News: Iraqi government, USD-C soldiers open Zaidon milk collection facility
Story by Sgt. Michael Carden
BAGHDAD – Iraqi farmers and sheiks gathered in celebration with United States forces, Jan. 20, at the opening of a brand new milk collection facility in the Zaidon neighborhood of Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
The ribbon cutting at the facility marks a renewal of the area’s dairy industry, said Lt. Col. David Volkman, civil affairs planning chief with United States Division – Center and a Maineville, Ohio, native.
“This is a very important hub,” Volkman said. “There are approximately 30,000 cows within a 20-kilometer radius, so there’s an awful lot of raw milk produced here every day.”
The new facility is built on the site of an older one that had stood since the 1970s, but was destroyed in 2005, said Ahmed Saaed, the general director for the Zaidon Milk Collection Facility. The new facility was built as part of an effort to help the local farmers, and at the same time serve Iraqi citizens, he said.
“This is a dairy region where people have, for generations, raised cows and produced milk,” Volkman said. “Having this here allows them to reinvigorate something that’s suffered for the last few years. The families of Zaidon want the same thing I want back in Maineville, Ohio. I want my kids to have a better life, I want to provide for my family. This helps them achieve some of that.”
The rebuilt facility will serve as a central collection point in the region for the purchase of raw milk directly from the local dairy farmers, who, for many years, were unable to keep their milk fresh before it could be taken to market. The new facility will enable the efficient processing, storage and transportation of fresh milk.
“The fresh milk from the farmers is tested on site for quality and safety, before being filtered, heated and then cooled,” Saaed said. “Then it can be stored until it is transported to a larger processing facility, where it can be made into yogurt, cheese and a variety of other dairy products.”
The facility was designed by Iraqi engineers with cooperation and support from the Provincial Reconstruction Team–Baghdad. It was built by local Iraqi laborers in coordination with the State Company for Dairy, the state owned enterprise of the Ministry of Industry and Minerals.