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Note: This material has been taken from "Provincial Development Plan, Balkh Provincial Profile" prepared by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), 2007.




Balkh province is situated in the northern part of Afghanistan, bordering Uzbekistan in the North, Tajikistan in the North-East, Kunduz province in the East, Samangan province in the South-East, Sar-e-Pul province in the South-West and Jauzjan province in the West. The capital city of the province is Mazar-e-Sharif, one of the biggest commercial and financial centres of Afghanistan. The province covers an area of 16,840 km2. Nearly half of the province is mountainous or semi mountainous terrain (48.7%) while half of the area (50.2%) is made up of flat land, as the following table shows:

Topography type

Flat Mountainous Semi Mountainous Semi Flat Not Reported TOTAL
50.2% 42.0% 6.7% .9% .3% 100.0%
Source: CSO/UNFPA Socio Economic and Demographic Profile


The province is divided into 15 districts. The provincial capital is Mazar-e-Sharif which has a population of about 375,181 inhabitants.


Demography and Population

Balkh has a total population of 1,123,948. There are 119,378 households in the province and households on average have 7 members. The following table shows the population by district: 



Around 66% of the population of Balkh lives in rural districts while 34% lives in urban areas. Around 51 % of the population is male and 49% is female. The major ethnic groups living in Balkh province are Tajiks and Pashtoons followed by Uzbek, Hazaras, Turkman, Arab and Baluch. Dari is spoken by about 50% of the population and 58% of the villages. The second most frequent language is Pashtu, spoken by the majorities in 266 villages representing 27% of the population, followed by Turkmani (11.9%) and Uzbeki (10.7%).

Balkh province also has a population of Kuchis or nomads whose numbers vary in different seasons. In winter 52,929 individuals, or 2.2% of the overall Kuchi population, stay in Balkh living in 80 communities. Half of these are short-range partially migratory, another third are long-range partially migratory, and 18% are settled. Overall, for long and short range migratory categories, less than half of the community migrates. In the winter both groups stay mostly in one area and don’t move around during the season. In the summer season, some 120 long range migratory Kuchi households come from Saripul province to Balkh province. The Kuchi population in the summer is 59,776 individuals.



Infrastructure and Natural Resources

The provision of basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, energy, transport and communications is one of the key elements necessary to provide the building blocks for private sector expansion, equitable economic growth, increased employment and accelerated agricultural productivity.

In Balkh province, on average only 31% of households use safe drinking water. This rises to 67% in the urban area, and falls to 12% in rural areas. Four of five households (80%) have direct access to their main source of drinking water within their community, however almost one in five households (18%) has to travel for up to an hour to access drinking water, and for 1% travel to access drinking water can take up to 6 hours as the table below shows:

Time required accessing main source of drinking water
In community Less than 1 hour 1-3 hours 3-6 hours
80% 18% 1% 1%
Source: NRVA 2005


On average only 12% of households have access to safe toilet facilities. The situation is better in the urban area where 15% of households have safe toilets, but this is true for only 10% of rural households. The following table shows the kinds of toilet facilities used by households in the province:

Toilet facilities used by households
None/ bush open field/ Dearan / Sahrah (area in compound but not pit) Open pit Traditional covered latrine Improved latrine Flush latrine
1% 1% 2% 84% 11% 1%
Source: NRVA 2005


In terms of meeting the basic requirements for energy, on average 49% of households in Balkh province have access to electricity with the great majority of these (41%) relying on public electricity. Access to electricity is much greater in the urban area where 95% of households have access to electricity, however, this figure falls to just 26% in rural areas, and a little more than half of these (14%) have access to public electricity.

The transport infrastructure in Balkh is reasonably well developed, with 38% of roads in the province able to take car traffic in all seasons, and 34% able to take car traffic in some seasons. However, in more than a quarter (27.5%) of the province there are no roads at all.

The following table indicates road travel times between the provincial capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, and the major district centers in the province, and other key provincial centers in the region:

Road Travel Times
From To Time Road Condition
Mazar-e-Sharif Kabul 6-7 hrs Asphalt
Mazar-e-Sharif Dehdadi 18 minutes Asphalt
Mazar-e-Sharif Balkh 25 Minutes Asphalt
Mazar-e-Sharif Chaharbolak 40 Minutes Asphalt
Mazar-e-Sharif Chimtal 90 minutes Asphalt, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Sholgara 2 hours Asphalted, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Kishindeh 3 hours Asphalt, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Zari 3. 5 hours Asphalt, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Charkent 3 hours Graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Marmul 2 hours Graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Nahri Shahi 10 minutes Asphalt
Mazar-e-Sharif Dawlatabad 1.30 hours Asphalt, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Shortapa 3 hours Asphalted, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Karldar 3 hours Asphalt, partially graveled
Mazar-e-Sharif Khulam 1 hour Asphalt
Source: UNAMA


In the area of telecommunications, Hairatan, Chimtal, Balkh, Dehdadi, Khulam, Charbolak, Nahre Shahi, and Dawlatabad districts of Balkh province has mobile phone coverage.


Economic Governance and Private Sector Development

Creating the conditions in which a dynamic and competitive private sector can flourish, is key to promoting economic growth, employment creation and poverty reduction. Balkh is both an agricultural and an industrial province. In terms of industry, one fertilizer factory is working in the province. The majority of commercial activity in Balkh is related to agriculture and small businesses.

Agriculture is the major source of revenue for 42% of households in Balkh province, including 61% of rural households and 7% of households in the urban area.Seventy percent of rural households and 6% of urban households own or manage agricultural land or garden plots in the province. However, more than half of households (58%) in the urban areas and more than one-fifth of households (21%) in rural areas derive income from trade and services. More than a third of households (35%) in urban and at least a quarter (25%) in rural areas earn some income through non-farm related labour. Livestock also accounts for income for 29% of rural households as the following table shows:

Sources of income reported by households
Source of income Rural (%) Urban (%) Total (%)
Agriculture 61 7 42
Livestock 29 3 20
Opium 12 2 9
Trade and Services 21 58 34
Manufacture 11 14 12
Non-Farm Labor 25 35 28
Remittances 2 1 1
Source: NRVA 2005


In 2005 there were 21 agricultural cooperatives active in Balkh involving 1,617 members. This was almost three times more people than in 2003 when the figure was only 601 members. In 2005 agricultural cooperatives controlled a total of 11,714 Hac of land and achieved a surplus of products for sale of 90,000 tons. As a result of this, each member held a share in the capital of the cooperative to the value of 703,100Afs.

Balkh produces industrial crops such as cotton, sesame, tobacco, olives, and sharsham in a relatively substantial number of villages. Of the 1.140 villages, 434 or 38% produce sesame, 422 villages produce cotton, 148 produce tobacco, and 123 produce sugar extracts. Together, these four products account for almost nine out ten commodities produced in the province.agricultural or animal products, there is not a very large production of industrial products in Balkh. Balkh and Sholgara districts are major producers of each, Chimtal also a major producer of cotton and sesame: Kishindeh is a major producer of sesame; and Dehdadi is a major producer of cotton.

The sector of small industries is dominated by one commodity-karakul skin. The districts of Dawlat Abad, Balkh, Chimtal, and Sholgara together house close to three quarters of the villages engaged in this particular industry. In the area of handicrafts, rugs are the most prominent, engaging more than 408 villages of the 1,140 (36%). Carpets, jewelry, and shawls are also produced, albeit in substantially less number of villages: rugs concentrated particularly in Chahar Kint, Sholgara, and Dawlat Abad; carpets in Dawlat Abad, Dehdadi, Balkh, and Chahar Bolak; jewelry in Dehdadi, in particular, and Chahar Kint; and shawls in Dawlat Abad, Chimtal, Chahar Kint, and Sholgara.

In 2005, 25% of households in Balkh reported taking out loans. Of these loans, a small percentage were used to invest in economic activity such as business investment (9%), agricultural inputs (8%) and buying land (1%).


Agriculture and Rural Development

nhancing licit agricultural productivity, creating incentives for non-farm investment, developing rural infrastructure, and supporting access to skills development and financial services will allow individuals, households and communities to participate licitly and productively in the economy. As agriculture represents the major source of income for more than two-fifth of the households in the province, rural development will be a key element of progress in Balkh. The most important field crops grown in Balkh province include wheat, barley, maize, flax and melon/water melon. The most common crops grown in garden plots include fruit and nut trees (67%), grapes (13%) and vegetables (4%). Melon/water melons (6%) and cotton (2%) are also frequently gown in garden plots in the province.

Six out of seven households with access to fertilizer use this on field crops (84%) and to a much lesser degree on garden plots (8%), although nearly one of ten households use fertilizer on both field and garden (8%). The main types of fertilizer used by households in the province are shown in the following table:

Main Types Of Fertilizer Used By Households
Human Animal Urea
% % % Average Kg per Household %
Average Kg per Household
21 35 56 448.1 Kg 50
488.4 Kg
Source: NRVA 2005


On average 67% of households in the province have access to irrigated land, whereas 28% of rural households and 14% of urban households have access to rain-fed land.

Households (%) access to irrigated and rain-fed land

Rural Urban
Access to irrigated land 66 69
Access to rain-fed land 28 14
Source: NRVA 2005


Sixty three percent of rural households, 89% of Kuchi households and 12% of households in urban areas in the province own livestock and poultry. The most commonly owned livestock are cattle, donkeys, poultry, sheep and goats as the following table shows:

Households (%) owning poultry and livestock
Livestock Kuchi Rural Urban Average
Cattle 86 56 8 40
Oxen 46 21 2 15
Horses 49 11 1 8
Donkey 63 41 4 29
Camel 23 4 1 3
Goats 71 31 4 22
Sheep 83 33 4 24
Poultry 63 35 8 26
Source: NRVA 2005



Ensuring good quality education and equitable access to education and skills are some of the important ways to raise human capital, reduce poverty and facilitate economic growth. The overall literacy rate in Balkh province is 44%, however, while more than half of men are literate (54%), this is true for just about one-third of women (32%). However, in the population aged between 15 and 24 the situation for men is slightly better with 58.3% literacy, and there is a smaller improvement for women (35.4%). The Kuchi population in the province has particularly low levels of literacy with just 6.1% of men and none of women able to read or write.

On average 58% of children between 6 and 13 are enrolled in school, including around two-thirds of boys (66%) and almost half of girls (48%). Amongst the Kuchi population, nearly half of boys (47%) and one in five girls (20%) attend school in Balkh during the winter months, however, only a quarter of the boys (25%) and about one in ten girls (9%) attend school in the province during the summer.

Overall there are 344 primary and secondary schools in the province catering for 305,895 students. Boys account for 59% of students and 95% of schools are boys’ schools. There are 8,481 teachers working in schools in the Balkh province, almost half of whom are women (49%).

Primary and Secondary Education

Schools Students Teachers

Boys Girls boys Girls Male female
Primary 272 11 154,473 113,611 - -
Secondary 56 5 24,843 12,968 - -
Total 328 16 179,316 126,579 4,315 4,166
344 305,895 8,481
Source: CSO Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook 2006


Balkh province also has a number of higher education facilities. The University of Balkh has faculties of Medicine, Engineering, Law, Literature, Economics, Agriculture, Religious Law, and Education. In 2005 there were 5,023 students enrolled at the university 3,337 men (66%) and 1,686 women (34%). Of those, 769 students were in their first year, 649 men (84%) and 120 women (16%). Residing in the dormitories provided by the University are 1,097 male and 103 female students.

There is an Agricultural vocational high school with 12 teachers, including seven females, catering for a total of 106 students, all of whom are men, and a Chemical Technology school with 46 staff, including 16 females, and 63 male students. In 2005, 23 students from the Agriculture and 12 students from the Chemical Technology schools graduated.



Ensuring the availability of basic health and hospital services, and developing human resources in the health sector is essential to reduce the incidence of disease, increase life expectancy and enable the whole population to participate in sustainable development. A basic infrastructure of health services exists in Balkh province. In 2005 there were 39 health centers and 7 hospitals with a total of 477 beds. There were also 280 doctors and 270 nurses employed by the Ministry of Health working in the province, which represented an increase of about 9% in the number of nurses and 18% increase in the number of doctors in the province compared to 2003. The major health facilities in the province are shown in the following table:

Health Services Hospitals
Balkh Public Hospital
Mazar City
Noor Hospital
Mazar City
Military Hospital
Mazar City
Jordanian Hospital
Mazar Airport
Kodi Barq Hospital
Dehdadi District
Balkh District Hospital
Balkh District
Khulam District Hospital
Khulam District
Source: UNAMA 

Health Services Clinics by District
District Clinics
Mazar City Noor Khoda CHC, Ali Chopan BHC, Karte-e-Amany Health Facility, Ulmarab CHC, Madan Namak Health Facility, Clinic No. 5, Chughdak BHC
Nahre Shahi District Langer Khana Health Facility, Shahrak BHC
Shortepa District Bozari CHC, Joi Wakil BHC
Dawatat Abad District Dawalat Abad CHC, Chahi Clinic Qaraghojla BHC, Eshan Uraq BHC
Balkh District Maydan BHC, Kole-e-Abmbo BHC, Vazirabad CHC, Boke-Alam Kheil BHC
Charbolak District Aq Tepa BHC, Charbolak BHC, Ahmad Abad BHC
Chimtal District Chimtal BHC, Pashma Qaleh BHC, Choqanaq CHC, Gaza BHC
Sholgara District Dalan Clinic, Bagh-e-Pahlwan BHC, Paikan Dara BHC, Quchi BHC, Shulgara Clinic, Puli-i-Baraq BHC
Kishindih District Bala Kishindih BHC, Aq-Kupruck CHC, Qazaq (Zareh) CHC, Hamrakh BHC
Chaharkint District Health Clinic, Charkent Qaria Ghauch health center
Dihdadi District Dihdadi DHC, Sherabad BHC, Mashi BHC
Kaldar District Kaldar BHC, Hairatan CHC
Khulam District Qurghan CHC, Haji Ali BHC, Baghicha-Sarha BHC, Logariha-Choliza BHC, Feroz Naqsher CHC
Marmul District Zabihullah Shaid BHC
Note: BHC-Basic Health Center CHC-Comprehensive Health Center DHC-District Health Center
Source: UNAMA


The province also has 252 pharmacies of which 243 are owned privately and 9 are run by the government.

The majority of communities do have a health worker permanently present in their community. However, thirty-two percent of men’s shura and 35% of women’s shura reported that there was no community health worker present, and both groups most commonly said that a hospital was their closest health facility.


Social Protection

Building the capacities, opportunities and security of extremely poor and vulnerable Afghans through a process of economic empowerment is essential in order to reduce poverty and increase self-reliance. The level of economic hardship in Balkh is reasonably low. Around a quarter of the households in the province report having problems satisfying their food needs at least 3–6 times a year, and a further more than fifth of households face this problem up to three times a year, as the following table shows:

Problems satisfying food need of the household during the last year

Never Rarely (1-3 times) Sometimes (3-6 times) Often (few times a month) Mostly (happens a lot)
Households (%) 52 22 24 2 1
Source: NRVA 2005


Nearly a third of the population in the province is estimated to receive less than the minimum daily caloric intake necessary to maintain good health. This figure is much less for the rural population (17%) but significantly high for people living in the urban areas (53%). In both rural and urban areas just about half the population has low dietary diversity and poor or very poor food consumption as shown below:

Food consumption classification for all households

Low dietary diversity Better dietary diversity
Households (%) Very poor food consumption Poor food consumption Slightly better food consumption Better food consumption
Rural 10 39 34 18
Total 8 43 32 19
Source: NRVA 2005


In 2005, 24% of the population of Balkh province received allocations of food aid, which reached a total of 265,402 beneficiaries. In addition, of the 25% of households who reported taking out loans, 58% said that the main use of their largest loan was to buy food. A further 10% used the money to cover expenses for health emergencies. In the same year about a third of the households in the province reported feeling that their economic situation had got worse compared to a year ago, and more than two-thirds felt that it had remained the same, as the following table shows:

Comparison of overall economic situation compared to one year ago

Much worse Worse Same Slightly better Much better
Households (%)
8 24 42 24 3
Source: NRVA 2005

In 2005, more than a tenth of all households in the province reported having been negatively affected by some unexpected event in the last year, which was beyond their control. Rural households were slightly more vulnerable to such shocks, with 17% of households affected, as opposed to urban households (5%). People living in urban areas were most vulnerable to shocks related to natural disaster and drinking water, whereas those in rural areas were most at risk from agricultural shocks.



For more detail information please take a look at "A Socio-Economic and Demographic Profile, Household Listing -2003 (Central Statistics Organization)"




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