Working With Iraqi Farmers Reminds Me Why I Serve

Posted by Aaron Snipe
May 20, 2009
FSO Aaron Snipe at Veterinary Clinic in Iraq

About the Author: Aaron Snipe is a Foreign Service Officer with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Muthanna, Iraq.

Sometimes I find myself muttering five little words: I hate being in Iraq.

The problem with this statement is that it's actually not true. I don't hate being in Iraq. Working in the fast-paced, high-stress environment of a PRT is always a challenge. The seven-day work week can be difficult to manage. But, when I step back from the stress and look at what we are doing, I actually quite like Iraq. I love talking to Iraqis about their country. I like the intellectual challenges inherent in Iraq. I enjoy hearing what Iraqis have to say about things I think I've figured out – and I love it when Iraqis tell me I'm wrong. Though, I have to say, I love it even more when Iraqis tell me I'm wrong, and then I prove to them I am right. But most of all, I don’t hate being in Iraq, because I can call my colleagues – both American and Iraqi – friends.

I was reminded of why I like being in Iraq during a visit to a veterinary research center where we are assisting Iraqi farmers with new techniques in animal husbandry. As I wrote in a previous blog entry, Muthanna is an agrarian society at heart, and some of our most meaningful efforts here are focused in this sector.

The PRT is working with the Director General of Veterinary Services to help farmers replenish their fleeting livestock numbers. The PRT has purchased liquid nitrogen machines that will make it possible for the Iraqis to implement a province-wide bovine artificial insemination (BAI) program. Decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein, years of war, and other economic factors forced many of Muthanna's farmers to slaughter their livestock for food to feed their families, instead of keeping the cattle to produce dairy products. The dwindling numbers of breeding bulls have created an agricultural crisis for provincial farmers. With a vibrant Iraqi-led (and PRT-supported) BAI program in place, the numbers of livestock will certainly increase. This assistance is taking place at the grassroots level, and agricultural officials and farmers can attest to the positive impact it will have on the province.

My visit to the veterinary research center also reminded me of one of my fondest, childhood memories. For many years as a kid, I attended summer camp in Pennsylvania. On a Saturday morning, many summers ago – it must have been when I was about fifteen-years-old – the camp director asked if I would help him fetch hay for the horses.

We drove a truck a few miles away from camp to a large field. Seated in neat rows, evenly placed across the field’s wide expanse, were countless bales of hay. My job: to toss the heavy bales of hay into the truck bed. We drove up and down the lanes of hay for hours. When we finished, I looked up to see the hay stacked five, six, maybe even seven, tiers high. That day was the first time I can recall working hard and loving it. Riding back to camp atop a mountain of hay, baked in the summer heat, drenched in sweat and smelling like the farm, I felt like a king sitting on a throne. It was just a truckload of hay, and I was just a kid, but it was a day I'll never forget.

At age fifteen, I'm sure I'd never even heard of Iraq. Twenty years later, though, I feel a similar pride in the work I am doing here.

Read more entries about Aaron Snipe's experiences serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Muthanna, Iraq.



District Of Columbia, USA
May 20, 2009

Molly in Washington, DC writes:

Cool program. These types of efforts will pay huge dividends. Great work.

Maryland, USA
May 21, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Hi Ya, Aaron

It's good to hear from you again. I think this (BAI) program will make a big difference in the lives of the farming community. I know bulls will only mate with the same cow once. Then the farmer needs to find a new bull for his herd. So this is a great program that you have started.

I also liked your camp story ,and the photo of you with the cows :) .

...Cya...Aaron Snipe

May 21, 2009

Pablo in Canada writes:

I am so happy to see another interesting blog posting from Mr. Snipe including more stories about working with animals. The Iraqi animal kingdom needs more animal-friendly people like you, sir. Merci beaucoup!

May 21, 2009

Patricia writes:

Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences and the importance of your work.

Illinois, USA
May 21, 2009

Basha in Illinois writes:

Great post! Thanks for giving us such an inside view of a diplomat's life in Iraq. Keep the stories coming. You're my favorite DipNote blogger.

p.s. I recently found your personal blog, and I love the photo sections! Especially the shots of all the sweet Iraqi kids, and the album for this story, "Beefing up our Diplomacy" :). But why no recent photo albums?

Pennsylvania, USA
May 22, 2009

Helen in Pennsylvania writes:

I want to thank you for all you are doing in Iraq. I appreciate the hard work you do everyday.

United States
May 22, 2009

Alex in U.S.A. writes:

Aaron, you're very inspiring! You're making sure something great comes out of this war, and I'm sure your comrades are doing the same. Thank you all :-).

United States
May 22, 2009

J.J. in U.S.A. writes:

Thank you for your story, More of America needs to hear what a great job you are doing and your great work is appreciated.

I have never heard of the work Americans are doing with Iraqi farmers you are an inspiration to all of us, Thank you again for all your hard work.

A huge thank you from Hillarys village.

South Korea
May 23, 2009

Jun in South Korea writes:

in my think of Taliban( i just renimd of Russia`s ruin, they had big troops and ewapons but, they had defeated. ....... my thinking, they not ubderstanding and not adopt islam`s culture, if, they had, ,,,,,, history is history,,, Bush`s policies was thinks civilization of the counterpart or gain and loss of culture and internal situation under worrying polyvalence failed the craving of the themselves without not yet by force. Before entering into the Islam mosque from the photograph which sees before the man who takes off the shoes and the scarf of characteristics one features. Will raise knows to wish, that please, I misunderstand, below is foolish thinking, everyones know.)

To the west cooperative and there was not a rejection to external civilization, there was loved had did not corrupt the passion which and genuine is systematic about development and prosperity of the fatherland, the citizens, a self-conceit to civilization of the themselves, and will excavate, will rear neo-islam influences anti-Islam a Taliban influence oppose with character and will make and the thing will not be one method? Believes Islam thoroughly

Patricia S.
New York, USA
May 23, 2009

Patricia S. in New York writes:

Mr. Snipe -- I enjoy reading your posts -- please keep them coming. Your experience, at the summer camp, prepared you for your current vocation. The memories of your camp years, combined with the memories from your time in Iraq, are priceless. Thank you .


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