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Cablegate: Ninewa: Prt Supports Farmers' Association In

VZCZCXRO0174
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2860/01 2381044
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261044Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3021
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002860

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

USDA/FAS/OCBD/DRDAD FOR VWOLF, USDA/FAS/OFSO FOR RVERDONK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID EAGR PHUM PGOV KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: NINEWA: PRT SUPPORTS FARMERS' ASSOCIATION IN
MULTI-SECTARIAN BARTALLAH

REF: BAGHDAD 2782

1. This is a Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)
message.

2. (SBU) Begin Summary: Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)
Ninewa is supporting the formation of grassroots farmers'
organizations in the religiously and ethnically diverse towns
of Bartallah & Al Qosh in northeastern Ninewa Province.
Acting as the nascent institutions' organizational lynchpin,
the PRT is helping to establish the managerial, financial and
legal groundwork for farmers in these towns to address common
agri-business problems of input procurement, land use,
marketing and product processing. Based on input from these
communities that commercial incentives provide a neutral zone
of daily interaction and mutual cooperation that can override
sectarian rivalry, the PRT has already facilitated meetings
among farmers from both towns who are interested in working
together. PRT is looking broadly at the potential for
farmers' associations in other parts of the province as well.
End Summary.

FARMERS TAKE A FIRST STEP
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Bartallah farmers from both the Muslim Shabak and
Assyrian Christian communities met with the PRT on August 15
to explore the managerial issues of creating an organization
that is capable of addressing their shared needs to obtain
seed, fertilizer and water, to schedule land use and to
identify markets for their vegetable and cereal products.
The meeting was significant in that it included both Shabak,
a minority Shi'a Muslim sect, and Assyrian Christians, a
minority group in Iraq as a whole. Recently, the two groups
have engaged in a low-level of sometimes violent
confrontation and political rhetoric over land ownership and
cultural assimilation in the rich farmland east of Mosul
(reftel). The two groups committed at the meeting to
identifying names of farmers interested in working together
on the farmers' association.

4. (SBU) The PRT also met in nearby Al Qosh on August 16 with
a budding farmers' organization of Sunni Turkmen, Shi'a
Shabak, Sunni Arabs, and Assyrian and Armenian Christians.
That diverse group similarly committed itself to exploring
common solutions to agri-business problems through a
multi-sectarian institution. The PRT assists the nascent
organizations in both towns through close coordination with
key local government offices. Incoming Ninewa Director
General (DG) of Agriculture Dr. Abdulsatar Asmeer Alrigbo
welcomed the idea of farmers' associations, listing several
ways in which one might be organized, such as a cooperative,
nongovernmental organization or union.

COMBINING LOCAL AND OUTSIDE FINANCING
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The PRT is reviewing possible investment sources.
Notably, the farmers themselves -- from all sects -- offered
to stake some of their own funds in these institutions.
While that amount would encourage local buy-in and
confidence-building, the bulk of investment in the
associations will likely come from outside banks, including
some that already work with local businessmen, as well as
donor resources like USAID-funded agri-business,
micro-finance and business-support programs.

IDENTIFYING AND EXPANDING MARKETS
---------------------------------

6. (SBU) Beyond organizational structure and financial
support, the PRT is looking into how the farmers'
organizations will process and market their products to
maintain sustainability and increase profits. The DG of
Agriculture, an Armenian Christian and a prominent Assyrian
Christian businessman each separately expressed interest in
developing profitable downstream agricultural processing
factories with a wide, possibly cross-sectarian, ownership.
While the PRT is searching for the best financial instrument
for the potential multimillion dollar fruit and vegetable
processing plant these individuals are considering, the Iraqi
Middle Market Development Initiative, funded by the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation, appears the most promising
candidate.

COMMENT: AN ECONOMIC SOLUTION
-----------------------------


BAGHDAD 00002860 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) The willingness of grassroots farmers from across
the ethnic and religious spectrum to identify shared
commercial interests and explore common solutions through
civil society institutions offers promise for long-term
reconciliation in Bartallah and Al Qosh. Nonetheless,
tensions and distrust between members and political leaders
of the many sects involved are real and could threaten to
derail any cross-sectarian project (reftel). Further, the
success of the farmers' organizations will depend on
continued Ministry of Agriculture support as well as the
identification of financing sources and profitable downstream
markets, issues that the PRT is now working to resolve. End
Comment.

CROCKER

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