Sericulture to Stir Uganda’s Economy into Middle-Income Status

Sericulture is set to uplift the stagnating Ugandan Economy.

Over the last year, the Ugandan economy has remained resilient and is on a rough recovery path, amidst the prevailing ugly pandemic and other economic shocks experienced over time.

Economic growth for this financial year is projected at 3.3%, rising from 3.0% last financial year.

The economy has grown significantly over the last five years from Shs. 108.5 Trillion in 2016/17 to Shs. 148.3 Trillion in current prices by June 2021, equivalent to US$ 40 billion, as recorded in the budget speech for FY 2021/22.

However, the Agricultural sector which employs 68.1% of the working Ugandans, according to UNHS 2019/20, has its economic contribution still staggering at around 23% over the last five years.

This will require more strategic interventions by government and private sector in agro processing and value addition to uplift the sector.

Basing on these statistics, the sericulture industry can be Uganda’s uplifting arm from the pit of economic doom.

This industry is blossoming in the shadows of the economy and is most likely to be the game changer in achieving Vision 2040 by uplifting income levels from a low income status to the middle income status.

Sericulture, which is defined as the art and science of rearing silkworms for the production of raw silk, has its roots traced from research efforts carried out as early as 1920.

Silkworm rearing.

Uganda later established 22 sericulture centres between 1994 and 1998, but were not fruitful, due to diseconomies of scale and lack of technology for value addition, which frustrated the farmers, compelling them to sell their cocoons at giveaway prices, until they threw in a towel.

After carefully studying all these errors and challenges, an innovator, Clet Masiga Wandui, PhD, molded a brilliant proposal to mend these loopholes.

His suggestions to revive sericulture were appreciated and awarded an innovation fund by Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in the FY 2017/18.

After a successful feasibility study in Sheema District, the Government of Uganda, funded the innovator with an organization, the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI), through Ministry of Science,Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), as a subvention of Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), to commercialize his innovation as a project.

TRIDI has been fully entrusted by MOSTI and UNCST, to implement a project ‘baptized’ as ‘The Commercialization of Sericulture Technologies and Innovations in Uganda’ with, Clet Masiga Wandui, PhD, as the Principal Investigator.

Principal Investigator, Clet Masiga Wandui, PhD, explaining the silkworm rearing cycle to Mathew Lubuulwa and Lawrence Muganga, from the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit of Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development at Namasumbi National Sericulture Resources Research Centre, in Mukono District.

From then, TRIDI has established about 28 National Sericulture Resources Research Centres country wide in over 20 districts such as SheemaLiraIgangaBukedeaMukonoKayungaKamuliKiruhuraNwoyaZomboBulambuliAmolatar among others; totaling to about 700 acres of flourishing mulberry plantations in just two years and providing employment to about 1,000 Ugandans.

A plantation of flourishing mulberry at Namasumbi National Sericulture Resource Centre in Mukono District.  

The National Sericulture Resource Centers will provide a complete sericulture value chain; working as a habitat of extension knowledge, a niche of planting materials, silkworm seed and as a market place for nearby farmers.

In November 2019, Hon. Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the former Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, signed Uganda’s Instrument of Accession to the International Sericultural Commission (ISC), an inter-governmental organization engaged in the development of sericulture and silk industry in the world, linking the country to the plenteous guaranteed global silk market.

After one year of silk production under the sericulture project, Uganda has been ranked the 14th Silk producer in the world, with 3.10MT of raw silk and the 2nd leading silk producer in Africa after Madagascar which produced 7.50MT.

Uganda has invested intensively to procure modern silk processing machinery, that will produce approximately 67kgs of Raw Silk per day equivalent to 16MT annually.

The machines have the capacity to boil and dry wet cocoons, reel and re-reel raw silk and finally weave it to fine silk fabric, for making any kind of cloth.

A team of young Ugandan engineers installing Silk processing machines at Rubaare National Sericulture Resources Research Centre in Sheema District with the guidance of Chinese experts.

The silk industry is envisioned to produce 9,000MT of silk yarn from 50,000 acres of mulberry, with an investment of $100m over a period of five years, which will earn Uganda a whooping US$100 million, annually.

This will make Uganda the 3rd largest producer of silk just behind China with 58,000MT and India with 35,000MT.

Sericulture will also create at least 150,000 jobs by 2030 ranging from farmers, rearers, reelers, winders, twisters, re-reelers, marketeers, traders, among others. 

This will play a vital role in the achievement of middle-income status of US$ 1,039 per capita within the third year of NDPIII implementation.

There is absolutely no doubt about the achievement of the above visions, after the NRM Manifesto pledges a transformation of sericulture in their current term in office.

Story by Kutosi Demas Lukoye and Emma Walimbwa. Edited by Mercy Scarlet Kigai.

Kutosi Demas
Walimbwa Emma

Kutosi Demas

I am currently working as an economist with the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI); an organization that promotes the application and advancement of science, technology, and innovation in development, research, and education of next-generation creative thinkers and leaders in Africa. My professional vision is to utilize available opportunities in Economics, Finance, Research, Planning and Statistics to be relevant for the changing organizational strategies and society. I have a Bsc(Economics) degree from Makerere University and currently pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Economics from Kyambogo University.

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