Oovah Country and Happotella
Lithographer: Needham, Jonathan (fl.1850-1874)
Lithograph by Jonathan Needham (fl.1850-1874) after Charles D.C. O'Brien, of 'Oovah Country and Happotella' in Sri Lanka, dated 1st January 1864. This print forms plate 13 of 'A series of fifteen Views of Ceylon illustrative of Sir J.E. Tennent's work, from sketches made on the spot by Capt C. O'Brien, late Assistant Surveyor General Ceylon', London, 1864. The text accompanying this print reads, "This view is taken from one of the minor roads leading from the coffee district of Oodoo Pusilawa to Alampettia and Badulla. At the extremity of the valley, to the left, rises the mountain of namoone-Koole; the distant range to the right is Happotella, and we overlook the plains of Fort McDowell and the main road from Nuera Ellia to Badulla." Although today known for its tea exports, the mainstay of Sri Lanka's economy was once coffee. The Dutch experimented with seedlings from their Javanese plantations, but the coffee crop did not grow well at the lower elevations of the coastal regions. It was the British who successfully commercialised coffee in Sri Lanka with their access to the interior. The higher plateaus and peaks were rapidly annexed and deforested and by 1867 coffee covered over 100,000 acres of the island's hill country. In 1869 a leaf disease spread through the plantations and this famous 'coffee blight' ravaged the coffee crop and forced the British to focus on other crops they could export. As a result, the decimated acreage was converted to tea-growing.