By Mr Foday Melvin Kamara
In Sierra Leone, we are in the middle of the rainy season (7.08. 2021) but soon to be replaced by the dry season that would be characterized by bush fire fueled by elephant grass.
Rural communities bear the brunt of the inferno which does not only annihilate farms and villages but also lives. Each passage of the dry season in each year, will leave an indelible physical scar and psychological pain .
The causes of bush fire are many but it is important to know few that are common:
1) Incidence of a farmer burning his farm for the next crop cultivation. Strong and uncontrollable wind will cause things to go quickly horrible.
2) A smoker that drops a smoldering cigarette in the highly dehydrated grass. With small wind that gives the combustion supportive oxygen, the fire would soon turn to a roaring and destructive monster.
3) Birds such as hawks picking smouldering animals and soon drop them soon after they feel the heat.
Principally, the fuel that aids the spread of fire is dried/dehydrated elephant grass. If we control dried grass in our farms, we can also control the vigour of the burning to levels that will make the plants survive.
Very often, people rely on what they refer to as fire belt. You can make fire belts but you have no control whatsoever, over the 3 of the main causes of fire incidences mentioned above. Wind direction and strength, is also not under your purview. So, how can you stop fire by the creation of fire belt ?
The aim of this post, is to share with interested persons what they can practically do to prevent their farms or gardens from being annihilated by fire.
We at FINIC are concerned. Our manufacturing business depends on the success of the farmers. A farmer with a bounty harvest of palm fruits in his oil palm plantation will consider coming to FINIC to purchase any one from its series of palm oil machines.
The practical solution is to do what I would term as pre-flash your farm/garden. By preflash, it is hereby meant to burn your farm before the big one that is not under your control comes. Think about it for a minute to forestall the creeping in of confusion and denial.
Grass that is fully dried and dense, is more likely to cause harm to your plant as the bigger the inferno is, the more its destructive power. What to have in view is that you have a near total control. It means you can observe and assess the vegetation in the farm to determine the state of dryness and density. The timing of the day is also at your disposal having in mind that the afternoons are hot, dry and windy as heated rising air will generate oxygen. The best timing of the day would be in the morning hours between 6 to 7 AM. The burning will be slow and not with flames to destroy your plant and other important vegetation.
When once your plantation is cleared by this way, the dense elephant grass serving as fuel will no longer be there. Your farm will therefore be saved.
Same technique is applicable to other grass land areas. By burning it before it becomes fully dried and by choosing the time of the day where sun rise and wind are yet to be felt and the vegetation (whether or not grass) is not yet naturally dried, will slow the burning and will not destroy bigger schrubs and thus give them chance to grow. If this is done for a consecutive 3 years, will give chance to stronger vegetation to grow that would suppress the grass.
In another post, I will expose the value of elephant grass in supplying energy needs for our kitchens and the bread baking industry. I will also share technologies of it transformation from grass to charcoal/briquettes. Please follow me.
@Foday Melvin Kamara.
Managing Director of Fomel Industry & National Industrialization Centre ( FINIC)