RAMADI, Iraq --
Marines with Civil Affairs Team 3, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, assessed a new irrigation system being built in an open expanse of farmland in the Sophia area of Ramadi, Iraq, Oct. 8.
The new system is one of six being built to improve the quality of life for many local farmers and civilians living in Ramadi.
Each system will enhance farmers’ ability to raise crops and animals, helping to boost the local economy.
“The biggest benefit of irrigation is farmers have water available to grow crops and feed their animals and family,” said Staff Sgt. Ben J. Lund, a 34-year-old assistant team leader from North Lake, Wis., with Team 3.
The systems also assist farmers in raising a surplus of crops and animals to sell on the local market, said Lund.
Much of the soil in Iraq is not completely ideal for farming. Arid atmospheres, hot temperatures, little rainfall and sandy topsoil put a serious hamper on many simple farming operations.
Irrigation is a method of farming that has been used since the Mesopotamian era and helps produce fertile soil in what would be an otherwise barren landscape.
Irrigation projects like this one help keep farmers in Ramadi in business.
“This project is one of the smaller ones that we are working on, but the big overall picture will benefit many people living near the irrigation stations and substations,” said 1st Lt. David B. Gilliland, a 24-year-old civil affairs team leader from Florence, Ky., with Team 3.
The team met with an Iraqi contractor in charge of designing the irrigation canal and discussed details of the systems design.
A pipe will be placed to carry water from the Euphrates River to the farmland. An electric pump pushes the water into separate canals dug in the farmland, distributing water to crops and their root systems planted in columns next to the canal.
The pump will run off of a fuel-powered generator designed to provide electricity in an area where power gridlines aren’t available to the local populous. Sheiks and tribal leaders from the area will maintain the generator and provide the fuel used to run it.
“Once a scope of work has been established and a contract is signed, we monitor the project to completion,” said Lund. “Our job is to verify the work is being done per the contract and no shortcuts are being taken.”
The irrigation project and several others were planned by provincial ministries that maintain water resources for the Government of Iraq.
Coalition forces simply help coordinate purchases and contracts and check on progress and the security of the neighboring areas.
The project is being paid for using Iraqi Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds rather than (U.S.) CERP funds.
ICERP allows U.S. military commanders the ability to spend Government of Iraq funds to provide urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction requirements within their areas of operation.
“The really great thing about this project is that it is being paid for with Iraqi funds,” said Gilliland.
Civil affairs Marines frequently work with provincial government organizations of Iraq, planning and executing future projects designed to restore balance to a once unstable region.
Many Iraqi citizens who live in predominantly rural areas earn their living raising crops and animals. Farming often times provides them with some of their only means to earn money.
What may only seem to be a simple water pump and an irrigation canal to many, will offer several citizens of Ramadi a better future.
The project is scheduled for completion within the next several weeks.