Mike Stevens, agricultural adviser to the Baghdad-7 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, discusses business plans affecting farmers at the Hawr Rajab business association meeting, May 29. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. David Turner)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (June 3, 2008) – The Hawr Rajab business association met with members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, May 29, to discuss efforts aimed at reviving commerce in the area.
Sheik Maher Sarhan Morab al-Moaeny, Hawr Rajab’s first democratically elected town council chairman, was on hand for the meeting.
With 2nd BCT Soldiers scheduled to redeploy in about a month, the goal is to refocus initiatives with less coalition force presence and funding.
The question was raised of how to best use several diesel-powered electric generators which the association expects to receive soon through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
One plan suggested using the generators to help businesses keep lights on and refrigerators working during the frequent power losses common in the area. The plan calls for participating businesses that receive power to pay fees, providing revenue for the association’s future projects.
Capt. Shawn Carbone, Baghdad-7 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team economics team chief, said raising funds is crucial for the committee at this point in their growing process. Carbone has been working with the association since it began meeting three months ago.
He said whereas coalition forces in the past gave out large grants to small businesses and farms in the area, the focus now is on Iraqis helping each other.
“We’re not giving out handouts any more, and it’s fast becoming their responsibility,” said Carbone, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y. “They can succeed with Iraqi sources of funding.”
Carbone says he plans to connect association members with the Iraqi ministry of labor and social affairs and ministry of trade, as well as private banks, all of whom sponsor loan programs.
“Once they establish those links, they won’t depend on us at all,” Carbone said. “If they have a project and the business plan is sound, they can submit it and get it rolling on their own.”
The main business in the Hawr Rajab area is agriculture, something Mike Stevens, ePRT agricultural adviser, knows well. Over the past several months he has spent more than $34,000 of U.S. Dept. of State Quick Reaction Funds to boost the poultry industry in this region.
Stevens said the primary use for the generators should be to help get the al-Rahad poultry processing plant up and running. Under a plan submitted to the committee, the plant would provide up to 200 jobs to area citizens, in addition to helping poultry farmers increase their production. The plant would provide feed and chicks to farmers in return for a percentage of the chickens raised.
“The slaughterhouse can get under way more quickly if it is supported by the association and their generators,” Carbone said.
In the meantime, Sheik Maher is stepping in personally to help the poultry farms in Hawr Rajab succeed. Inspired by recent ePRT distributions of chicks to local farmers, he recently gave out 16,000 chicks himself. He also intends to supply the farmers with feed.