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Some Kenyan farmers turn to silk production for cash

Updated : May 28, 2019 10:57 AM IST

A growing number of Kenyan farmers are turning to silk production, in a move away from traditional cash crops such as coffee, maize, sugarcane and cotton. The rearing of silkworms is seen as less affected by a changing climate that has hurt some traditional crops in the East African nation because the mulberry trees silkworms feed on are relatively drought-resistant." Production is lowering in China. It is more or less completely reduced in Japan. India is doing well in silk so we feel that Kenya can contribute to global silk demand," said Muo Kasina, director of the National Sericulture Research Center. The center has joined with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to promote silk production by developing technologies and providing farmers with training, seeds and access to markets." As of now, we have more than five Japanese companies that have shown interest in Kenyan silk," Kasina said." We have high technology of silk and sericulture (silk farming) but we can't use it because Japan is too developed, and also the climate in Kenya is much better than Japan for sericulture, so that is why I want to cooperate with Kenya," said Yuko Mizutori, one Japanese investor. Silkworm rearing on an acre of land can fetch up to $15,000 a year, according to Kasina. That's a small fortune for Kenyan farmers. Last year the world's largest silk producer, Guangdong Silk-Tex Group, announced plans to create a silk processing factory and silk farm in Kenya. If successful, the venture is expected to create more than 300,000 jobs for Kenyans. The venture also would significantly reduce the price of silk products by localizing the production process.

Director of the National Sericulture Research Center, Muo Kasina, stands by silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Director of the National Sericulture Research Center, Muo Kasina, stands by silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Muo Kasina, explains the process of silk production to visitors at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Muo Kasina, explains the process of silk production to visitors at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A tray of silkworm moths is shown at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A tray of silkworm moths is shown at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Muo Kasina, demonstrates a silk reeling machine at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Muo Kasina, demonstrates a silk reeling machine at the center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Sample products using silk stand on display at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Sample products using silk stand on display at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Research assistants Catherine Ndumi Musyoka and Muthama Eric feed silkworms with mulberry leaves at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Research assistants Catherine Ndumi Musyoka and Muthama Eric feed silkworms with mulberry leaves at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Mulberry plants are grown at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Mulberry plants are grown at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Research assistant Catherine Ndumi Musyoka holds mulberry leaves as silkworms feed on them, at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Research assistant Catherine Ndumi Musyoka holds mulberry leaves as silkworms feed on them, at the National Sericulture Research Center in Thika, Kenya. April 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
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