September 1969 - March 77


Soil Surveyor

Central Nigeria Project (CNP)


Check on WOSSAC

This project, undertaken by the Land Resources Division (LRD) of the Ministry of Overseas Development, (ODA) was tasked with mapping the soils of Northern Nigeria.

The Bauchi Plains The Jos Plateau Jema'a Platform Benue Valley Kaduna Plains Northern Plains

Project started in 1968 and ran through until 1977 with several long term soil surveyors plus a full time geomorphologist, an agriculturalist, forester and various other short term specialist consultants. Field teams comprised an expatriate soil surveyor plus one or two junior staff from the Soil Survey Section of Amadhu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. These junior staff were either soil or vegetation recorders.

Virtually all soil sites were profile pits and soil samples were taken from every site. The FAO Soil Map of the World system was used for soil classification. All data were recorded on "tick cards" and an edge hole punching system was used for sorting the cards. With several surveyors working over several years the volume of data was enormous - all this being done in the days before computers.

Eventually the Zaria staff were withdrawn from the work and the directly employed drivers ran the labour force, supervised profile digging and generally looking after the expatriates.

Author's Input:

Attached to the Land Resources Division (LRD) of the ODA (Ministry of Overseas Development) carrying out routine survey in central and northern Nigeria. Worked in the semi-arid environment of the north and in the moist regime in the south of the Benue Valley. The CNP Offices were set up first on the Vet Station at Vom and later moved to the Miango Road then the Gold & Base Compound on the outskirts of Jos, on the Jos Plateau.

Acquired experience in the organisation of field teams and the related logistical problems. Also responsible for arranging and accounting for local funding through governmental agencies. Main task was doing the monthly accounts - the dreaded Imprest Accounts. Eventually a special stamp, the ACI, was made, Arch Criminal Imprest was stamped on many monthly account submissions thereafter. ACI  was stamped all over any returns that qualified as downright bad book-keeping, it was a highly sought after item.

Also organised and supervised the stores. House raids were sometimes required to recoup extra crockery etc "borrowed" for social functions and never returned. Over the 7 or so years of the Project virtually nothing was lost or purloined from the stores or field camps.

On arrival was introduced to the middle seat of the LAND ROVER with Ian Hill on one side and John Coulter on the other - one dwarf and two giants!

Worked originally with I.D.Hill on the Bauchi Plains then set off alone to survey the Jema'a Platform - eventually joined near the end by others such as John Bennett, Andrew Wood and Brian Kerr. Laterally was part of the team on the Kaduna Plains and then the Benue Valley.

Last area to be surveyed was the Northern Plains and included places like Katsina etc.

During the last few weeks assisted the Project Manager, David Wall, close down the project. Part of this was the "officially sanctioned" auction of camping and household equipment still the property of the British Government. Locally purchased items all being transferred to the ABU at Zaria along with all the vehicles.


On arrival lived on the vet compound at Vom. Then spent 2 - 3 years in a Makeri Smelting Company house on the Miango Road and finally lived on the compound of St Murumba College, Zaria Road, Jos. Isabel was a teacher at St Murumba for most of her time on the Jos Plateau. Very active social life in and around Jos, when in fact in Jos and not in the field (or bush, as it was referred to). Took up golf and squash whilst there and got rather involved with the Northern Nigeria Caledonian Society and was Chieftain of the Society in 1975 - Clan MacDonald. Still wearing the same kilt and gear!

Reports: Most of the CNP reports are now lodged with NSRI, Silsoe, Cranfield University, UK and registered on the WOSSAC system.