Thika Produce and Traders Supply directors in 1951. These men, now deceased, watered the trees of entrepreneurship long before uhuru. [PHOTO: COURTESY OF JOSEPH KIMURA]
Forgotten green gold that helped Murang’a elbow Kiambu out of Nairobi
How did entrepreneurs from Murang’a (or Fort Hall) come to dominate Nairobi, elbowing out Kiambu businessmen, who were much closer?
The first suspicion would be politics, but that can’t be — Kiambu was more politically connected and has given us two presidents. The reason might surprise you. Wattle trees! This was the first cash crop introduced in Murang’a and surrounding regions in the early part of the last century to stop the destruction of the natural forest and, at the same time, make money for the wazungu settlers. Wattle bark produces tannin, which is used in the leather industry. The rest of the tree makes good charcoal, and can be used in making adhesives, dye, corrosion inhibitors and pharmaceutical products, as well as preserving ropes and nets. Wattle trees provided locals with money for building schools, educating children, fixing roads and building mud houses (instead of the traditional ones that used expensive off-cuts from indigenous trees).
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