PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Members of the Panjshir Province Regional Community Development Council, the Bazarak mayor, representatives from the International City Managers Association and Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Civil Affairs Soldiers met in the Bazarak District July 26 to discuss local and provincial issues.
The weekly meeting, which is held either at Forward Operating Base Lion or the Bazarak Guest House, has become a forum for Panjshiris at the village level to take part in the government through their CDC, according to U.S. Army Spc. LeeAnn Kwait, Panjshir PRT Civil Affairs.
“These meetings are important because they allow transparency in the process of local villagers bringing projects through their government to request help from the PRT,” said Kwait, a Levittown, Pa., native. “We have six commander-approved projects now that have come up through the CDCs from villagers.”
The meeting started with Khalilullah Rahmani, an ICMA employee working as the Bazarak mayor’s advisor, discussing his recent trip to a slaughterhouse in the Jalalabad area. Panjshir leaders are trying to establish a slaughterhouse in the Anaba District of Panjshir. Rahmani went to the Jalalabad slaughterhouse to get some ideas, and he said he was excited to show Kwait and U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Ryan, Panjshir PRT CA, what he had found.
Following a slaughterhouse slide show on a laptop, the group moved to the mayor’s office where Rahmani, the mayor, a municipality engineer, CA team, and CDC representatives from the Rohka District, Bazarak Municipality and Parakh Village met with Zahir Payeez, a local contractor.
The group discussed Payeez’ project idea that each house in the province should have a water filtration system installed. Payeez said this particular project was extremely successful in the Kapisa Province.
“People get sick now,” said Payeez. “Children are getting sick from drinking this water. This filter for each household makes water 95 percent clean. It costs about $15-20 per house.”
The water filter presentation appeared to be successful as the mayor told Payeez that he would set up a meeting for him to present it to the city council. The mayor then asked Kwait the status of previously proposed projects.
Kwait told the mayor about the six approved projects. As she named each project, the men in the meeting smiled when projects in their respective districts were announced.
“One of the great things about these projects is that the villagers are bringing an in-kind contribution to them,” said Kwait. “We get to talk to the villagers and look them in the eye to get commitment from their end.”
Ryan, a North Easton, Mass., native, said he likes the personal coordination between different districts within the province.
“They share ideas with each other,” said Ryan. “They also discuss cross-district projects like the slaughterhouse and landfill. It’s important to have all of the key players get together and have a consolidated plan.”
Communication is important between the districts, said Kwait. The current style of meetings can be easily sustained even if the PRT isn’t involved.
“This meeting is the prototypical example of good governance,” said Kwait. “Panjshiris access their government through village elders, then through CDCs to the mayor’s office. They are able to obtain resources that improve the quality of life.”
The meeting ended with the group traveling to Rokha to look at an “emergency project” involving the water supply. Kwait agreed to meet with the Rokha CDC representative the next day to look at another problem area.
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