By Sgt. Christopher Kozloski, 3BCT, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsMay 30, 2009
MOSUL, Iraq - Nestled just off a main truck route between the Turkish border and Erbil, the vice mayor's office in Ainsifini became a conference hall for Shekhan district's local government leaders, key business and agricultural leaders and economic project advisors from the Ninewa and Coalition Forces provincial reconstruction teams on May 20.
The focus of the meeting was to discuss economic stability and growth in the Shekhan District with the local government and address industrial and agricultural issues that the PRT and CF reconstruction advisors, dubbed "Team Ninewa," could offer assistance with.
"We are doing what we like to call and 'Econ Recon.'" said Bob Jachim, key economic project coordinator with the PRT. "Our goal is to work with the Iraqi people in this district on their ideas that will provide economic stability in the region."
Shekhan, the northern-most district in Ninewa, primarily relies on agricultural trade. The farming community operates small family-owned farms and trade primarily to a local market. It's approximately 110,000 residents work in agriculture and small businesses throughout the district. The local government hopes to bolster economic growth in the region by addressing some key issues in agriculture and business.
"We would like to see more agriculture in the hopes that it will bring some industry to this area," said Shaban Abdullah, vice mayor of the district. "Hopefully, the reconstruction team coming into this area will help our people."
According to Abdullah, the community has also seen an influx of internally displaced families over the last few years, primarily from southern Iraq.
"This was a secondary reason for us to take a look at the economic stability of Shekhan," Jachim said referring to the displaced Iraqis in the region. "There are more than 3,600 displaced families living in the district. We needed to assess that situation and see how we could facilitate some sort of employment for them as well."
In diplomatic style, the vice governor introduced key business and agricultural leaders to Team Ninewa over chai and customary greetings. After initial introductions, the main body broke into smaller, topic-focused discussion groups to discuss the two key areas.
Shekhan's community leaders indicated that they are looking to expand their agricultural business and focus on local business growth.
In their discussions with the reconstruction team, community leaders addressed the possibility of conservation tillage farming, a technique that requires no ground tilling from season to season and has been shown to produce a higher yield of crop, and the use of an agribusiness model in which they could begin to expand their market. They also discussed funding for farming supplies and equipment.
"One of the big issues that came out of the discussions was securing loans for their farms," said Maj. Dominic Kusomoto, the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division civil military operations officer. "They are willing to secure and pay for loans, but traveling to Mosul for that presents its own challenges. One of the ideas that spawned from that was to establish an agriculture bank so that they could secure loans and fund their farms locally."
After reviewing some of the key issues brought up by the district, Team Ninewah will take the data they've collected back to their table and begin brainstorming projects that are feasible in the area.
"The next step after an initial meeting is to come up with project ideas that will be successful in the community," said Jachim. "Then these project ideas are given to the communities so that they can begin planning them and figuring out how to implement them."
Projects involving agriculture and business have been implemented in other districts throughout Ninewa as well. There are currently six other districts in the province that have had success with the help of the reconstruction teams. According to Jachim, they will use these successes as a model for some of the project ideas involving Shekhan.
Economic projects are ongoing throughout Ninewa with a focus on Iraqis creating successes that will sustain their communities long after Coalition Forces have left Iraq. Projects for districts like Shekhan will leave an immediate, lasting impact on the quality of life for its citizens.
"The economic impact that these types of projects have on these communities is that they put money directly back into their communities and serve as a successful model for their neighbors to follow," said Jachim.