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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PRT turns best practice into Afghan community favorite

12 March 2007
By Capt. Joe Campbell
Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team

-- A best practice program developed by the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team has become a community favorite here. The program provides construction materials to Afghan locals to complete or repair their own projects.

Initially started as a way to encourage villagers to take a more active role in community development, the free bags of ready-to-mix cement plan has expanded to include gabions -- wire cages designed to hold rocks or other riprap material to form foundations or erosion control structures.

"Villagers pick up bags of cement from the PRT themselves, do the work themselves, then our engineers inspect the work to ensure the cement was used properly," said Army Reserve Capt. Nick Ashbaugh, Panjshir PRT Civil Affairs team leader.

The 49th and 50th do-it-yourself projects were undertaken recently after cement projects in the Khenj and Dara districts were approved.

Villagers from Safachi received 150 bags of cement to repair a mosque while Bari Ali citizens were given 100 bags of cement to fix a canal wall for their micro-hydro power plant.

"We always keep cement on hand to support these types of projects," said Captain Ashbaugh. "We've given out more than 6,500 bags of cement since May 2006."

Not all projects are approved. Each request meets a stringent review process by the requesting village's provincial council members and then the need is verified by PRT members before a project is supported.

"The success of the cement program led us to add gabions to our do-it-yourself efforts and we expect this addition to be met with enthusiasm throughout Panjshir," said Air Force Lt. Col. Neal Kringel, Panjshir PRT commander.

The program allows locals to accomplish projects benefiting their villages and it is a cost-effective way for the PRT to make a difference in more reconstruction projects while maximizing taxpayer dollars.

"Captain Ashbaugh has negotiated the delivered price of good-quality cement from our supplier to $5 per bag, so a 150-bag project costs a mere $750," said Colonel Kringel. "More importantly, it fosters partnership, sweat equity and fast-track."

Photo: Afghanistan villagers in the Khenj district watch as bags of ready-to-mix cement are unloaded in Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. The cement was used to repair a retaining wall that protects a mosque. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Chris White).

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