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Recently felled rubber tree logs ready for processing

 

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Four year old rubber trees

 

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History

History 1

The Moir brothers and the first General Manager at Vizara.

History 3

History 2

Finished product, early 1900s.

Early day tapping at Vizara.

Rubber was known to the indigenous peoples of the Americas long before the arrival of European explorers. Christopher Columbus was the first explorer to return from his second voyage to the West Indies in 1496 with two rubber balls.

In 1615 the Spanish discovered the use of latex for the water proofing of leather and fabrics. However, it was not until 1818 that the rubber industry in Europe really came into being with the discovery by Charles Macintosh that naphtha was a good solvent for rubber. Exploiting this discovery Charles Macintosh was able to create a rubber solution as a waterproofing layer between two fabrics. Hence the “macintosh” was born.
The final landmark in the early history of rubber, was the discovery of vulcanization by Charles Goodyear in 1841, which enabled the creation of a rubber which did not harden in winter and soften in summer. From that time on, the natural rubber industry really began to expand with supply becoming a critical strategic issue.


Recognizing the growing critical strategic importance of natural rubber, the British, in the early 1870’s, set about masterminding a plan to procure rubber seeds from the forests of Brazil, so as to facilitate the ultimate creation of an “Indian rubber” industry in its colonies in the Far East. In 1876, Henry Wickham, latter to become Sir Henry Wickham, arrived in Britain with a ship containing 70,000 seeds from the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). These seeds were taken to Kew Gardens and some 1900 of these germinated.

The resulting seedlings were shipped into Ceylon and Singapore, from which virtually all the rubber trees in the Far East are descended. At the same time, a number of seedlings were brought to Malawi by a recently formed British trading company, African Lakes Corporation.

The owners of this company, the Moir brothers set about planting the seedlings on the North Western shores of lake Malawi, near the frontier lake shore trading port of Nkhata Bay. Trials in the early 1880’s were a success, and the Moir brother’s soon set about creating Africa’s first rubber estate – Vizara, meaning in the local tribal Tonga language “horn of plenty”. Over the next fifty years the estate was steadily developed. In the 1970’s, a major expansion programme was initiated and a neighbouring tea estate was acquired from the Commonwealth Development Corporation and replanted to rubber.

In 2004, after over 120 years of ownership, African Lakes Corporation sold the estate to Nyasa Investments, the new owners. They too have made significant further investments and today the estate comprises 2,285 hectares of mature rubber trees and rubber processing factories.

In 2006, the ecological credentials of the estate were further enhanced through a significant investment by the new owners in the construction of a timber mill dedicated to processing rubber trees, ordinarily felled at the end of their useful lives, into marketable high quality kiln dried export grade timber.