SILKWORM REARING

Mr. Kushwaha of Chandkur village, in PIDT’s Ghazipur project area in Utter Pradesh, is a marginal farmer. Until a few years ago, he was barely eking out his living. Income from agriculture was low and there was no subsidiary occupation to take up. He had to idle away his time after the peak agricultural season, doing nothing.

Silk is a highly valued commodity that fetches good cash incomes. It is produced by silkworms that feed in mulberry bushes, which grow well in the lush valleys of Utter Pradesh where many of PIDT’s farmers live. PIDT had begun pilot testing of mulberry plantation and silkworm rearing at its demonstration centre in Lokshala, Jharkhand. When the training was found successful but not ideally suited to the drier soil in Jharkhand, PIDT initiated silkworm rearing activities in Ghazipur and set up a silk extraction unit there.

Kushwaha was one of the first to opt for training. His first crop yielded 23 kg of raw silk, which reduced to 10 kg once treated for use. At the purchase price of Rs. 185 per kg, Kushwaha was able to take home Rs. 1,650 after paying back the cost of the silkworm eggs he had been given. His happiness knew no bounds as he had found a suitable subsidiary occupation which could also be managed by his family members when he was out of the village on urgent work.

Kushwaha’s success had a cascading effect in the project area, motivating the investment of the State Government’s Silk Department in a scheme that came as an additional boon to people like Kushwaha. Under the scheme, the Government provides subsidy up to Rs. 10,000 for constructing silkworm houses, silkworm eggs, and mulberry plantation. It also buys back the silk from the producers. By March, 2005 as many as 18 farmers had received subsidies ranging from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 6,000 and they had planted 40,750 mulberry plants. Some three dozen farmers and rising are availing themselves of the government subsidy and being given technical support and training from PIDT. Meanwhile, back at Lokshala, PIDT is experimenting with low cost drip irrigation techniques for mulberry plantation to spread the potential cultivation area for this lucrative employment opportunity. Back