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Iraqi women learn poultry production from USDA advisor.

David Greaser, USDA Farm Service Agency county executive director for Huntingdon/Blair Counties in Huntingdon, Pa., recently returned to the United States following a 1-year voluntary assignment, helping to rebuild Iraq's agricultural sector. He was part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Istiqlaal Qada, 20 miles north of Baghdad along the Tigris River.

Greaser worked on a variety of projects, including small poultry flock management and beekeeping training for Iraqi women, many of whom are widows and are members of local farm organizations, which would be the equivalent off armer co-ops in the United States. Recently, a group of 75 women from the Rafedain Foundation/al-Rashdiyah Branch completed 20 hours of poultry training.

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After completing the course, these women received 10 hens, one rooster and 110 pounds of fodder to start their own small poultry farms. A local veterinarian who taught the course will make followup visits to each woman's home. One week per month, the women will allow the eggs to hatch to ensure a future supply of hens for egg laying.

This training is making a difference in the lives of the women, their families and their neighbors, as evidenced by demand for future training. The branch manager of the Rafedain Foundation told Greaser he could not go to his office for 2 days because of the number of women stopping by to get into future classes.

The fact that many of the women were war widows with little other source of income made this not just an economic development project, but a true humanitarian effort, says Greaser. "I think we accomplished a lot. The goal in all these efforts is to build capacity and sustainability, and I think we achieved that.

"When I first arrived, I thought, 'what have I gotten myself into,'" Greaser recalls. "But once I got to know the people and started interacting with them, it was very rewarding. I can't say I enjoyed every day of it, but I did enjoy the overall experience."

So far, three poultry sessions have been held with 200 women being trained. The training is continuing, even though Greaser is now back home. Funding for this project was obtained from the U.S. Embassy's Quick Response Fund.
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Publication:Rural Cooperatives
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:374
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