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Farmers hold elections to select board
Multi-National Forces-Iraq ^

Posted on 08/18/2006 5:58:46 PM PDT by SandRat

A local Iraqi casts his vote during the Diyara Agricultural Union elections Aug. 12. The 1,200 member union elected seven councilmen to decide the direction of the union, which will enable farmers in the southern Baghdad and northern Babil province region to make profits they haven't seen in years. DoD photo by Cpl. Michael Molinaro.
A local Iraqi casts his vote during the Diyara Agricultural Union elections Aug. 12. The 1,200 member union elected seven councilmen to decide the direction of the union, which will enable farmers in the southern Baghdad and northern Babil province region to make profits they haven't seen in years. DoD photo by Cpl. Michael Molinaro.
FOB KALSU – The Diyara Agricultural Union held its first elections in the history of the program at the Diyara secondary school Aug. 12.

Farmers from the region voted for seven members to sit on the board of directors that will be depended upon to lead the union and its members into the future.

“They will decide the direction of the union and resource allocations in Diyara,” said Capt. Ben Simms, a company commander in the 4th Infantry Division.

The union is a means of resource for the more than 1,200 farmers in the southern Baghdad/northern Babil provincial region. It is a program that enables them to buy seeds, tools, insecticides and other items at reduced prices and earn profits previously not seen before, Simms said. They will also be able to make equipment trades with other farmers, making it a group effort to succeed.

The union was run by Saddam’s Ministry of Agriculture, which catered to those that stocked the markets in Baghdad often leaving the smaller individual farmer’s needs unmet, Saleh said. After the fall of the regime, the unions closed up.

“We had to rely on the government before,” said Saleh, a lifelong resident of Diyara. “Sometimes we would get things, sometimes we didn’t. There was no board to get our voice heard. The union allows all of us to work with each other and more importantly buy what we need much cheaper than before.”

Local residents from Diyara and surrounding areas in southern Baghdad and northern Babil provinces held elections Aug. 12 to select councilmen for the Diyara Agricultural Union.  DoD photo by Cpl. Michael Molinaro.
Local residents from Diyara and surrounding areas in southern Baghdad and northern Babil provinces held elections Aug. 12 to select councilmen for the Diyara Agricultural Union. DoD photo by Cpl. Michael Molinaro.
Fourth Infantry Division Soldiers saw the union as a way of getting the farmers back on their feet and to help them conduct business for themselves.

Agriculture is the main business in this part of Iraq and more than 4,000 people from the region depend on it to keep fed and clothed. By using a more democratic approach, the union will run more like a business than a government subsidy, Simms said.

The division’s Soldiers donated fertilizer and other consumables to the union. After that, it will be up to those elected to set the prices for the farmers to buy their items and get things rolling at the union.

“We will be there to help them run it in the beginning, make sure the bookkeeping is kept straight and help with projects to give them a better office and storage space to work out of,” Simms remarked. “We’ll oversee the initial meetings, but over time we will be less and less a part of it.”

A Sunni was elected president and three Shia’s were voted to the other top positions, defining the diversity of the board and representing the demographics of the region. The board will be tasked to keep the union solvent.  With the high voter turnout and enthusiastic farmers, hope is prevalent.

“We love what we do and are good farmers,” one resident said moments after voting. “Now we will rely on each other to give our families better lives and make this area what it once was.”

While the union is an example of grassroots problem solving by Iraqi citizens and Coalition soldiers, there are also agricultural initiatives continuing at higher levels. 

On Aug. 1, U.S. Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns visited Baghdad and signed a joint statement of intent with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salam Zukam Ali Al-Zawba’i.  As a result of this trip, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced 10 additional USDA personnel will be dispatched to Iraq to assist in revitalizing agriculture. 

“I am truly inspired by the hope and optimism that I witnessed in Iraq. The Iraqi leaders and producers are absolutely determined to overcome the hurdles in achieving self-sufficiency and a strong economy,” Johanns said.

See related story



TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: board; elections; farmers; hold; iraq; select

1 posted on 08/18/2006 5:58:47 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; Grampa Dave; ...
Picking an Iraqi version of the local GRANGE.
2 posted on 08/18/2006 6:00:14 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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