News: Chicken industry a spark to economic progress in Iraq
Story by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky
By Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Before the war, numerous areas in Iraq thrived off the chicken industry. Hawr Rajab, Arab Jabour and Adwaniyah all had prosperous chicken markets.
"Historically, this was the largest chicken-producing area in Iraq," said Capt. Michael Lenart, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-3 Brigade Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Insurgent violence ravaged the industry. Chicken coops and pens were used by insurgents as safe houses and weapons cache dumps. Electrical equipment such as cables, generators and water pumps were stolen or neglected after al-Qaida threatened employees to quit coming to work.
With security gains removing al-Qaida from the area, the effort is to boost chicken farming back to pre-war levels.
"Right now it is in its first phase," said Baghdad-7 embedded provincial reconstruction team economics team chief, Capt. Shawn Carbone, of the restoration plans. He added the ePRT has established relationships, helped develop business plans and submitted applications for funding.
Funding will come from Commander's Emergency Relief Program and U.S. Department of State funds, Carbone said, as well as contributions from former owners.
The Adwaniyah Farmers Union Chairman, Falih Sha'lan Jassim, used funds from the union to purchase 10,000 chicks to jumpstart the Adwaniyah chicken factories. In Arab Jabour, the owner of the Al Mazra'a Kupa and Chicken processing facility, Ghassan Mohammed Ali, has pledged more than $300,000 towards restoring his factory.
Ali's factory, first constructed in 1982, can employ up to 95 people at full capacity. Larger factories such as the Al Raad Poultry slaughterhouse in Hawr Rajab, which includes six chicken coops, a feed-producing factory, and a processing plant that slaughters, cleans, packages and stores chickens, can employ up to 500 people, Carbone added.
Production will create new markets and opportunities. Transportation companies will be needed to move products to market and mechanics will be needed to maintain the machinery used for processing, said Carbone, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y. The main market for chickens is currently Baghdad.
Baghdad chicken breeders will also benefit, said Lenart. Currently chickens and supplies needed to renovate buildings are purchased in Baghdad.
Structurally the buildings are stable; all that's needed to start production is repairing machinery and cleaning out the buildings, said Lenart, a native of Richmond Hill, Ga.
Getting production started will help bring the Government of Iraq into the equation as well. Because the industries are privately owned, the GoI has not been largely involved. Government support has been largely limited to the Ministry of Agriculture providing vaccines to local veterinarians, Lenart said.
Once the businesses are up and running though, their involvement in newly-created business associations will give them government-related business incentives, loans and grants, Carbone said. Like the area farmers unions, which are recognized by the MoA, the chicken factories are currently forming their own subcommittees and will receive government aid.
Business owners are also taking classes from an Iraqi-run business development center in Hilla to help their companies prosper once they begin production.
The success of the industry is vital to not only the local communities, but to all of Iraq. A stable economy ties in with and supports security gains.
"Self-sustainment keeps out the influence of insurgents," Carbone said. "Only when there is no alternative do people turn to violence."
The projects will continue, with 5,000 more chickens set to be delivered in Adwaniyah on April 22. In the future, chickens will come from within the area from a hatchery under construction.