Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Basra farmers receive tractors, generators

Basra farmers associations received 40 tractors and four generators in Ad Dayr at Camp Sa'ad.
The ceremony, which benefitted the Al Qurna, Al Medina, Shatt Al Arab and Abu Al Khaseeb farmers associations, represents one of 10 projects funded by U.S. commander's emergency response program money for the Basra province agricultural program.

The total cost for the projects is $10 million.

"It used to cost us 75,000 dinars per day for one of these tractors, but after today it should only cost us for the fuel and the driver. I would like to thank (Multi-National Force) for that," said Abd Al Rahman Khalid, a Basra farmer, through an interpreter.

Other agricultural projects that are part of this program reach as far south as Safwan and as far north as Al Qurna and include green houses, irrigation systems and other necessary equipment to support the agricultural redevelopment in Basra.

Sheik Abu Qasay, the head of Basrah Province farmers association, Sayad Galy Muttar, Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Council Chairman and British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, the General Officer in Command of Multi-National Division Southeast all spoke at the ceremony.

"This is a wonderful example of a truly joint project where we work together as partners, listen to peoples needs and come together for the people of Iraq and your agricultural associations," said Salmon.

Farming is a traditional industry for southern Iraq and at one time employed up to 50 percent of Basra province residents. Many of the area's farmers currently rely on hand tools due to a shortage of agricultural machinery and power.

This investment in tractors and generators is expected to improve efficiency and the yield of local farmers, who are not presently able to compete with imported agricultural goods from neighbouring countries. The farmers have had little support over the last 25 years but, in the past, Basra was a very productive farming area that produced up to 70 percent of Iraq's, said British Royal Navy Lt. Alan Paton, a Civil Military Operations project officer with Multi-National Division Southeast.

"The idea was if we can help improve their efficiency by providing greenhouses, tractors, irrigation systems then we might be able to make them a little more productive, perhaps potentially stop the flow of farmers away from an industry that has been in southern Iraq for many years," Paton said.

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