Famous for its historical buildings and minarets, Herat is one of the largest provinces of Afghanistan. It sits in the western part of the country and is composed of 15 districts and over 1000 villages. It shares international borders with Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the northwest. Within Afghanistan, on its south is Farah Province; Badghis and Ghor provinces are located to the east.
In the past, Herat has been a centre of conflict among many rulers – the Persians, the Mongols, the Arabs and Alexander the Great.
Constructed on Hari Rud River, the widely known Salma Dam (also known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam) is located at the Chishti Sharif district of Herat.
Herat has roughly 1.7 million inhabitants with a predominantly rural population (72 percent). Of the total population, 50.1 percent is male and 49.9 percent is female. There are 101 males for every 100 females as estimated by the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) in 2014. This is lower than Afghanistan’s overall sex ratio which is 105 males for every 100 females.
As per the CSO 2014 data, Herat is a fairly young province with a population of about 44.3 percent for those below 15 years of age.
The major ethnic groups comprise of Tajiks and Pashtuns, followed by minority groups of Hazaras, Turkmens and Baluchs.
For people aged above 15 and above, the literacy rate is 42.4 percent, for those between the ages of 15-24 it is 61.2 percent, while it is 47.9 percent for 10 years old and above. Birth registration rate in Herat is 41.5 percent.
More than 90 percent of the population speaks Dari and Pashtu whereas Turkmeni and Uzbeki are spoken by the remaining population.
Herat’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture (and horticulture production) and industry. Data from 2012 indicates that 48 percent of rural households derived their income from agriculture and for the other half nonfarm-related labor was the major source of revenue. Livestock activities were carried out mainly by those situated in the mountainous terrain of northern, eastern and southern districts. Marble manufacturing and light industry are other important economic activities.
Herat is home to more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s Saffron production. Today, it has become a significant means of income so much so that it has been successful in decreasing dependence on poppy production. This has also provided job opportunities for women who are involved in 80 percent of the tasks involving the production.
Herat is also known for producing grapes, pistachios, cashmere and wool.
Herat Province’s annual output in 2011 was estimated at $1.2 billion ($325 million in agriculture, $465 million in the service sector, and $425 million in industrial enterprises including mining) which is 7 percent of the national total.
Herat’s poverty rate had been estimated at 38.7 percent and the per capita monthly consumption was 1,547 Afs according to Afghanistan Provincial Briefs 2011.
The same data recorded the unemployment rate to be 9.9 percent.
It is expected that the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) will be passing through Herat (among other provinces) from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India in south.
The governor of Herat is the delegated representative of central government in the province but has only limited official authority albeit this has not prevented some governors from exercising significance influence over the local administration. Since 2002, appointments of governors have included assertive local power brokers to technocrats to outsiders who strive to rise above local power politics.
At present, Mohammad Asif Rahimi is the governor of Herat Province. He replaced Asiluddin Jami who was serving as the acting provincial governor in 2015.
Herat has been facing postelection political impasse and continued insecurity. Most of government offices continue to be headed by acting officials since the unity government’s coming into power two and a half years ago. Going by the numbers, currently at least 10 departments, five district chiefs and four deputy district chiefs are working in acting capacity. Moreover, post of deputy governor has been vacant.
Mukhopadhyay, D. (2014) Warlords, Strongman Governors and the state in Afghanistan. New York: Cambridge University Press
Barfield, T. (2012) Afghanistan – A Cultural and Political History. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Lamb, C. (2002) The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage through Afghanistan. HarperCollins Publishers