FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (June 10, 2008) – Farmers in Sayifiyah will soon have something they have lacked for the past five years: a local feed mill to support local agriculture. Thamer Hussain Kashool, owner of a feed mill out of operation since 2003, has completed the process of securing necessary funding to get his mill back in business.
Mike Stevens, agricultural adviser for the Baghdad-7 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, visited the mill, June 6, to assess progress on the project, which he has shepherded for several months. The process began when Kashool received a U.S. Dept. of State Quick Reaction Fund grant of $10,000 to make repairs to the structure, but the plan was always to get the government of Iraq involved, said Stevens.
“The QRF grant was just to kick-start this back to be a viable investment for the Ministry of Agriculture to give him a loan,” Stevens said.
Stevens said that the initial QRF grant came with two conditions: that Kashool take out an MoA loan to raise capital, and that he would work with his local farmers union to obtain contracts and provide credit. The deal will be a boon to Kashool as well as local farmers in the union, since having a local feed mill will eliminate the need to buy and sell goods in other markets. Under the plan, members of the farmers union will receive contracts to sell corn to the mill, and will also receive credit and discounts for feed.
With money from the MoA loan, Kashool will be able to buy a generator and other supplies, plus hire local workers for his mill. Stevens said the business may be back in operation within a month.
Kashool operated the mill for about 10 years before 2003, when insurgents stole machinery and damaged the structure, forcing him to shut down. The mill’s closure had a negative effect on the local agriculture-based economy, forcing farmers to buy feed or sell their corn as far away as Baghdad, increasing their costs.
Stevens credited the Sayifiyah Farmers Union with helping to revive their own agriculture industry, with help from coalition forces. Now, he says, unions represent local farmers’ best chance for success in the future. Projects like Kashool’s mill are models which may inspire others to do more.
“We’re hoping that the more businesses we can build like that, the more businesses are going to look to the farmers union and say, ‘We can save some money if we join the farmers union,’” Stevens said.
Other local farmers, in addition to union members, will see the immediate advantages of the reopened mill, Stevens said.
“He contracts specifically with the corn growers that are in the farmers union, which is another incentive to join,” Stevens said. ”When you see your neighbor getting a contract and he doesn’t have to haul his corn into Baghdad, he can just sell it at the feed mill, it’s more of an incentive to join the farmer’s union.”