“Gentlemen”, said the major raising a glass during the Wednesday bridge game,“Today I planted the millionth tea tree.”
“God Bless!” cried the Bishop.*
* Maverick memories of Major Trevor Price, from Professor Imre Loeffler’s autobiography
Ndali Estate is owned privately by the Price/Sturdy families with a history in Uganda through their English grandfather, Major Trevor Price, since the 1920s. Travelling down from Cairo in a Model T Ford, Major Price’s aim was to grow tea – at the time a scarcely developed crop in Uganda. He planted a string of tea shambas north and south of Fort Portal and in the early 1960s he bought Ndali in the Kingdom of Toro – but the soil proved too alkaline for tea and the estate was left to grow wild.
Major Price built schools, football pitches and clinics in the villages adjoining his shambas and sponsored scores of children through school.
He developed a close relationship with the King of Toro (the Omukama) whose regalia he risked hiding after the suppression of the four hereditary kingdoms by President Milton Obote in 1967.
Later, in the early 70s, his land was confiscated by General Amin when all Asians and Europeans were expelled from Uganda.
In 1991 the new government led by President Museveni invited all dispossessed foreign landowners to reclaim their land. Major Price’s son, Mark, took up the invitation and started building Ndali Lodge. When Mark died unexpectedly in 1998, his niece Lulu Sturdy, then a furniture maker in Oxfordshire, took on the farm and his son, Aubrey, the lodge.
Lulu experimented with pyrethrum, chillis, rice and coffee before realising vanilla was the crop that would rejuvenate Ndali, and embrace whole communities of farmers in the process.