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Cablegate: Basrah's Date Palms Project Offers Jobs, Possibility Of

VZCZCXRO4593
PP RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHBC #0175 3362002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 022002Z DEC 06
FM REO BASRAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0488
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHBC/REO BASRAH 0508

UNCLAS BASRAH 000175

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR ETRD ETRA IZ
SUBJECT: BASRAH'S DATE PALMS PROJECT OFFERS JOBS, POSSIBILITY OF
DEVELOPMENT

1. (U) This cable was cleared by PRT Basrah.

2. (U) SUMMARY: The Basrah provincial government has begun
implementation of a $10 million project to restore the date palm
plantations of Basrah, creating 2,000 immediate jobs. The
director of the Basrah Date Palm Research Center, Mohammed A.
Hameed, told poloff November 26 that about 140,000 offshoots are
being planted on approximately 1250 hectares of land owned by
about 1,000 farming families. He said because individual
farmers own the plantations, the farmers have economic
incentives to maintain them. The date palms create a
microclimate that is conducive to cultivating a variety of
fruits and vegetables and raising livestock, according to
Hameed. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) On November 26 the director of the Basrah Date Palm
Research Center, Mohammed A. Hameed, told poloff that the Basrah
provincial government has begun implementing a $10 million
project to restore Basrah's date palm plantations, once one of
the world's leading producers of dates. The director stated
that 63,000 palm offshoots were planted in 625 hectares of land
in October and early November and that a second phase of
planting of about 77,000 offshoots is expected to take place
from February to August 2007 in another 625 hectares. With maps
and diagrams, Hameed showed that the planting areas are all near
Basrah, adjacent to the Shatt al-Arab River or one of its
tributaries. According to Hameed, the soil preparation and
irrigation canal repair tasks have created about 2,000 jobs,
which are filled mainly by young, unemployed men from Basrah and
retired soldiers.

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4. (U) Hameed described how the date palm offshoots are planted
in privately owned plots inhabited by about 1,000 farming
families, who receive training in the use of fertilizer and
pesticides to maintain the plantations. He said that since
individual farmers own the plantations, the farmers have
economic incentives to maintain them, unlike many other
infrastructure projects that have fallen into disrepair in Iraq.
He added that the provincial government's agriculture office
employs experts to support the local farming community's needs,
another sign that the date palm restoration project will be
self-sustaining. The palm trees will require four to five years
to produce marketable fruit and offshoots. In the meantime,
Hameed said, the repaired irrigation system will allow farmers
to plant other fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes,
cucumbers, alfalfa and corn, to supplement their incomes.

5. (U) Danish agricultural adviser Ole Jepsen, a member of the
Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team is considered the
godfather of the date palm restoration project. Jepsen, through
long months of work was able to bring together government,
scientific and business groups in order to make the date palm
project a success. Included in these groups were Veterinary
State Company and Basrah Agricultural College which gave insight
to the process in which the date palm plantations create
microclimates that are conducive to growing high value fruits
and vegetables and raising livestock and fodder crops. In
meetings with poloff, Jepsen described how he saw possible
spinoff industries from the date palm plantations, such as date
processing and packaging at market requirements and meat
processing. Danish engineer Niels Elsnab, who supervised and
oversaw the construction of irrigation sluices and culverts in
the fields around Basrah, stated that authorizations were needed
from the government ministries including the Water Resources
Ministry (WRM) due to the irrigation canals that siphon water
directly from rivers. In addition, Elsnab told poloff that
cooperation and coordination was required between the WRM, which
has jurisdiction over main canals, the Agriculture Ministry,
which controls secondary irrigation systems watering public
lands, and the Basrah Provincial Council, which handles issues
related to the irrigation of private lands.

6. (U) Comment. The date palm restoration project's creation
of 2,000 jobs in a city awash with unemployed youths holds the
potential to play a key role in the long-term development of the
local economy. Before the Iran-Iraq war, 30 million date palms
grew around this city. Saddam ordered the many of the
plantations hacked down during that conflict to create fields of
fire for his artillery. The date palm project is a welcome
developmental sign in a city often noted for only its violence
and economic stagnation. End comment.

GASTALDO

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