Ancient silk industry on the road to revival in north
In some districts of Balkh and nearby provinces, running a silkworm enterprise starts from a training course on the required methods to produce silk cocoons.
Imported from foreign countries, dark-coloured silkworm eggs take about 45 days from hatching to spinning their cocoon under a technical process.
About 3000 females in villages of different provinces are associated with a silkworm industry “Maryam Rabia Silkworm Industry.”
The women in villages rear tens of thousands of silkworms at home and supply the cocoon to the industry for making threads.
Rabia Muradi, the industry head, told Pajhwok Afghan News she was associated with the business for the last eight years. She first started her enterprise from rearing 2000 silkworms, which currently numbered at tens of thousands.
She said in the first phase, they imported silkworm eggs from abroad and gave them to women in villages. The rural women are already trained in silkworm farming.
Muradi said they imported 500 packages of eggs from neighbouring Tajikistan last year. Each package weighed 12 kilograms and comprised of 1000 eggs each, she said.
She said rural environment suited rearing silkworms due to greenery and that was why the industry mostly depended on women.
Muradi said trained women were associated with their industry in Dehdad, Balkh and Dawlatabad districts of Balkh and in Samangan, Faryab and Jawzjan provinces. She said the women had been trained in silkworm farming through a series of workshops.
A resident of the Dehdad district, Shafiqa, told Pajhwok Afghan News she had been rearing silkworms for the last five years. She said their job had been made easy by the green environment in village.
She said she was rearing silkworms under a contract with the Rabia Muradi industry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and was able to meet her family’s economic needs.
She said she transferred the silkworms to the industry after becoming pupas in about 45 days, when the insects stopped eating. The eggs took about a week to hatch into larvae, which continuously ate mulberry bushes, she said.
“The newborn silkworms have black colour. After two or three weeks of the hatchings, I start feeding them mulberry leaves, which are the only leaves the silkworms eat.”
About six weeks later, the insects grew into full size and turned white and become pupae after eight weeks of their life cycle. “When the insects start spinning cocoons, I transfer them to the industry for making threads which are used to make fabric.”
Another worker of the industry, Shehla, said the cocoons were separated from each other in the first phase and then the threads were woven into fabric through machines. She said the industry where she worked sometimes manufactured carpets from silk.
Rabia Muradi said 30 women worked in her enterprise’s manufacturing section. She said the silk was used to make clothes, carpets, scarves and other similar things. She was happy with the market value of their products showcased at national and international exhibitions.
However, she said they were in dire need of government’s support, especially in imports of silkworms and finding market for their products in foreign countries. Muradi said they planned to import eggs from China besides Tajikistan this season.
Balkh Agriculture and Livestock department officials said Balkh served the only centre of silkworm farming in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture supplies silkworms to other provinces from Balkh, they add.
Agriculture Director Katib Shams told Pajhwok Afghan News the system of producing silkworm eggs had been active in Dehdad district over the past eight years.
He said the production of silkworm eggs stood at 3,000 packages this year and had reached the provincial capital, Mazar-i-Sharif.
Shams believed if the government paid adequate attention to the silkworm industry, Afghanistan could become unparalleled in this sector in the region.
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