• Sheep stand under the shade of their pen at a farm in the small village of um-H'lail. Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment and the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team conducted an inspection of the farm July 17. The animals were purchased by Sheik Abu Ali with a micro-grant several months prior.

    Soldiers not sheepish about micro-grant program

    Sheep stand under the shade of their pen at a farm in the small village of um-H'lail. Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment and the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team conducted an inspection of the farm July 17. The animals...

  • Sheik Abu Ali, owner of a small farm in um-H'lail, displays sheep to 2nd Lt. Joseph Bush, a civil affairs officer with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, during an inspection July 17. The sheep and others like it were purchased using a micro-grant from the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team.

    Soldiers not sheepish about micro-grant program

    Sheik Abu Ali, owner of a small farm in um-H'lail, displays sheep to 2nd Lt. Joseph Bush, a civil affairs officer with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, during an inspection July 17. The sheep and others like it were purchased...

Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment and the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team conducted a follow-up inspection of sheep and turkeys bought with a micro-grant at a farm in Um-h'lail July 17.

The inspection was an effort to assess the effectiveness of the micro-grant program in the area and gather information for future projects.

"It's to help the poor villagers who don't have as much in this area and are having a hard time finding work; so we subsidize their economy," said 2nd Lt. Joseph Bush, a civil affairs officer with Battery A, 1st Bn., 10th FA Regt. "By giving them sheep and turkey, we give them a way to create their own business so they can become a self-sufficient village."

The Soldiers began the inspection by meeting with the farm owner and local sheik, Abu Ali. They discussed the well-being of the animals in the months since they were purchased, challenges to raising them, and future projects for the village.

"With Sheik Abu Ali, what's going on next is working on funding for a water purification plant. Today, we got some of the information we needed on that," said Cpl. David Bobian, a psychological operations specialist with the 341st Tactical Psychological Operations Company. "The owner actually happened to be his brother, so that worked out good."

Another project focuses on the electricity for the villagers.

"They also have a problem with power; they only have power two hours a day," said Bobian, a Houston native. "We're working on getting an emergency generator which can provide 10 to 12 hours of electricity."

During the inspection, Soldiers also passed out backpacks and toys to children as well as several boxes of rice, which is much needed in the area, Bobian said.

"It's good to just be out there to help the kids the way we can because these guys are poorer than poor," he said. "It's good to give them what we got."

The inspection yielded mixed results as the turkeys, a cheap animal that was a recent venture for the micro-grant program, were not faring well in the Iraqi summer heat while the sheep were thriving, Bush said.

"These people know how to farm sheep," Bush said.

In the past year, the Wasit PRT has dispersed approximately $17 million in micro-grant funds.
The inspection mission was two-fold: it aimed to build a good rapport with the locals and provide them with tip-line phone numbers that might yield intelligence on foreigners coming into the community or weapon caches.

"By helping these people out, we are helping ourselves out, and we are able to increase businesses in Iraq," said Bush.

The micro-grants are not a cure-all but aim instead toward stimulating the local economy to promote self-sufficiency; so far, it seems to be working, Bush said.

"What we can do is try to help them in the areas we can," he said. "We've definitely given these people an upper hand."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16