By Elijah Turyagumanwe
Great opportunities often come wrapped in filth, and of course, a myriad people miss them. Have you, for instance, considered what fortunes, people who dare go for the filthy of things, make out domestic waste? In Africa, some of the creatures, citizens would consider lucrative is worms and caterpillars especially due their predatory nature and scary nature. At the sight of them, many an African’s instinct would be an impulsive flight. Only those who have luckily discovered the ‘golden’ silk in them, will harness the opportunity! Sericulture is the deliberate rearing of silk producing worms on a large or small scale.
Fixed in a prosperity dilemma and unquenchable hunger for socio-economic transformation, Uganda’s hope for the future largely lies in her ability to swiftly adopt global competitive trends Science, Technology, and Innovation currently present. The drivers, however, can best be actualized through a consolidated objective of coordination and/or bringing together all players with a common national agenda, which is well in consonance with the mandate of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Secretariat, that is, “To mobilize, coordinate, and provide oversight and policy guidance to scientists and stakeholders in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Local Governments, Academia, Research Institutions, and the Private Sector, along prioritized value chains to increase productivity, import substitution and export of knowledge-based products and services.”
While speaking during a Sericulture Stakeholders’ Meeting held at Kampala-based Méstil Hotel, recently, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, referred to a speech His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, The President of The Republic of Uganda, made while officiating at the of Makerere University’s Centenary Celebrations, in which while referring to original inhabitants of America and Australia, for their failure to adopt Science and Technology swallowed up by migrants, he emphatically warned, “Whoever fails to adopt science, technology, will cease to exist or be swallowed up ….” On her part, Hon. Dr. Musenero further reemphasized the need to rationalize and commercialized innovations for the country’s social-economic transformation.
Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Seasoned Economist, Politician, and Senior Presidential Advisor on Economic Affairs, said the time is now for the country to intensify the sericulture industry as the global market continues to fall the short of silk producing fabric.
Harnessing Existing Opportunities
Endowed with a tropical climate, a tropical greencover and plenty of natural water from major water bodies like lake Victories and river Nile, cheap labor of young people averaging at 16.7% according to world bank data, hospitable settlements and a friendly political environment for any investment, Uganda’s sericulture industry is set for greater heights once fully embraced.
Despite being largely an agricultural economy, Uganda is yet to exhaust all commercially viable produces for a stable economic trajectory with sericulture as an example.
Interestingly, according to Muhammed Ali, the founder of Iran Agro Industries, the value chain process from egg to active silk-producing worms has a lifespan of only 6-8 weeks. Now, this might be short enough to assure us of steady supply, but might also be perilously short for ill-prepared players.
Global silk production research shows all combined approximately 35 to 40 countries worldwide are involved in the sericulture industry adding world production of raw silk is averaged at 80,000 tons per annum. It should be noted, however, that about 70% of globally produced raw silk is produced in China.
According to a certified data report published in 2022, over 50% of Uganda’s farming population still relies on subsistence farming, which leads to a shortfall in the supply of raw materials for the manufacturing industry. According to macroeconomic principles, this could impede a developing economy like Uganda from making a smooth transition from agriculture to manufacturing, and eventually to a service-based economy.
The good news is that Silk-worms are easily to rear and/or propagate. For instance, the white silk worms are fed on mulberry leaves from which they later construct habitats by producing silk from either ends in oval-like shapes.
Silk worm farming is projected to be more profitable than Coffee, Uganda’s biggest agricultural revenue earner, hence the call to focus intentionally on silk worm farming.
Uganda is already producing valuable crafts from home-grown silk as the pictures pasted hereunder may help showcase. Through sericulture a magnitude of fabric products can be produced such as carpets, silk attires and silk portraits.
Resolutions reached at from the said sericulture engagement included but were not limited to: establishing well-structured funding channels; the need to increase of human resource capacity at different levels; provision of land to accommodate more sericulture production by government; formation of a research center and utilization of universities data for research and development purposes; putting in place high quality measures at all sericulture value chain levels; and finally, developing stronger and more coordinated synergies.