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Marines plant seeds to support Iraq economy

By Cpl. Dean Davis | | January 16, 2009

Drop a stone into a pond and its ripples reach far from where it entered. Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion tested this philosophy here with an agriculture project, trading stones for barley seed and their pond for local villages of Northern Iraq.

“The people here are approaching the end of the planting season and with a drought over the last few years we needed to work quickly,” said Capt. Dominique F. Fattore, fires officer for 1st LAR Bn. “We felt that by providing seed for about 300 of the local farmers who needed it most, we could affect the largest circle of people, which will be at least few thousand.”

Because the Marines bought the seed from local contractors, the money from both the initial purchase and what farmers can earn after harvest will stay in the area, explained Fattore., 26, from Pittsburgh.

The Marines coordinated with Ali Sheru Kahlaf, a local Yezidi leader, to have a central location for farmers to receive the seed for their crops.

“It isn’t common for us to receive such a generous gesture of support from anyone. This will help improve this area’s economy and its peoples’ quality of life,” said Kahlaf.

The project was initially designed to benefit the poorest 120 farmers, but it stretched to nearly double that amount after all the seed was distributed, explained Cpl. Rudy A. Cruz, a disbursing agent with 1st LAR Bn.

“It’s difficult to say just how far this project will reach,” said Cruz, 22, from Houston, Tx. “We invested more than $38,000, which will return a lot more to the people of this area, helping their families and local government for years to come.”

Both coalition forces and the Iraqi people hope to reap the benefits of their partnership, helping Iraq to prosper, said Cruz.

“I’m used to making condolence payments for combat damages. So being part of this type of mission shows what has happened here over the last few years,” said Cruz. “It’s rewarding to know you were part of a group that gave so much to people who have so little. It’s one of those experiences you never forget.”