’s policy was to go in for larger and more economic units, and the Agricultural Development Corporation, which was set up in 1965, was charged specifically with the organization of farming units during the transitional stage. Funds began to arrive from various sources including the Agricultural Finance Corporation, Land Bank of Kenya, International Development Agency (an agency of the World Bank). The aim was to increase productivity on small farms and a scheme designed by an Asst. Director of Agriculture, and appropriately named after him – the ‘Swynnerton Plan’, (which concentrated on the proper development of agriculture in the African areas) proved very popular. With the credit facilities made available through the Land Settlement Bank, a new breed of African farmers was lining up to buy land in the former White Highlands.

With the advent of Uhuru, many European farmers and some expatriate civil servants had decided to leave the country, despite assurances given and tributes paid to them by the new Prime Minister – Mzee Kenyatta himself.

I must admit that I personally had not given serious thought to the question of leaving Kenya, and was quite prepared to stay on as long as possible. There was not the slightest hint that my job as Executive Officer on the station was to be Africanized immediately. At one stage, the newly appointed Chief Research Officer at the Ministry, Dr. Njoroge, even asked me to spend some time at the Mtwapa Agricultural Station on the Coast, and help reorganize their stores ledgers and procedures, which had come in for some criticism from the Ministry’s auditors. It was gratifying to note that my efforts in this direction were much appreciated both at the Ministry and the local Agricultural Officer at Mtwapa.

Although many of my friends had decided to retire prematurely, I must say that the terms offered to Asian civil servants were far from favourable and there was a general feeling among the Asian officers at the time that we had been badly let down by the British Government – some of my European friends shared this view. We came to be known as the ‘Forgotten Men’, and a Goan Education Officer from Nairobi — who was also President of the Asian Civil Service Association – Robert Fernandes, emerged as our leader. He and his colleagues in the Association fought relentlessly, with some success, to obtain a better deal for the vast majority of Asians.

In June l965 , our second daughter, Pollyanna Clare was born — another beautiful girl, and a fitting completion to our family now,  Elsie was, on this occasion, able to have her baby in pleasant surroundings – at the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital which hitherto admitted Europeans only. Although everything went off well at the actual confinement, Elsie’s health began to deteriorate steadily. For this reason, we had arranged that the new baby be christened at home. We had many friends among the local missionaries, and one of the priests from Nakuru very kindly agreed to come and conduct the ceremony. Clyde and Andrew (who was also now away at school in Nairobi), and several of our relatives and friends attended the homely celebration that followed.

To provide some assistance for Elsie, we took on a full time ayah and were fortunate in securing the services of a young and attractive girl by the name of Mary. She had never worked before and had in fact come out from her reserve in the Nyanza Province. Her brother, who worked as a domestic servant on the station was very keen that she should work for us and get some training and experience.

Mary was a very neat and tidy person, always smartly turned out and with a pleasant nature. She seemed very happy with us and got on well with our cook Magama who was more like a father to her. He too was of tremendous help to us especially during the period immediately following Elsie’s discharge from hospital. He looked after her as he would his own daughter and we had absolute confidence and trust in him.

Following the departure of Giles Dixon and latterly Ken Lynch, many other changes took place at the station. Jim Crawford, who had been kept on much after I had taken over, found that the new African government were now accelerating the process of Africanization. His continued employment was not therefore possible, and his contract was accordingly terminated after due notice had been given. He and his family eventually left for the United Kingdom. The station also saw some other changes with the arrival of Dr. Rudy Petersen and Dr. Hannah from Canada as part of the Rockefeller Aid Scheme. Another Plant Breeder, Dr. Henry Enns, also from Canada, was brought in to supplement the Plant Breeding team. Dave Ensor, who was the Seeds Officer was replaced by Shashi Shah, a product of Egerton College. Shashi was a young man, full of drive and an abnormal amount of enthusiasm. He got on well with the local farmers. Others to join the station from Egerton College included Jimmy Pradhan, Mohamed Butt and Bernard Muruli.

Not long after returning from overseas leave, Felix Pinto had got married; his wife, Doreen, a doctor, was previously attached to the Aga Khan hospital at Mombasa. It was very nice having another married couple on the station. The only bachelor among the Goans was now Malachias  Da Costa, a Lecturer at Egerton College who, because of the housing shortage there, was temporarily housed at the Plant Breeding Station. Another family who were also housed on the station were Marty and Hannah Reid who had  recently arrived from the States. Marty lectured at Egerton College and both he and his wife became very good friends of ours, and proved of tremendous help on many occasions.

Africanization in the civil service had now started in real earnest; many of our friends had already left the country to return to Goa, while others had emigrated to the UK and Canada. Towards the latter half of 1965, I heard that there was a  move afoot to Africanize some of the Executive Officer posts within the Ministry of Agriculture. I was one of the early casualties! My initial reaction was one of disappointment especially since I had wanted to stay on and work in Kenya. I had not prepared myself for any move out of the country of my birth, nor for that matter made any plans as to what we would do if my post was one day Africanized. Here, I must pay tribute to my dear wife, Elsie who was quick to act. With the understandable aspirations of the Kenyan people and the Government’s declared policy of Africanization, the job prospects for someone in my position were not, at the time, bright, and with a very young family, we felt that it would be in their long-term interests if we moved to Britain. I was told that there would be no difficulty in my obtaining a job there. I was given ample notice of the Government’s intention to Africanize my post; in fact with the leave that was due to me and my notice period, I would be paid up right until the end of November, 1966. It is really amazing how quickly one can act in an emergency! Immediate plans were made and passages booked to the UK. Next was the job of disposing of all our surplus possessions and packing those essentials we would be taking with us. As most people in similar circumstances will have experienced, this is a time when you virtually have to ‘give away’ a lot of what has been accumulated. But for a few trunks containing our clothing, linen, etc., the only other bulky packages were the crates I had had made for the two elephant feet I was determined to take along. The cost of freight didn’t arise since the Government would be bearing the entire cost from Kenya to the UK port.

A few  weeks before our actual departure, a Plant Breeder had arrived from England. Coming out to Kenya on his first ever posting abroad, Dick Little was naturally pleased to have been sent to a station like Njoro. He never stopped talking about the ‘glorious weather’ and couldn’t understand why we were leaving all this to go to England!

Our last few months were pretty crowded socially since farewell parties had been organized by our many friends. We had arranged a farewell barbecue (which we appropriately called a Funga Safari evening) which was well attended. The days flew by all too quickly, but as yet the full impact of what was happening had not hit me. We were too much a part and parcel of Kenya to be torn away from her so suddenly. It was sad to be leaving behind a country and people we loved so dearly. With the exception of our eldest son Clyde, the rest of the family were far too young to appreciate what was going on. Perhaps this was just as well. Although he and Andrew might well be able to retain some memories of Kenya, Josey was too young to remember much, and as for Pollyanna, she was a mere babe who would be growing up in a wholly English environment.

Uprooting oneself from a country in which one had grown, and moving to pastures new was certainly a big wrench. Uhuru had no doubt brought about many changes – sadly, it had also displaced many families. There was no bitterness in our hearts -only sadness at having to leave this lovely land, many family members and the hundreds of friends of every race we had made during our stay in Kenya. Many were there to see us off at Nairobi’s Embakasi airport on the evening of June 10th 1966. Even our faithful cook Magama, had travelled down to Nairobi to bid us farewell. For him, it would be the end of a long and happy association with us – but we had promised to keep in touch.

As we boarded the steps of the East African Airways jet that was to fly us out to London via Entebbe and Rome, my parting words to this wonderful country and its people were – “Kwaheri ya Kuonana” (till we meet again)