Dankwambo throws support for irrigation
Samalia Dabai Yombe is an army colonel who retired about 35 years ago and decided to train as a pilot to fight quelea birds in Kebbi and other parts of the North.
In 2006, Yombe acquired two aircraft auctioned at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria. At that time, Yombe really had no idea what the aircraft would be used for. It was later that the idea of aerial pest control came to his mind, when the aircraft were been prepared for air worthiness.
The first contract for pest control of quelea birds handed to him was in Yola, Adamawa State, and that was even before the aircraft could leave the maintenance hangar. At that time he knew little or nothing about quelea birds, but quickly put together an experienced team where he met experts in the Ministry of Agriculture who schooled him in the techniques of aerial battle against hordes of quelea birds.
Yombe, in an interview with Daily Trust, said during one of his flights, he chased the birds to see how they roosted and nested.
Such experience, he said, is the secret of identifying how the quelea birds should be controlled and to monitor their high level of devastation on farmlands.
He said the job of controlling the birds was half done once their roosting and nesting area is identified.
Other forms of expertise, he said, is the application of the chemicals such as Quelea Tox which has a strong odour like that coming from a decomposed human body. The Quelea Tox was exhausted in 2007 and 2008 and the production stopped when the chemical factory in India was destroyed after an explosion. Fenthion, which shrinks the birds’ respiratory system to prevent them from breathing and suffocate them to instant death, is now the chemical that is used.
The chemical has no offensive odour and lasts for 74 hours in the target area.
He said his first application of the chemical was at Nguru in Yobe State in 2007 where it was used extensively and the control of the birds was successful. In 2008 Yombe went to the United States to train on crop dusting, which is the general application of aircraft for farming purposes.
On his return, his two aircraft were re-equipped to enable them carry enough chemicals for more effective aerial attack of the birds. The two Cessna 172 aircraft were also re-equipped with a continental engine that produces 210 horse power as against the Licmi that provides only 180 horse power. He said the extra power enabled the aircraft to carry load of up to 200 litres that are commensurate with the kind of safety margin that is provided by the aircraft and remains within the law. Gombe State Government has promised to encourage dry season farming by providing improved seeds to farmers and buying their products after harvest.
Dankwambo stated this when he visited Jurara farms in Kwami Local Government Area of the state to ascertain the level of compliance by farmers to dry season farming.
He commended the farmers for adhering to government call for the cultivation of vast land for the dry season farming in the state, saying he will employ agric experts to advice the government appropriately on dry season farming in the state for more yields.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Dahiru Buba Biri, said the visit of the governor will, no doubt, boost the farmers morale,
“In Nasko, we move to the closest target in Warra and Shanga in Kebbi State. These are areas that have the highest population of quelea birds and where the state farm being taken care of by the Chinese is situated. We also carry out the same operation in the evening and in the morning and the result is clear.
“Ordinarily, if you are to do point A to B kind of flying, one can do 300 litres and then 150 litres of fuel. But for safety, we take 200 litres of the chemical and then depending on the distance from take-off point to the target, most of the time, I make sure the weather is within the required safety envelop and the distance is within 10-20 minutes of our landing area.
“That, of course, will determine the amount of load that will be taken. I consider safety first because I fly within strict safety regulations of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as a custodian of that discipline,” he stated. adding that the government has spent hugely on dry season farming in the state, calling on the farmers to reciprocate the gesture by cultivating more land for the dry season farming next year.
He said the farmers in Jurara, a major irrigation area in the state, required a reservoir to be constructed for them as that will boost their farming activities, adding that farmers in the area were supported by government with fertiliser and seeds.
The chairman of farmers association in the area, Malam Musa Usman, said farmers in the area will expand their farmlands to provide for more irrigation activities, adding, “even our youth here are engaged in farming unlike youths in other parts of the state who are engaged in commercial motorcycle riding, popularly called Achaba or become political thugs.”