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AgriLife Research farm manager part of Team Borlaug in Iraq


Al Nelson was looking for a new challenge, but he never thought he would find himself as part of an agricultural team helping to restore Iraqi food and fiber production.

"I got into it not knowing what to expect," said Nelson, farm manager for Texas AgriLife Research in College Station, who spent four months in Iraq. "I went into it with an open mind and it was absolutely an incredible experience."

Nelson and three other individuals were part of a team assembled by the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. Team Borlaug is charged to provide recommendations to the U.S. military command and Iraqi local governments for improving agricultural production and agribusiness.

The Borlaug Institute is under contract with the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force to improve business and stability operations and serve as a resource for developing Iraqi agriculture.

"We were assigned to Anbar Province," Nelson said. "The main crops there were wheat, barley and sheep for livestock."

Immediate needs were water, electricity and fuel to move water, Nelson said.

"They do have resources there, but no local businesses to help the farmer get (crops) planted," Nelson said.

One of the team recommendations was to establish an agricultural cooperative and investigate implementing a credit system where farmers could have access to money to purchase crop inputs, he said.

Each day, the team would conduct field activities and assess various aspects of agricultural production. At the end of the day, Borlaug team members would compile field notes and discuss solutions for addressing the problems.

Nelson said the whole Iraqi experience was one he will never forget--from the wide variety of food, to the camaraderie shared with a cross-section of people.

"I went into this knowing if I could contribute just a little bit to the effort over there, I would be doing my job," Nelson said. "I came away with a sense of accomplishment.

"They were going to take some of our recommendations to heart and use those recommendations to try and improve the situation there."

For more on the Borlaug Institute, visit http://borlaug.tamu.edu.

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