by Andrew Seager
(Agricultural Officer, Somaliland 1951-59, Northern Rhodesia 1959-60)
Remembering Agricultural Development in Somaliland
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?”
“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.
(Originally published by OSPA 104: 0october 2012)
(Presently copied from The British Empire Colonial Profile, Somaliland protectorate (Remembering Agriculture Development)
Andrew Seager: An Appreciation (and a Close Encounter) by Ali Ege Duale
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 heading towards 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 swung 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 aw-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. We knew A. Seager quite well in Sheikh and vicinity and forever indebted.
On 1 Jul 2017, at 19:39, ali duale <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:</email@example.com>
I was surprised to see the article written by Andrew Seager on the agricultural development project he worked on during Somaliland’s colonial period. He was known to my family and I hereby wish to express our gratitude to him.
I am Ali Ege Duale, who is from Somaliland and who now lives in Toronto, Canada.
(pse see attached)
Dear Ali Duale,
Thank you very much for your kind email. I have passed on your information to OSPA who may have contact details for Andrew and or his family. I will let you know if there is any success. In the meantime, I would be delighted to add your appreciation below his article on the website. It is so nice to read about the impact made by these people who are often sadly ignored or even ridiculed for their efforts. It is very kind of you to put your experience into words.
I have written a letter to Stephen Luscombe, British Empire Archives, and my gratitude remarks regarding Mr Andrew Seager, an officer in charge of the Agricultural Projects of Somaliland Protectorate (1951-59) and who introduced the ubiquitous water catchments(Moos) throughout somaliland farms areas, who not only printed my remarks but expressed sincere gratitude and forwarded it to the OASP. Mr. Seager is well known among the old generation including Suldan Mohamoud Ahmed Sheikh, whose father also worked as a senior officer in the DNR before his coronation as Sultan, and also Sultan Mohamed Mohamoud Xandulle, who too worked as an apprentice in the Forestry department during the same period. Most senior among the notables with which Mr Seager worked is Mohamoud Haji Warsame(Bag), a former assistant minister of agriculture, who is among those inspired by Mr Seager’s initiatives and who became an agriculture expert in curbing land denudation and who later developed land management schemes. Mr Seager, if alive, would be at an advanced age and all these notables would share our sincere thanks and gratitude.
Abdirahman Mohamed Ali who was among those killed by the South Somalia Siad Barre Forces, after he has been rounded up along with many nomads at Sheikh(near Hudisa). The massacre of these people has become rampant throughout the Somaliland territory and exemplified Barre’s heinous crimes. The bodies were laid out for the vultures to prey on and were refused burial in an attempt to plant fear in the hearts of the local population. Abdirahman was arrested at his farm engaged in his live long passion for agriculture producing fruit and vegetables after his retirement from public service in the early seventies. Abdirahman’s agricultural experience has its roots in the inspiration he obtained by working along a dedicated and keen agriculturist, Mr. Andrew Seager, and later the further education he obtained from seminars and training workshops overseas including the USA at Nebraska.