By Pfc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsMarch 27, 2009
KIRKUK, Iraq - The food that finds its way on to the tables of residents of Kirkuk city has to start somewhere. Researchers from Team Borlaug wanted to see where the journey began, and they found some of those origins at a local animal processing plant and market in Kirkuk city, Iraq, March 18.
Team Borlaug is taking a nearly six-month tour of northern Iraq to study the agriculture and offer guidance on how it can be improved.
"Our mission is to assess agriculture in Multi-National Division - North's area and provide recommendations to the command regarding project development and how to get Iraqis back to work in agriculture," said Dustin Kinder, Team Borlaug's chief.
According to Kinder, the team has been assembled from individuals with different agricultural backgrounds. The Department of Defense contracted their services through the Borlaug Institute of Agriculture, an academic think tank based out of Texas A&M University.
"Everyone has their own specialty," said Kinder. "Everyone fits a role, but we all have ties back to Texas A&M."
Kirkuk is the third province in northern Iraq that the team has studied.
After the team has finished assessing the agricultural situation in Kirkuk, they will assemble an agricultural recommendation to improve agricultural processes.
"We are going to help 25th Infantry Division put on an agricultural conference," said Kinder. "It will include all the agricultural leadership, and we will help them develop a strategic plan for agriculture in Iraq."
The team arrives at a time of Iraqi reconstruction, whose agricultural advancement suffered under the former regime.
"The old regime supported agriculture, but didn't let any new technology in," said Kinder.
"Iraq is a land of suspended potential," Kinder said. "We want to get them moving forward with the rest of the world. We are starting at a low level and trying to work them up."
The team is helping to accomplish this mission day by day.
"We try to help them learn," Kinder said. "Whether it's visiting a farmer one-on-one or providing information to a cooperative; we are trying to help them learn new techniques that can improve the way they do business."
According to Kinder, the team is working to set up model farms where farmers can see the newest technology and techniques in action.
The team has also recommended that the Government of Iraq set up agricultural cooperatives that will allow Iraq to compete in a free market economy by reducing prices and increasing farming efficiency, Kinder said.
The team has found a progressive attitude in the Iraqi population they are seeking to help.
"They have the will to farm, they want to farm, they just need the new technology," Kinder said.
"We are trying to get them going," Kinder said. "This needs to build upon itself. We are trying to do small things that will make an impact and allow them to grow."