Cropping Iraq's crops: 13th COSCOM Civil Affairs and Iraqi landowners coordinate harvest

Story by Pfc. Blanka Stratford
13th COSCOM Public Affairs

With a new cropping season about to take effect, the 13th Corps Support Command (COSCOM) Civil Affairs are working in conjunction with the 308th US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Brigade (USACAPOP) and Iraqi Sheik landowners to establish a crop growth plan around Camp Anaconda, a logistics base in the Soledin Province of Iraq.

The Civil Affairs team met for the third time with 14 Sheik landowners in reference to land usage, crop rotation and security issues in the surrounding region of Camp Anaconda. The Sheiks, who represent approximately 130 farmers, were given advice about issues such as the use of land fertilizer, specific seasonal change of crops and the military-enforced maximum height for the harvest.

"[US forces] have to be able to observe activity from the guard towers and fence line at Camp Anaconda," said Lt. Col. Nicholas Zoeller, 13th COSCOM Civil Affairs officer-in-charge.

Because the cropland is around the immediate vicinity of the base, the plants must be kept at a maximum height of 18 inches for clear visibility, meaning that certain crops such as corn will have to be omitted from the harvest.

"It is the first time the landowners have been approached about such issues, but we're confident that we will come to a resolution on these matters," Zoeller said. "The Sheiks have been very cooperative, realizing that this is a security issue."

Additionally, the US military is financially compensating the Iraqi landowners for any loss of income.

"It's an extensive project," said Zoeller.

To date, the Civil Affairs team has facilitated the cutting of cane growing around the base canals. The cane had previously obstructed vision from the guard towers.

"There are crops growing here year round," said Zoeller. "We are getting into the start of grape season, along with carrots and onions and other vegetables. Farmers will be planting these crops shortly, so this was an opportune moment for making such an agreement for both the farmers' continued welfare as well as the security of the base."

According to Zoeller, the crops - to include corn, tomatoes, squash, and carrots - are not only used in Iraq, but also exported to surrounding countries.

"The [Soledin Province] is the breadbasket of Iraq," said Zoeller.

Along with agricultural plans, the 13th COSCOM Civil Affairs team is working on water projects (i.e. water wells and irrigation) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as rebuilding schools within the area.

The team is also assisting in training recruits for the Iraqi police and fire department, said Zoeller, who himself is a retired officer from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C.

"The team is very optimistic about present and future Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations projects in the vicinity," said Zoeller.

"Our goal is to have the Iraqi people become self-sufficient in all areas, including the government, police, fire and agriculture ministries."


news photo
8 Feb 04 Sheik landowners around LSA Anaconda and 13th COSCOM's G-5 LTC(P) Zoeller

news photo
COL (P) Chambers & Sheiks