The Government of the Gambia has agreed to flog the country’s only crop spraying planes that were purchased to combat desert locusts, malaria and bush fires.
The two DOSA planes costing over US$1 million each, were newly bought in 2005 from a company in Texas, USA, by the previous regime of Yahya Jammeh following the 2004 locust outbreak, which caused serious food shortage in the country and forced the government to declare a state of emergency.
But the country’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs has negotiated the sale of the planes for a paltry 240,000 Euros to West Africa Aero Services SARL. According to our online research, the company is based in Guinea Bissau and provides jet A1 fuel storage, avgas storage and plane refueling services.
The sale of the AT802A single-engine planes which are equipped with cutting-edge technology and regarded as “one of the best in the world” was buried at the bottom of a government press release announcing the issuance of a television licence to the Gambia Ahmaddiya Muslim Jamaat.
No reason was given for the sale of the planes. No information was also given regarding the transaction including sales advertisements and negotiations.
“These planes are brand new and are the biggest agricultural planes now available,” said Jack Mezzo and Lee Veith who flew them to the Gambia in 2005 via Canada and Azores Island of Portugal.
Describing the planes during a demonstration in Banjul at the time, the pilots said: “The aerodynamics makes the aircraft very maneuverable close to the ground at slow speed, desirable for work in agricultural situations. Each plane can take up to 800 gallons of chemicals, which could be spread over 120 feet in spraying.
“In good weather, the two aircraft can spray the whole territory of The Gambia in one day. At 160 miles an hour, one could easily cover around 3,000 acres a day with these aircraft. Also you can land in very rough terrain. It does not need runways to land; there is no need for an airport with this airplane.”
With the sale of the planes approved in Thursday’s cabinet meeting presided over by Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang, the Gambia is now left with no effective tool to fight against any future locust plague.