Even as the U.S. hands more and more responsibility for the future of Iraq back to the Iraqi people, projects continue to ensure that the people are set up for success in every possible way.

As part of these efforts, Soldiers, from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, and the 1411th Civil Affairs Company, met with Babil Province Director General of Agriculture, Hassan Housoui, Feb. 14, 2010, to assess the progress of drip irrigation projects funded by micro-grants in the province.

"The event went very well and a positive message was sent to the local people," said Capt. Timothy Smith, a fire support officer for the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor. "We want to get the word out and let them know what [U.S. forces] are doing in their areas."

Also on-hand at the location east of Qasim were Hameed Hussain, project manager and contractor from the Debana Co., and reporters from the al-Sumaralah newspaper in Badr.

Initially, the civil affairs unit made assessments of the area to determine where assistance was most needed, and proceeded to address those needs accordingly.

The agricultural base is a key area of the province's economy that officials have concentrated on developing. Many challenges present themselves in the arid region, not the least of which is finding ways to stretch a little as far as possible.

One method that offers great promise in Babil - and Iraq as a whole - is drip irrigation. The method involves a system that uses water and fertilizer efficiently by dripping water slowly onto the roots of plants.

Using little water, it allows farmers to grow vegetables year-round.

"We've done a bunch of these across our AO [area of operation]," said Smith. "About a hundred or so."

In the next two months, the Soldiers will conduct follow-up assessments to ensure that the project effectively increases crop production. "Spring is coming," Smith said, "so we put these in just in time."

The projects are not only effective, but are aiding in the right areas, said Smith. "We're helping people out who need it."