By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little and Army Spc. Dawn Van Horn
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 4, 2009 - A meeting of U.S. soldiers, provincial reconstruction team members and local farmers recently helped to outline the way ahead for the Central Euphrates Farmers Market here. The PRT members and soldiers participated in the first board meeting held at the farmer's market. Previous meetings were held at Forward Operating Base Kalsu.
The Central Euphrates Farmers Market represents about 4,900 farmers from the northern part of Iraq's Babil province. The next closest farmer's market is more than 40 miles away in Karbala.
"This farmer's market is closer to the farmers' fields," Sheik Umran Hashim, the head of the Alwaha Agricultural Association, said. "By spending less money traveling, the farmers keep more money in their pocket."
The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize the leadership of 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, with PRT and local leaders and to showcase the progress of the market, officials said. Topics included funding, the market's cold-storage facility, prices for market stalls and security.
Khdir, where the fish farm is located, is a mostly Shiite town. It was overrun by al-Qaida terrorists, who used it as a training ground and as a staging area for attacks in the area. Al-Qaida prevented the farmers in the area from harvesting fish, depriving them of their livelihood.
Sheik Jaffer Hussin Dandal, who owns the fish farms in this part of the province, is one of the first sheiks to work with coalition forces here, and as a result, he is able to harvest fish without al-Qaida interference. The resurgent fish farms, officials said, are helping to bring back people who were forced out when al-Qaida was operating in the area.
(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little and Army Spc. Dawn Van Horn serve in the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)