Nyasaland in 1920

from : South and East African Year Book and Guide, 26th edition, 1920, pp. 510, 512, 514, 515, 520, 527-528, 544-545a, 552, 556, 559, 560, 563, 564A, 566-567

Railway Regulations (p. 510)

Chindio, Port Herald and Shire Highlands Railway (Nyasaland) Regulations. The fares are 1st class 4 d. per mile, 2nd class 1 1/2 d. per mile, and 3rd class 1/2 d. per mile. Passenger trains run twice a week in each direction.

Postal Rates (p. 512)

Nyasaland (British Cantral Africa). - The rate for letters within the Nyasaland Protectorate, with which is included the British concession at Chinde, is 1 d. per oz.; for postcards, 1/2 d. each; newspapers, 1/2 d. each up to 2 oz.; printed matter, 1/2 d. per 2 oz.; samples, 1 d. for 4 oz. To the United Kingdom and British Colonies and Possessions participating in the Imperial Penny Postage Scheme, also Rhodesia and the Province of Mozambique, the rate is for letters, 1 d. per oz.; postcards, 1 d.; newspapers 1 d. each up to 2 oz.; printed matter, 1 d. per oz. To other countries, letters 3 d. per oz.; postcards, 2 d.; book packets and newspapers, 1 d. per 2 oz.; samples, 1 d. per 4 oz.

Languages (p. 514)

In Nyasaland the prevalent tongue is Nyanga (sometimes called Manganja or Chi-Nyasa), which belongs to the Bantu group.

Education (p. 515)

Nyasaland. - At the end of 1918 there were 2,038 native schools, with an average attendance of 44,579 boys and 30,860 girls. There is an annual Government grant of L 1,000, divided between ten Missionary Societies.

History of Nyasaland (p. 520)

The earliest records date from 1618, when Jesper Bocarro, a Portuguese explorer, passed through the country. In 1795, a Portuguese mission under Dr. Lacerda was despatched from the East coast with a view to linking up the Eastern territories with Angola; but, owing to the death of the leader at Lake Mweru, the expedition failed in its object. In 1859, Dr. Livingstone came to Lake Nyasa, which he named, travelling thence to Lake Tanganyika. The Livingstone Mission was founded in 1874, and two years later Blantyre became the headquarters of the Church of Scotland Mission. From this last evolved a small trading and transport company known as African Lakes Company which extended its operations to Karonga, on the North shore of Lake Nyasa, and built thence the Stevenson Road connecting Nyassa with Lake Tanganyika. This proved of greatest importance in checkmating the exorbitant German claims put forward in 1890. Arab encroachments in the Konde country led to fighting with the Colonists which lasted through 1887-88-89 and entailed the successful defence of Karonga. Yet the fine Konde uplands were subsequently surrendered to Germany. The Arabs, who claimed to represent the Sultan of Zanzibar gave further trouble and peace was not finally established until 1897 after several years of desultory fighting.
During the prresent war, General Northey's column was based on Nyasaland; the Blantyre road was continued to Forth Johnstone, on the Lake, by means of which men and stores were conveyed by motor lorries from the rail head to the lake steamers.

Climate (p. 527-528)

Nyasaland (British Central Africa). - A careful study of Sir Harry Johnston's report on British Central Africa (Nyasaland), which includes that portion of the B.S.A. Co.'s Territory lying north of the Zambesi, shows that European settlers are at a disadvantage in these latitudes and further to the north unless residing at a height of at least 3,500 feet above the sea. The tsetse fly is common in Nyasaland almost everywhere up to an altitude of 3,000 feet. An average elevation of 7,000 feet is attainable on the Nyika plateau over an area of about 1,250 square miles; on the Mlanje over an area of some 60 square miles; on a portion of the Zomba plateau, which is much smaller, and in a few parts of Angoni-land.
The Mlanje plateau, where the average rainfall is about 75 inches, is habitable by Europeans over an area of some 200 square miles altogether. The mean altitude of the 200 square miles is of course less than that of the 6o square miles mentioned above. The ground is level or slightly undulating and offers good opportunities to the agriculturalist.
Some of these plateaus are gifted with a very fine though somewhat chilly climate, and apparently may best be compared with situations in the Northern part of South America, where it must be remembered that large populations exist, for instance, at Bogota, with some 150,000 inhabitants, 9,000 feet above the sea.
The seasons in Nyasaland are well-defined, the dry season extending from May to October, and the wet from November to April. The heaviest rains fall in January and February. The rainfall does pnot seem to exceed 75 inches anywhere and in certain parts is less than half that amount. The unhealthiest months are January, when most rain falls; May, the drying season; and July, when the cold winds begin.
When British Nyasaland has been placed, as will eventually be the case, in direct railway communication with the coast at Beira, the passage up the Zambesi Valley, with its risks of fever, will become unnecessary.
For further information the reader is referred to the excellent Hand Book of Nyasaland published by the government printer at Zomba. Somewhat out of date but still valuable are Sir Harry Johnston's reports, which are accompanied by elaborate and excellent maps (Political, Agricultural, Orographical, Rainfall, Population and Proprietary), (Africa No.6, 1894, and No.5, 1896).

Area, Population and Resources. Nyasaland (pp.544-545A)

Nyasaland. (known as the British Central Africa Protectorate until 1907). The Nyasaland Protectorate is bounded by the Songwe River and the former German Colony on the North and North-West, by the Chartered Company's Territory on the West, and by Portuguese East Africa on the South-West, South and South-East. To it belongs the whole of the Western and Southern shores of Lake Nyasa and the Western shore of Lake Shirwa.
It is under the control of a Governor, assisted by Executive and Legislative Councils, nominated by the Crown (1907 Order in Council) with headquarters at Zomba in the Shire Highlands.
The total area is 39,315 sq. miles, and the population, in 1918, was 715 whites, 422 Asiatics, and 1,228,579 natives, among the latter is a great preponderance of females (667,917 to 560,662 males).
The birth rate among Europeans for 1918 was 32.2 per mil; death rate 20.97. The population per square mile is 31.04.



L 76,738

L 108,792

There is a public debt of L 192,000, exclusive of local war indebtedness, placed at L 772,100.
The chief source of revenue is a hut tax of 8 s. per annum levied on all owners of huts, but provided a native can show that he has worked during one month for a white employer this amount is reduced to 4 s.
The recent revenue increase is due to the considerable military forces which have passed through the country.

Posts and Telegraphs. - Twenty-six post offices have been opened over an area extending from Ort Herald on the Lower Shire to Karonga on the North of Lake Nyasa, the last being the exchange office for Lake Tanganyika, the Congo Free State, etc.
. Telegraphic communication, in addition to the wires along the railway to Chindio, has been established from Chikwawa, a point on the Shire some 150 miles above its junction with the Zambesi, with Umtali, via Tete, and has been carried on via Blantyre, Zomba and Fort Johnston, to Kota-Kota, 263 miles N. of Blantyre, on the Western shore of Lake Nyasa, thence to the North of the Lake, and on to South Tanganyika and Ujiji. There is also a branch line to Fort Jameson (N. Rhodesia).
Banking facilities are provided by the Standard Bank and by the National Bank of S.A., the latter have purchased the banking business of the African Lakes Corporation. Post Office Savings Banks have also been opened at Zomba, Blantyre and Port Herald. Monetary transactions are carried on in British sterling.

Imports and Exports (excluding goods in transit and specie) : -



L. 111,783

L. 97,504


L. 181,387

L. 182,413

The largest Imports are soft goods, provisions, hardware and vehicles. The largest Exports are tobacco, cotton, tea, rubber, beeswax, fibre and coffee. 87.5 per cent. of Exports went to the United Kingdom; 5 per cent. to British Possessions, and 7.5 per cent. to foreign countries.
Customs duties are levied at the rate of 10 per cent. ad valorem (alcohol 15 s. per gal.); free importation is allowed of practically all articles used for agricultural purposes, also of passenger's baggage.
Cotton, tobacco, tea, rubber, coffee, sugar, ground nuts, oil seeds, fibre, and nearly all vegetables, including celery, thrive. Cotton of exceptionally good quality is being extensively grown and seed has been freely distributed to the natives by the Government, with the object of encouraging the industry. Nyasaland Upland Cotton fetches a higher price than any other upland cotton in the market. Tobacco comes first in importance, whilst coffee, at one time the chief article of export, is now grown over a very reduced area, but tea is doing well in S.E. Mlanje. For further information see under "Cotton", "Tobacco" etc.
Sheep thrive throughout the Protectorate and cattle in those parts which are free of the tsetse fly. The estimated number of sheep in 1916 was 34,690 and of cattle 91,412. Horses do not do well as a rule.
Some reference to the forests will be found under the article on "Timber". Ebony, indiarubber, bamboo, cypress, mahogany, etc., thrive in certain districts and various fibrous plants are found in the lower parts of the country.
Between Chiromo and Chikwawa and on the N.W. shore of Lake Nyasa, beds of coal of good average quality have been discovered; graphite of excellent grade has been found in the North, and deposits of mica have been worked in the Central Districts.

A curious effect of the war has been the revival of the old native iron smelting industry, due to the difficulty of getting native hoes from England.

Natives. - The original inhabitants of the Shire Highlands were the Anyanja, whose tribal mark is four incisions behind the eyes. A docile and unwarlike race, they suffered much from the incursions of the Yao from the north, with whom, however, they have intermingled in marriage. The Angoni were formerly members of the Zulu Confederation under Chaka, and their expulsion about the year 1825 and subsequent march northward profoundly affected the regions around Lake Nyasa. Few of this warlike race are now to be found in the Shire Highlands, but many bastard and debased offshoots of the tribe live within the Protectorate.

Labour (pp.552)

In Nyasaland native labour is by no means too plentiful, but the standard of intelligence is generally higher than even that commonly found in Uganda. Farm boys are paid from 4 s. to 6 s. per month. House boys, 6 s. to 15 s. Cooks, 10 s. to 30 s.

Acquisition of Land (pp.556)

Nyasaland. - The total acreage is 25,161,924 of which 21,324,560 remained ungranted in 1918. In 1917-18 4,903 were sold or leased, sale prices ranging from 7 s. 6 d. to 20 s., and rentals from 1s. to 1 s. 10 d.
The British Central Africa Company has in hand what is likely to prove a most successful scheme for settling demobilized soldiers on their estates in the hill districts of Nyasaland. Candidates have been very carefully chosen, capital being reckoned of secondary importance in comparison with character and ability. A three-year training on salary is provided. There are no vacancies at present.

Tobacco (pp.559)

In Nyasaland, Virginia is a staple product. The area under tobacco in 1918 was 9,516 acres. The export for 1916-17 was 4,304,124 lbs.; for 1917-18, 2,179,774 lbs.

Coffee (pp.560)

Nyasaland has been a producer since 1894, but the fortunes of the planters have varied considerably, owing in part to the fluctuations in the coffee market and partly to droughts. The maximum output was reached in 1900 with 2,148,160 lbs. from 12,191 acres, but in 1918 only 1,237 acres were under coffee. The export in 1909-10 was 748,410 lbs; in 1917-18, 2,774 lbs.
Good coffee land is valued at 10 s. per acre. The plants run small and are planted at intervals of 4 by 5 feet, or about 2,100 plants to the acre. The plantation takes about three years before coming into bearing.

Cotton (pp.563)

Upland, cotton grown in Nyasaland has realised higher prices than any other similar cotton in the market and flourishes at an elevation of from 1,000 to 3,000 feet. It is the main European crop and in a few years time the export should reach important dimensions. The last returns are adversely influenced by lack of freight.
In 1909-10, the acreage cultivated under European supervision was 8,975 and the export 2,147 bales of 400 lbs. each. In 1910-11, the figures were 12,752 and 4,342 respectively. In 1917-18, the acreage was 28,372 and the export 2,423 bales; in addition, 121 tons of seed cotton were gathered by natives.

Rubber (pp.564A)

In Nyasaland the acreage under rubber in 1916 was 6,776 of which 4,718 were Ceara. The acreage decreased the following year to 6,120 acres, and to 5,580 in 1918.
The export of plantation rubber in 1915-16 was 46,002 lbs., and in 1917-18, 61,806 lbs.

Timber and Forest (pp.566-567)

In Nyasaland the most valuable trees are the Mlanje Cedar and Mbawa or African Mahogany (Khaya Senegalensis) which are used for building and cabinet making. The Raphia and Hyphoene are among the indigenous plants.
The Mlanje Cedar (widdringtonia Mlanje) is one of the few conifers indigenous to South Africa. It grows to 150 feet in height with a diameter of 6 feet near the ground, and yields good, soft, anti-proof timber with a pleasant scent, which does not crack. Its survival in the Selinda Forest in Melsetter and locally in Mosambique, is one of the curiosities of South Africa. In British East Africa it is not hardy below 7,000 feet.
For more information see Government Reports on the subject of forestry.

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Last revised on February 13th 2002

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