News: "Debugging" Iraq's agricultural economy
by Spc. L.C. Campbell
138th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOSUL, Iraq (May 22, 2006) -- Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture and Coalition Forces have teamed up to save crops that Iraqi civilians depend on for living.
Operation Barnstormer started in April, and consisted of several aerial pesticide sprayings that covered eight major agricultural provinces, which include Baghdad, Babil, Diyala, Salah ad Din, An Najaf, Wasit, Karabala, and Ninawa.
The Duba Bug and diseases have been seriously damaging date crops, wheat fields, and citrus fruits which are paralyzing the agricultural economy.
"Last year the Kurdish people lost 80% of their crops,"... said Lt. Kim Dacosta, chief executive officer, Civil Affairs Team A, Team 2 Company, C, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion... "Yielding them a 20 percent drop in output and a majority of that crop output was only good enough to be used as animal feed. The Sunni pest extracts the milky center of the wheat that is the majority of the protein and nutritional value. So with it removed, it makes the wheat only usable for animal feed and some of it was so bad the animals wouldn't eat it. This in turn damages the economy and survival for local farmers."
According to Dacosta barnstormer was very successful, they are predicting at least a 20-40% increase of quality crops that will help the economy. This may not seem like a lot of improvement, but it is a drastic increase from last years output. The improvements will increase in the future. Due to the delay in the operation, not much of the infestation was controlled. The adults are the ones that migrate initially in April and it helps to catch them earlier.
"The farmers were hopeless and last year some didn't even bother to harvest because they knew it wouldn't be worth it," said Dacosta. "Now when they see people taking care of them, they want to harvest, and next will be inclined to take better care of their crops. It restored a new hope in the Kurdish people. Not to mention it built an increase trust between the farmers and the Director General of Agriculture which yields a better working relationship and credibility with the government. Because they stated earlier with the spray, less Sunni pest made it back to the mountain region where they are all year around, so there will be less to infest to the crops next year. In addition to a timely spray it will only get better every year."
Dacosta said people were hopeless the day before they actually sprayed. The farmers didn't think the operation was going to happen, because they had been promised in the past and nothing came. Until they saw the planes flying overhead that they became believers. It was a good operation economically, socially, and politically.
"Until the next time we spray, we have decreased the duba bug population a little which will make for fewer bugs next year," said Dacosta. Next year, especially if we spray in April, we will decrease the population a little more. It's a progression and in the right direction."
According to Dacosta CF worked with the Ministry Of Agriculture, the local government, and specifically the DG of Agriculture, to include his plans, information's officer, and plants expert, to set up and execute the entire operation. Coalition Forces helped keep the communication between the different parts of Iraq. CF forces also worked with local DG's to help with the set up of some of the operation.
"We have some goals and we plan to continue to build the trust between the DG of Agriculture and the farmers," said Dacosta. "We work through the MOA for all requests and he will disagree or agree with our requests. Next year the farmers will hopefully harvest more wheat. With the infestation levels at an all time high farmers began replacing wheat with other products. Plans for next years spray is one big goal, maybe even going to an integrated pest control, so we aren't required to use pesticide. Another is a possible Geographical Information System where people survey and map our lands. This requires experts and trained people. Another idea is better marketing for produce products. Whether that would be building a produce factory or just bringing in new technology."
Date Posted:10.25.2006 15:26
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