India Interior

Building a cocoon for themselves

Sarita Brara | Updated on January 12, 2018

Money-spinner Aawapalli village has turned to silkworm rearing to beat povery   -  sarita brara

Processing centre at Naimed

Money-spinner Aawapalli village turns to silkworm rearing to beat poverty   -  Picasa

sarada when she came to bijapure

How one woman’s toil inspired self-help groups in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur to take up sericulture

It was in 2007-08 that tribal women in Aawapalli, a remote village in naxal-affected Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh, got together to form a self-help group for the cultivation of silkworms (sericulture). The group, Tassar kosha keera palan swayama sahayita samooh, was given training and silk moth eggs free of cost for the production and sale of cocoons.

For the poverty-ridden people of this interior village, it was a big incentive to earn a livelihood. However, in the first few years the endeavour failed to fetch returns. The mortality rate for silkworm larvae can be high, if proper care is not taken. Constant vigil is required to protect them from birds and insects. Also, the low quality of the cocoons produced earned the 18-member SHG group just a little over ₹1 lakh from three crops, despite their strenuous efforts round the year.

Disappointed with the results, almost all the members gave up, except one — Sarada. Her perseverance and continued hard work ultimately paid off. Last fiscal she earned more than ₹84,000, an amount she never imagined she could ever earn in her lifetime.

Guarding against failure

“In the last stages, when the cocoons are almost developed, protecting them from birds, insects and lizards means keeping a vigil for more than 12-13 hours. But if you don’t give up, the result is there for you to see,” says Sarada. And it is not just the money that makes her happy.

“Yes, I have come to earn a lot of respect at home and in the village, but what is more satisfying is that I have been able to inspire other women in the group to get back to cultivation of silkworms. Now they too have started to earn.”

The group has earned ₹5,14,080 and each member got paid according to the number of cocoons she produced.

The nodal officer looking after sericulture in Bijapur, DP Mishra says Sarada’s success encouraged other women in Aawapalli to take up sericulture. Seeing the rekindled enthusiasm, the administration now plans to set up a processing unit in the village and that would substantially increase their income, he says.

He said the training in silkworm rearing takes 50-60 days and each member is given the eggs of 100 moths, (one moth produces at least 200 eggs), leaving her with 20,000 eggs at the subsidised rate of two rupees. The mortality rate of the larvae is usually 50 per cent. Even if a member is able to successfully nurture the silkworm of half the eggs she gets for just two rupees, she can sell that many cocoons at a rate of ₹1.50-3, depending on quality.

Spinning empowerment

A van from the Cocoon Bank in Dantewada arrives to collect the produce and the money is deposited in the SHG’s bank account. This is later distributed among the members through another bank transfer or cash payment.

The collected cocoons are sent to processing centres in Modakpal and Naimed villages, where, again, women from various SHGs are trained to spin silk thread from the cocoons on machines that are operated either manually or electrically.

Sukhdev Sidar, a demonstrator looking after the centre at Modakpal, where women from the Tassar dhaga karan swayam sahiyta samooh are working, says 15 women were given month-long training and a stipend of ₹2,000 over a year ago. Their work involves cleaning the cocoons, boiling them, spinning silk thread and making silk thread balls. Koram Bai, one of the SHG members working here, says she has earned ₹5,000-6,000 so far.

According to Sukhdev, the women can earn much more if they come to work regularly. He said 250 grams of thread can be produced in a day and the payment rate is ₹4,000 per kg. But as these villagers are also dependent on gathering forest produce like mahua flowers and tendu leaves, they are able to work only 3-4 hours, and that too not regularly, says Sukhdev. Sericulture has provided an alternative source of income to nearly 300 families in a dozen interior villages.

Meanwhile, Sarada is dreaming of building a pucca house with her earnings from sericulture.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

Published on June 02, 2017

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