News: Empowering a District Development Authority
Story by Spc. Albert Kelley
Like many platoon leaders, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Nick R. Eidemiller has increased stability in eastern Afghanistan by helping a solid district government establish itself in his area of responsibility
Eidemiller, a platoon leader with 1st platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rock, of Paso Robles, Calif., worked closely with district and village level representatives to lay the foundation for improved governance in the Noorgal District of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“He took a simple concept like the District Development Authority and the Community District Council and identified the problem of there being two different powerbases which were the government itself and the tribal system,” said U.S. Army Capt. Joe B. Snowden, the company commander. “He found a way to connect the tribal system to the government.”
Eidemiller mapped out every village in the district and then reorganized them into four zones based on population centers, common issues and tribal relationships. Each of these zones became the new central district committees.
A shura, an informal meeting, including each district villagefollowed, in which each central development committee was identified and the committee leaders verified. Eidemiller ensured that each village belonged to a CDC before they left that meeting.
“The last thing you want to do is birth an organization that doesn’t have full representation,” Eidemiller said. “If a single village feels left out, [the new organization] can break. The enemy can then use it as an insurgent haven.”
CDCs met once a week to discuss the needs of their villages. Three representatives from each CDC then met bi-weekly for DDA meetings. Here, they presented project ideas that were needed in their respective CDC’s. Development Authority members voted on and ratified projects with signatures and thumbprints.
The Noorgal DDA submitted 13 projects since December 2009. Much of the progress is attributed to the participation of enablers such as civil affairs, provincial reconstruction teams and agricultural development teams.
Currently, DDA projects are funded through Coalition Force’s budgets in the amount of $250,000 per quarter. In the future, there are hopes of building income-producing projects such as cigarette or bicycle manufacturing plants to lessen the dependence of coalition force aid. The projects would be based on the district’s ability to produce products that are marketable district, provincial and countrywide.
“It’s about creating a system that’s homogeneous with the tribal system and the tenets of a fully representative democracy,” Eidemiller said. “If you can marry these two things, it gives the people a system that they want to maintain and embrace as their own.”