Uganda Readies for Silk Commercialization as First Samples Are Sent To Europe
By Leonard Mukooli
Uganda has started preparing for full-scale production of silk at a commercial level for the textile industry in and outside the country.
And in a bid to start commercial silk production, the government under the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) will be sending the first samples of silk yarn for market testing in Europe.
Robson Aine, the director of monitoring and Evaluation while speaking to this website at one of the factories in Chepskunya town council Kween district, revealed that they have produced three grades of silk yarn that are going to be tested again in Europe if they meet the global European grades/standard and these have been called ‘Usilk’.
“Once the results of our silk meet the market quality and standards, we shall commercially produce the first 100 metric tons for the market and later scale up to 2000 metric tons and this will eventually see the ‘Usilk’ in a European fashion store,” said. Aine
He added noting that “with the increase in production to 2000 metric tons, up to 300,000 jobs will be created.
Aine said the sericulture project is the first project of the 17 innovation fund projects funded in FY2017/2018 to produce a commercial product.
He added and said ‘Usilk’ is a 100% Ugandan silk brand that has been produced with the target framework despite the challenges that TRIDI as the implementing organization has faced.
Readiness for the global scale production
Dr Clet Wandui Masiga the principal investigator of the project noted that they are to operate under a nucleus system where each region will have a factory that will produce the silk.
He noted that the project is currently being implemented in 24 districts and will be upscaled to 50 districts across the country with regional factories to meet the production demand.
“Currently the project is implemented in 24 districts and farmers here are demanding to be provided with skills and inputs to see that they provide us with the cocoons as well as the mulberry for feeding the silkworm,” said Wandui
He noted that they have invested a lot in establishing functional partnerships with very clear roles and responsibilities in the Silk value chain adding that by the time they started on station and on-farm research, the market was already established.
Wandui further stated that they have a skilling centre that is aimed at giving the youths the right skills to serve the sericulture industry and he believes that this will spur the journey to full commercialization of silk in Uganda.
With the full commercialization of silk, Aine highlighted that the government of Uganda will earn approximately UGX500B annually in Taxes through taxing the exports and salaries of employees in the sector.
“The project will create 300,000 jobs and this will help in lessening the burden of unemployment that the country is facing at full scale production, the project will earn government over 500 billion in form of taxes,” said Aine.
At present, the Project has registered great achievements like the establishment of mulberry gardens, the construction of two factories, installed state-of-the-art silk processing machines and equipment, built rearing houses and created employment for over 1300 women and youth, among others.
How silk is produced
According to Aine, silk production starts with growing mulberry plants whose leaves are harvested as food for the silk worm that is later dried at the pupa stage to provide cocoons where the silk thread is extracted.
Aine said they shall continue to balance between advancing science which is their expertise and demonstrating the value of science to development.
“We are also committed to adopting the Silicon Valley or Route 128 (Boston) group definition of entrepreneurship which is the creation of significant new wealth through the implementation of new concepts. So we continue to advance science, which is our hobby and we use science to create wealth. The demand for silk products and services is massive and continues to grow. It is an opportunity to develop Uganda,” Aine noted.
He explained that the journey to produce silk from Uganda is a long one and was formerly recognized when Uganda adopted the textile policy that came into force in January 2010 adding that the Textile policy emphasizes that Silk is another fibre produced in a few Districts of the country, mainly in the Western and Central Regions of the Country.
Aine believes that “if the silk Sub-sector is developed, there is potential to spur village level processing, especially the cottage industry which would offer income opportunities for women and youth”
Sericulture, Silk Industry and Silk products Industry are contributing to the implementation of NDP III programme on Innovation, Technology Development and Transfer Programme; Manufacturing; Agro-industrialization, and Natural resources, Environment, Climate change, Land and Water management.