Micro-Grant Makes Business Boom for Iraqi Butcher
By Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Jan. 10, 2008 Business is booming for a butcher in Arab Jabour, Iraq, thanks to the micro-grants program being implemented by the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Hussen Jowd (right), a butcher in Arab Jabour, Iraq, stands outside a new building being constructed for his business, Jan. 7, 2008. Improvements to his business are a result of the micro-grant program that provides businesses with up to $2,500 to help them expand. Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Hussen Jowd’s success even garnered mention from President Bush during a Nov. 2 Basic Combat Training graduation speech at Fort Jackson, S.C., as an example of improving conditions in Iraq.
The micro-grants program is designed to give the local economy a jumpstart, Army Capt. Rems Keane, Company B, 426th Civil Affairs Battalion, said.
Iraq’s economy follows the supply-chain distribution economic model. In this model, Keane explained, goods are produced from a natural resource and distributed to retailers, who provide the goods to consumers. When consumers obtain the goods from retailers, money is introduced into the supply-chain distribution system.
This money is sent back up the chain, strengthening the links as it goes. This benefits the consumer by providing more goods and so the cycle continues, adding more jobs along the way. These jobs give consumers the money needed for consumption.
Introducing capital into this cycle stimulates the economy, Keane said, and stimulation leads to a stable economy, a strategic goal for the region.
The micro-grants are targeted at the retailer level of the supply-chain distribution economic model, Keane said. With grants up to $2,500, he said, retailers can improve their businesses and expand their markets.
To receive a grant, business owners must first provide a plan of action for use of the grant and agree to use the money for their business and not personal gain, to attend business training, and to attend local business association meetings.
While coalition forces now host the training and meetings, nongovernmental organizations with more business skills are integrating into the process, Keane said.
Although the government of Iraq does not fund the program, Keane said, the goal is to transition to a program in which the Iraqi government provides businesses loans the businesses eventually pay back.
Businesses do not pay the micro-grant capital back, but they do have to provide proof to coalition forces officials who visit them bimonthly that the money is being used for the right purposes.
The effect of money put to good use is evident in Jowd’s butcher shop. He has used his money for several purposes, Keane said. His grant has increased the size of his stock, provided new equipment for his business, and is being used toward a new building to accommodate the boom in production.
Jowd said that before security improved in the region, he sold one or two sheep a week. Now, with newfound security and people moving about again, he sells the same amount daily.
Once the new building is complete, Jowd said, he plans to expand his products by selling soups as well as meat. He hopes to use further grants to build a restaurant and buy a delivery truck to expand his market to other communities.
While the grants originally were meant only for the retailer level of the economy, Jowd’s entrepreneurial spirit is filtering into other levels, Keane said. His truck will increase the distribution link, and as his business expands, it will create more jobs for the area. For example, Jowd employs two men to construct the new building.
“I’ve got supplies, and the people are getting money,” Jowd said.
While Jowd’s business is a beacon for success, the program has other successful ventures, Keane said. The program has distributed more than $140,000 to local businesses in Arab Jabour, Hawr Rajab, Buaytha and Adwaniyah. While a price tag can be put on the grants, the dividends reaped from the initial investment are priceless.
“The money has made my shop beautiful,” Jowd said. “You’re all my friends.”
(Army Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky serves with 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)