Dignitaries perform a ribbon cutting ceremony at Wasit province’s Agricultural Union headquarters in al-Kut, Iraq, June 2. The ceremony marked the grand re-opening of the headquarters. (Photo by Multi-National Division-Central)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq (June 5, 2008) – Agricultural industry representatives from around Wasit province gathered, June 2, in al-Kut, Iraq, to celebrate the reopening of the province’s agricultural union headquarters after its refurbishment in cooperation with coalition forces.
The reopening followed completion of the project’s first phase, which included repairing the offices and conference rooms in the headquarters.
The project aims to restore the union’s function in the agricultural industry in Wasit province, said Patrick Moore, agricultural adviser for Provincial Reconstruction Team Wasit.
The headquarters used to be a major part of the agricultural industry in the province, helping farmers with distribution, settling irrigation problems and setting fees for the maintenance of the irrigation system. However, after more than 10 years of neglect, the building was run down and useless.
“Our goal with this project was to help restart services and to give the union a headquarters for meetings, business and to facilitate training,” Moore said.
The union is particularly important in Wasit province, where agriculture is a very large part of the economy. Moore estimated that 40 to 50 percent of employment in the province was related to agriculture.
The union remained on the back burner for a long time, with little support from the local government since the general feeling was that it was a responsibility of the government of Iraq, Moore said.
This project aims to change that view and revitalize the agricultural industry in Wasit through representation and education.
“We are looking at training programs throughout the province,” Moore said. “The union will provide people and locations, and it will begin immediately.”
The training will be held at 17 locations throughout Wasit province, and will educate an estimated 500 to 600 farmers over a six-month period. The trainers will be provided by the union, with coalition oversight.
“If the program is successful here, it could be implemented on the national level,” Moore added.
The cost to refurbish the union headquarters was $50,000 for the first phase, with funding split evenly between the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State.
The second phase – refurbishing the meeting hall, is scheduled to begin immediately and is estimated to cost $25,000.