By Army Spc. Daniel Schneider
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2010 - U.S. soldiers joined U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to witness the reopening of a poultry processing plant southwest of here Jan. 10. The Al Kanz poultry processing plant in Yusifiyah, near Contingency Operating Station Falcon, closed in 2004 due to the poor condition of its facilities and the lack of poultry producers.
But joint efforts between the Army and the Agriculture Department provide hopes of the reopened plant providing jobs for 150 people and sparking industry in the area, said Army Capt. Bobby Lumsden, an operations officer with the 1st Cavalry Division's 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
"The plant is the only functioning processing plant that can take live chickens direct from the farmers, completely prepare them, freeze them, and deliver them to the market," Lumsden said.
"In the early 1970s, this region, which used to be nicknamed 'the triangle of death,' exported poultry and agriculture," said Juan Alsace, team leader of the Agriculture Department's embedded provincial reconstruction team. "The infrastructure was here; we just had to refurbish what was already in place."
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division began refurbishing the plant in March 2008, and the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade, along with 30th Brigade soldiers, continued the project, said Michael Clayton, senior advisor for the provincial reconstruction team.
The plant provides fresh halal chicken, Clayton said.
Soldiers from 120th Combined Arms Battalion provided security for the project and facilitated the Army effort in funding the project.
Teaching Iraqis methods to flourish on their own gives them the ability to provide their own stability without needing Americans, Clayton said. Alsace agreed. "The key to this project is sustained capacity building for when the Army is gone," he explained.
"We've taught the farmers husbandry methods that allow them to produce a market-weight chicken in 35 days, a process that used to take them 55 to 60 days to accomplish," Clayton said.
In addition to the 150 potential jobs at the plant itself, the project provides for hundreds of other jobs at chicken farms, hatcheries, breeders and feed mills.
The Mahmudiyah Poultry Association is an Iraq-run organization that spearheaded this project, asking the United States for help in re-establishing the poultry value chain. The chain involves breeder houses, hatcheries, producers, and the processing plants to cut out middlemen.
Shaykh Najim Fadel Hussein al-Ameri, president of the association, said that assistance includes security and economic development. "Security and economic development are two different sides of the same coin."
(Army Spc. Daniel Schneider of the 366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment serves with U.S. Division Center.)