I had seen the writing on the wall since 1961 as far as the future for white members of the PA after Independence was concerned and I realised that Independence could not be far off. I wanted to stay in Zambia after Independence and I also wanted to use my degree in Economics. On September 1964 I was offered an economist’s post in the Ministry of Finance in Lusaka, in a newly created Central Planning Unit that eventually morphed into the Office of National and Planning. I remained there until 1970, eventually leaving because it had become full of zealously minded bureaucrats from Eastern Europe who were form-fillers rather than economists.
I left to form a farming company with Guy Scott (Zambia’s ex-Vice President). This was Walkover Estates and from the start we wanted to pioneer the export of horticultural products by air to Europe. Of course, our bread and butter came from producing mass consumption produce for the local market such as tomatoes, potatoes and onions. For export we chose to produce an Israeli variety of small melon and varieties of strawberry developed in California. Guy developed the technology for growing these exotic crops while I did the nitty-gritty of ensuring we had the supplies, not easy in the years 1970-75 when imports were rationed and foreign exchange very scarce to purchase packaging materials, etc. Guy was a brilliant innovator both in the choice of the right varieties of new high value crops, but also in developing spray regimes to keep them alive in the rainy season, and making the high performance spraying equipment.
I left Zambia at the end of 1975 because one of my sons developed very bad asthma every rainy season that could only be controlled by steroids. On our doctor’s advice we returned to the temperate climate of Britain where he remained free of this affliction for the next four years. I was very fortunate in immediately finding a flow of consultancy jobs, first with the World Bank and then with a private consultancy firm in London. The owner of the firm offered my a half-share in his business after I had been there for about a year. Possibly this was because I was able to develop agricultural consultancy work in Africa, and especially in Zambia where we won the contract to start the Mpongwe Development Project, with Guy Scott as the first Project Manager. After five years it became the Mpongwe Development Corporation for which I raised $10 million from international investors such as the International Finance Corporation and the CDC, making it the single largest agricultural investment in Zambia since Independence.
There were other agricultural projects in Zambia that our company was responsible for and I still had my interest in Walkover Estates and a sister company involved in pig production called Trotover Ltd. So I was in the enviable position of retaining my connections with Zambia while being able to be based in Britain where my children completed their schooling begun in Lusaka.
I and my family owe so much to Zambia and its people; our four children were born there, went to Woodlands Primary School where they received a good education, and we made many friends, both Zambian and expatriate, who remain friends to this day.