By AMIN JAFFER
Photo Credits: Amin Jaffer Collection (1968, Arusha Visit) and
Shiraz Nasser Collection (1968, Egerton College Visit)
[Editor’s Note: Amin Jaffer’s last photo piece for Barakah was a magnificent collection of Rare photos of Prince Aly Khan’s visit to Arusha, Tanzania in 1951. This new piece by him has photos and images of Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s visit to Arusha in 1968 as well as three images supplied by Toronto’s Shiraz Nasser of the Prince’s visit to Egerton College in Kenya. We sincerely thank Amin for preparing this entire piece, and appreciate the contribution made by Shiraz Nasser by submitting his collection of photos. We invite our readers around the world to share their own historical collection of photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and enriching the collection in this website. Please write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; we will respond immediately.]
As the African nations were gaining independence in the early sixties, it was increasingly apparent that the heydays of “dukawallas” (shop owners) was in decline. This was predominantly the livelihood of the Ismaili Jamats in East Africa.
There was anxiety and stresses in our community with the emerging new leadership in the government, new policies and lot of uncertainties.
The guidance for the Jamat at that critical time of inflection was diversification and forming cooperatives, limited liability companies, venturing into small scale industries, farming, food processing, tourism etc.
This write-up focusses on the agriculture aspect of that time, which is not well known to many members of our Jamat.
Many Ismaili farms were purchased after 1966. This coincided also with emphasis and encouragement for Ismaili students to study at the Egerton Agricultural College, Njoro Kenya, when in 1961, it opened its doors to all citizens, instead of whites only as was the case before.
As of 1971, there were probably 227 Ismaili farms in Tanzania alone, with a total farming acreage of over 178,835 acres owned by 507 shareholders.
The Aga Khan Territorial Council appointed Regional Agriculture Committees to help the farmers with a Territorial Agriculture Committee based in Arusha in charge of Regional Committees.
In early 1967, Industrial Promotion Services hired Mr. McCall as Agriculture Promotion Officer.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s visit to Arusha
In 1968, Prince Amyn Mohamed visited East Africa and toured some of the farms in Northern Tanzania to get a better understanding of our Ismaili farming community.
In 1969, Prince Amyn Muhammad engaged an American Company to do a thorough survey of our farms in the country and make recommendations to help our farmers.
During his visit to Arusha in 1968, Prince Amyn graciously agreed to meet the farmers, their families and the Agriculture Committee in a gathering on Mr. Fatehali Nathoo’s farm in Oljoro, just few miles out of Arusha.
This gathering in an intimate setting went very well. The same evening the members of Agriculture Committee had a privilege of a private meeting with the Prince in Arusha Hotel. The writer served as the Secretary of the Agricultural Committee and was fortunate to be in the group that met the Prince.
During the meeting Price Amyn listened to the concerns and suggestions very attentively and asked many questions. His humbleness and patience during this meeting really touched the hearts of everyone present.
We presented him a copper tray with a map of Africa carved on it. Several miniature animals that had been well preserved by a taxidermist were also presented to him. The following day Prince Amyn went to visit a few more farms with Mr. McCall and Badru Eboo Pirbhai before departing for Nairobi with Mr. Pirbhai.
It is quite likely that after departing Arusha for Nairobi, Prince Amyn next visited Egerton College in Njoro, near Nakuru. The photos of the visit of Prince Amyn at the Egerton College have been provided by Shiraz Nasser, Class of 1967 of Egerton College.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s Visit to Egerton College
“I was pleased to find out how seriously you were all taking your studies and was most gratified to learn from the principal of Egerton College that some of you are amongst the very best students at Egerton. I wish to congratulate you on these fine results and I hope you will continue to do us all credit.” – Prince Amyn Aga Khan
The first Ismaili student from Mombasa joined Egerton College in 1961, followed by four other pioneer students, including the writer, who received bursaries awarded by the Saleh Mohamed Haji Trust of Kenya (administered by Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust).
It was expensive to study at this prominent and fine institution for learning Agriculture, perhaps one of the best in the continent.
More scholarships became available directly from the respective Aga Khan Departments of Education of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Other Ismaili students came to study through Government scholarships of their respective countries and some came to study on their own accord.
According to Kamrudin Rashid, as at April 1973, the Aga Khan Department of Education for Tanzania alone, sponsored a total of 63 students at Egerton College, Njoro. Mr. Rashid, who began his service with Ismaili Imamat institutions in the 1950’s, visited Njoro twice between 1966-1975. The progress of Ismaili students was followed guardedly and reports were submitted to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, of their progress.
The initial diploma courses offered by the college were in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry but soon blossomed into other specific fields such as Agricultural Engineering, Dairy Technology, Range Management and Forestry. A total of approximately 137 students studied at the college. The last batch of Ismaili students was in Class of 1974.
The Egerton College Jamatkhana was accorded an official status by the Kenya Aga Khan Ismaili Council and Jamati and Baitul Khyal Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs were appointed every year. The students actively participated in both morning and evening prayers. They had tremendous support from the Nakuru Jamat which was the closest town to the College, some 16 miles away. In 1966, Mawlana Hazar Imam accepted a Mehmani from the College Jamat in Nakuru and gave guidance to them for their studies.
Today, Egerton College is a full-fledged University and offers post graduate programs in many different fields beyond Agriculture, such as Commerce, Health Sciences, Education and Community studies, Law, Arts and Social Sciences. Some of the alumni from Canada, USA and UK visited their former college, this summer, after having studied there over five decades ago to, re-connect with their former institution. Barakah is pleased to include a PDF file celebrating the 41st Egerton graduation ceremony that took place very recently. The special newsletter edition includes reminiscences by three Ismailis – Sadru Nazarali, Shiraz Shariff and Shiraz Nasser – who all studied at the fine institute.
While some of the early Egerton graduates went for further studies, many joined family and group farms, Government Agencies, Research Laboratories, Dairy Processing, Poultry Farms, and farming related businesses.
As I did in with my previous two contributions to this website, I would once more urge readers to go through their own archives and albums of photographs, and seek out khajanas (treasures) of rare and historical photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family, and contact the editor of Barakah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date posted: December 22, 2019.
Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.
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About the contributors
Born in Mbulu and raised in Arusha, Tanzania, Amin Jaffer pursued his studies in agriculture at Kenya’s renowned Egerton College, where he graduated in the class of 1964. He then worked in the Plant Pathology Lab at the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute near Arusha before migrating to Canada in 1974 where he decided to establish a career in the photographic field. He now lives in Edmonton. He takes a very keen interest in locating and collecting rare and historical photographs of the Ismaili community, especially those relating to His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family. His most recent photo pieces for this website are Jan Karmali Photo Collection and Prince Aly Khan’s 1951 visit to Arusha.
Shiraz Nasser is a recipient of the Ontario Volunteer Service Award for his 30+ years of community service that include his varied voluntary roles in the Ismaili community. He has been a fundraiser for the Aga Khan University in Karachi and Focus Humanitarian Assistance, an assistant convenor for Bait-ul-Ilm for Ontario, a consultant as a site designer for the Greater Toronto Jamatkhanas, as well as a mentor to Ismaili youth. Shiraz has long had a passion for learning about the world, in particular about history, politics and Islam. We encourage readers to read his excellent Diamond Jubilee tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan.