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Several American cotton experts were engaged and were instructed to make a survey of the Gambia, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, southern Nigeria and northern Nigeria. The reports of these experts confirmed all that the West Coast merchants had stated. Cotton was indigenous in every colony. The soil and the climate was in each case suitable and with the exception of the Gold Coast, where the gold mines drained the labor, ample, cheap and in some respects efficient labor was available. In every case the natural conditions were such as to justify the Association in looking upon these colonies as promising cotton fields. Subsequently it was decided that competitive products in Sierra Leone and the small area of the Gambia were limiting influences which would, in the two sections named, tell against cotton being produced to any large degree.
It was to Lagos and Nigeria that the efforts of the Association were directed. Much experimental work required to be done. Tha native types of cotton were found to be of a Peruvian class with a brownish cast. In a few places cotton of a whiter and smoother quality was found, but generally speaking, the native cotton was not of a character which commended itself to the Lancashire trade.
The council of the British Cotton Growing Association decided that it was of the utmost importance that all undesirable types should be eliminated from West Africa and that a class should be grown suited to our needs. To this end the energies of the Association have been consistently directed. Probably for centuries, succeeding generations of Africans have been planting in a haphazard and promiscuous fashion the cotton seed which came into their hands. Cotton was cotton, and whether good or bad from a white man's standpoint, it was all equally valued by the native.
To instruct the native in relative values and simultaneously give him confidence in the Association, to establish seed farms for the selection of cotton types and the development of hybrids, and to erect ginneries so as to secure full control of the seed were duties which the Association undertook to carry through. Surely no light task. English, scientifically trained agriculturalists were sent out to Lagos and Nigeria, and they have laid the foundations upon which a great industry will undoubtedly be built.
Briefly put, the Association came to the conclusion that, whether planted in West Africa or in any other part of the world, cotton of any variety other than Sea Island, must necessarily be a black man's crop. The return per acre is not sufficient to adequately remunerate white men.
The idea of purchasing estates, although land at a nominal price could be secured, and endeavoring to run them at a profit was definitely set aside. I believe it is a truism of the black man as of other sections of humanity, that he works best when he is his own employer. When this decision was come to, it was fully realized that the Association was putting aside the possibility of making a quick movement but on the other hand, it was also seen, that, if the natives could be got to take an active interest in the work, the field of effort would be of a gradually widening character and whatever success was achieved would rest on a permanent basis. To secure the confidence of the natives, agents of the Association visited the most important centres of population and promised that a market should be found for all cotton tendered and that the price would be two cents per pound for seed cotton. The oflicers of the government in many cases accompanied the agents of the Association and verified the accuracy of the declaration.
A small ginnery was also established at a place called Aro, to deal with any cotton the natives of that district might have by them and also to demonstrate the fact that the Association was not a mere paper one. As previously stated, the cotton which the natives tendered in these early days, was not exactly the type required. Whilst it was strong and usable, a reddish cast with which it was tinged reduced its value. The first seed farm was therefore established in connection with the ginnery at Aro and for the past four years selected native cottons and hybrids of many descriptions have been experimented with. The lines
followed have been almost identical with the system developed with so much success by the State of Mississippi.
The council of the Association, again in this matter, agreed that rapidity of movement should be sacrificed in order that efforts to improve quality should not be wasted. It was agreed that the colonies should be emptied of all cotton seed of poor types. In order to accomplish this a monopoly of cotton ginning was necessary. This has been arranged and ginneries have been established at several points. Photographs of these establishments which are herewith presented, will illustrate, perhaps more effectually than what I say, the progress the Association has made.
The Marlborough ginnery at Ibaden which was opened last year and is capable of dealing with 12,000 bales per year, embraces in its equipment all the best features of American plants and also a gin compress superior to any other existing arrangement. The Alfred Jones ginnery at Oshogbo opened in February this year, is built on lines similar to the Marlborough but is double its size.
Cotton of whatever type tendered at the ginneries, has been accepted and paid for and selected seed given to the natives to enable them to plant for the succeeding season. The results speak for themselves :
in bales of 400 pounds each.
It may be here stated that by using an automatic feeding and weighing arrangement all the bales are made to an exact 400 pounds standard and are pressed to a density of 32 pounds per cubic foot.
It may not appear to American go-ahead spinners that much has been accomplished. We, on this side, however, are quite satisfied. The progress made has been quite as rapid as the most sanguine supporters of the British Cotton Growing Association anticipated.
The fact that 10,000 bales of cotton have been grown in one season is reasonable proof that the soil and climate is suitable, and we are now entitled to measure up, in any ordinary way, the future prospects.
First then, with regard to Quality. The experiments carried through have shown that certain native types can be so trained as to produce a most desirable class of cotton.
The progress made in this direction is well shown by the comparative prices realized for African cotton in 1905 as compared with 1907. In 1905 the bulk of the cotton brought to Liverpool was sold on the basis of Middling American.
During 1907 the greater portion of the crop has realized from 30 points on to 300 points on Middling American, thus showing that from a quality standpoint a marked improvement has been effected.
Quantity. — So far, the work of the Association has been confined mainly to a narrow strip of land running alongside the railway from Lagos to Ibaden, a distance of 120 miles. Lack of transport facilities prevented a wider movement. Head carriage with 60 pound bundles has been the only method generally available for getting produce from interior points. In addition to this the palm oil and ground nut industries are competitive in the area the Association has so far operated in.
. The Association has steadfastly refused to open up stations in outlaying districts. Under these conditions the 10,000 bales secured last year must be looked upon as a marvellous result.
Beyond Ibaden, there is a tract of country equal in area to more than one-third of the possible cotton growing field of the United States. There is no competitive industry. The natives numbering fifteen millions, after centuries of inter-tribal warfare, are settling down to the one industry they understand, that of agriculture. Of cotton itself they have some knowledge. I have heard a Government officer who has been up to Kano, the commercial centre of this country and which is, by the way, a black man's town of over 100,000 inhabitants, declare that thousands of bales of native grown cotton are marketed, spun and woven
The British government has now decided that this country shall be provided with proper transport facilities.
Sir l'ERCY GIVOUARD, the high commissioner of northern Nigeria, is even now getting up the materials for the construction of a railway from the Niger to Kano. Simultaneously the Lagos railway is being pushed forward with all speed, and two district arteries will shortly be available for the discharge of the products of Nigeria. The British Cotton Growing Association is ready to follow up the work it has begun and to make the most of the vast field opening up to view. I do not think it is an undue optimism which looks for an increase in the production of African cotton in a regularly increasing ratio, until we have an annual production .of 5,000,000 bales. What the natural price of this product will be it is difficult to determine. At the moment the usual proportion of lint to seed cotton is approximately 30 per cent. The price which the Cotton Growing Association pays, and which the native looks upon as an adequate return for his labor is, as already stated two cents per pound of seed cotton. Taking buying expenses into account the price of clean lint is approximately eight cents per pound. This assumes that the value of the seed will equal the ginning costs. As the industry widens, it may be possible to vary the price in accord with market values. The Cotton Association is familiarising the natives with currency and he is a bold man, indeed, who is prepared to argue that the African on his native heath will not make as great a success of cotton growing in the future years, as his cousin of the United States of America has done in the past.
The following illustrations show the buildings in the districts referred to in the foregoing paper.