FOB HAMMER, Iraq (May 1, 2008) – More than 1500 Iraqi farmers attended the Mada’in Agricultural Technology Exposition in al-Wahida, Iraq, April 26 - 27.
The expo resulted from efforts by the embedded provincial reconstruction
team, attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, to revitalize farming and agri-business.
The 3rd HBCT EPRT leaders emphasized agricultural initiatives in the qada to provide long-term economic stability in the primarily agrarian district east of Baghdad.
Fifty-eight percent of the Mada’in citizens are farmers, and another 15 percent are in farm-related businesses, said Col. Bud Jameson, from Sherwood, Ark., PRT deputy team leader.
During the expo, Baghdad PRT members, Iraqi agriculture center representatives and successful farmers demonstrated technology beneficial to farming.
Since the Mada’in Qada is an arid region, leaders also promoted different techniques to improve field irrigations.
“There has been a lot of wasted water because they have been ‘flood’ irrigating their fields like they did in the old days,” Jameson said. “This doesn’t work because some of the land is not even and the water runs down into the low ground. Seed in the high ground does not get irrigated.”
During the expo, farmers filled out ePRT questionnaires to facilitate farmers associations in their communities.
“It used to be farmers associated by village,” Jameson said. “But the problem with that is one guy might be into fish farming and another into wheat. While they both need water, their priorities are totally different.”
Jameson said many farming communities lack diversification.
“If a wheat farmer is having a bad year or wheat prices are down, they have to have another way to support their family,” he said.
Jameson said the expo was aimed at revitalizing agriculture in the qada, reinstituting faith in the government and returning a sense of normalcy to the local population, but he hopes it will provide even more over time.
“There is also a reconciliation aspect to the expo,” he said. “People have talked to their local leaders and said they didn’t feel safe going out in public and doing things as a family. Now that security has improved, we are hoping they see this as something they can do as a family. We want them to see that peace has arrived.”
The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, is from Fort Benning, Ga., and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2007. The brigade is one of the most deployed brigades in the Army.