National Geographic : 1950 Mar
Britain Tackles the East African Bush BY W. ROBERT MOORE IWith Illustrations from Photographs by the Author A KONGWA, in the interior of Tangan yika, where the British cleared land to plant peanuts I saw ocher-smeared Wagogo tribesmen leaning on their spears as snorting bulldozers ripped away acres of tan gled thornbush. Only tools these primitive herdsmen had ever used were the mattock and planting stick. Many had never seen a wheeled vehicle until the British brought in tractors, giant root cutters, and disk plows (page 332). At Jinja, at the outlet of Lake Victoria, I talked with engineers building a dam across the Nile. A huge project this, to furnish hydroelectric power for Uganda and make a vast reservoir for Egyptian irrigation (p. 327) .* Hippos Graze on Golf Course Not far away, tribal drummers beat ancient tom-toms throughout a three-day installation ceremony for a local chieftain. Here at Jinja, too, hoglike hippos waddle out of the lake and roam through gardens in town. One night we saw six munching grass on the golf-course fairways. In wet weather these two to three-ton beasts punch holes in the course. Should your ball land in a hippo footprint, club rules allow you to lift it out without penalty. In afternoons after office work ends in Nairobi, capital of Kenya Colony, many per sons hop in their cars and ride out to watch wild game feed. Big herds of zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, and other animals wander on the open plains of Nairobi National Park, just outside town. Some people even take along their after noon tea and picnic in their cars while they wait for the lions to come out of the wooded ravines at sundown. It is not surprising that East Africa should afford such striking contrasts. European in fluence here is still young. Although early 16th-century Portuguese traders, following Vasco da Gama's pioneer route around the Cape, built forts at Mombasa and other coast towns, they did not penetrate into the interior. Until a century ago no European had seen lofty Kilimanjaro, highest peak on the African Continent, or Mount Kenya. Yet Kilimanjaro's 19,565-foot iced volcanic cone stands only 175 miles from the coast. When the German missionaries Johannes Rebmann and Johann Ludwig Krapf returned from short trips inland from Mombasa and first reported sighting snow-capped equatorial mountains, no one would believe them (pages 338-9). The age-old mystery "Where is the source of the Nile?" was solved definitely in 1862 when the explorer John Hanning Speke found that its head reservoir was Lake Victoria (page 327). Nine years later (1871) Stanley met Liv ingstone at Ujiji, on the shore of Lake Tan ganyika. Not until the 1890's did Great Britain establish protectorates over the Uganda and Kenya territories. At that same time Ger many was asserting its dominance over Tan ganyika (then German East Africa), which after World War I became a British mandate, now a Trust territory. Kenya Capital Only 50 Years Old Fifty years ago Nairobi was only a railway encampment in no man's land between cattle raiding Masai and Kikuyu tribes. The railway then being built between Mom basa and Lake Victoria was projected as a highroad to Uganda. Except for its narrow coastal belt, Kenya was considered of little worth. Survey engineers roaming the high lands, however, found large areas of rich, almost empty land with a climate suitable to European cultivation. Look at those lands now-farms growing wheat and other grains, pyrethrum flowers, sisal; tea and coffee plantations and large wattle groves; and pastures for dairy herds, beef cattle, and sheep. Flying to Nairobi, we sped over these rolling, fertile highlands. Our route, too, crossed that mighty earth furrow, the Great Rift Valley, which slices north and south across East Africa. Lakes lie cupped on its floor and hills pile up on the edges of its escarpments. Below us as we flew were also round grass thatched huts, circular corrals for cattle and goats, and garden patches of bananas and corn of native tribes. A half hour before we reached Nairobi the pilot dipped the plane to signal our crossing *Place names in this article are located on the map supplement, "Africa," with this issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIIC MAGAZINE.