Government injects sh740b into silk farming, production

The Government has injected at least sh743b in commercial silk farming and production in 46 districts as part of the efforts to ensure evolution of the silk textile industry to boost foreign earnings.

The investment, under the commercialisation of sericulture technologies and innovations project, is also expected to promote job creation by employing over 50,000 youth in agriculture production and silk production.

The investment also follows increased global demand for silk after China and India, the biggest producers of silk fabrics, lowered production, hence failing to meet world demand, according to experts in the sector.

The project is being implemented by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, which has invested heavily in installing machinery for initial production of silk products.

Expected revenue

Located at Namasumbi Sericulture Technologies and Innovations Sericulture project in Mukono district, it is anticipated that the plant will be producing 100 tonnes of silk annually and fetching about sh371b ($100m) revenue annually.

Dr. Clet Wandui Masiga, a conservation biologist and geneticist and project principal investigator under the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations, said the project is expected to recover the initial investment in a period of five years.

Masiga, who is also the director for access and utilisation of farm technologies, said in an interview that in addition to 62 permanent workers at the farm in Namasumbi, over 490 casual labourers will be earning their livelihood from the project. The mulberry plant is located on 15 acres donated by the Catholic church.

Training farmers

He said the farmers will be equipped with the necessary skills to boost the production of mulberry, which the project will buy for the silkworms to feed on. He explained that the most vital element in the silk culture sector is the growing of mulberry.

The silkworms, he explained, eat the leaves of the mulberry tree and once they have reached production size, they are placed into plates, where the maggots (caterpillars) form their cocoons of silk. These are then placed in hot water, the sun or sprayed to remove the silk.

One cocoon is capable of producing between 1,000 and 2,000 feet of silk filament.

Those who do not want to go into silkworm rearing can grow the mulberry trees and sell to us the leaves to boost their daily incomes,” Masiga explained. Others, he added, can supply the station with silk cocoons for processing into other products.

Masiga, however, said the project is planning to intensify training of staff and farmers to avoid shortage of skilled labour and to increase the farmland for mulberry cultivation.

He, however, said the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the delivery of machinery from China for three cycles now, each lasting 30 days.

Districts involved in production of mulberry and cocoon rearing include Mukono, Sheema, Zombo, Palisa, Iganga, and Kabarole.

Others are Nwoya, Bulambuli, Gomba, Kiruhura, Bushenyi, among others.

Parliament inspection

The parliamentary committee on science, technology, and innovation in December last year visited Namasumbi Sericulture Technologies and Innovations satellite project.

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the line minister, also visited the project and the proposed National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Innovation Skills Enhancement project site at Namanve in Wakiso district, which was developed using a sh310b loan of ($84.7m) from Exim Bank of China.

He stated that farmers involved in silk production are set to earn between sh13m and sh15m annually from one acre of silk farm.

According to Tumwesigye, once the machines arrive, the country will start full production of silk fabric.

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