The University of Nairobi in collaboration with Silk International ltd established a sericulture center of excellence at the institution’s upper Kabete campus in the year 2021. The Centre of Excellence hosts a full Sericulture program that facilitates training and research as well as commercialization of its products. In a recent farm visit from staff members from the Directorate of Corporate Affairs, the directorate was pleased to learn that the center continues to thrive, is fully operational and continues to achieve the stated goals as stipulated in the partnership between UON and Silk Origin Ltd.
Sericulture is the practice of rearing silkworms for the production of raw silk. Four basic processes make up the complete silk production procedure as it is carried out at the Sericulture Center of Excellence. Mulberry farming for leaf production, Silkworm rearing and cocoon production, Production of raw silk (cocoon post-harvest technology) and Weaving of silk fabric.
According to Ms. Lagat the deputy supervisor at the Centre, the sericulture Centre of excellence's purpose has been to improve the commercial viability of silkworm farming or sericulture and, by proxy, silk production. More specifically, the primary objective has been to improve fecundity - also known as egg-laying capacity. Other objectives include improving larval health, resilience against disease, and the quantity of cocoon and silk harvest; these latter objectives have been made possible by the continuous research done at the farm by various researchers and scientists from UON. The team from the university is also involved in the analysis of the mulberry tree leaves and soil analysis to help improve sericulture production in the upper Kabete farm as well as in the country at large as the research findings will as well benefit other silkworm farmers in the country.
The farm offers extensive training to farmers and individuals looking to venture into silkworm farming as a way of giving back to the community and growing the silk farming culture in the country.
According to Ms.lagat this will also help in countering the gap in the supply and demand of silk clothes and materials in the market, the demand for silk in the global market is annually increasing by 5% from the current global production rate of 70,000 to 90,000 Megatonnes.
Apart from silk, there are several other by-products of sericulture. The foliage from mulberry is used as fodder for cattle as it’s highly nutritious. The silkworm pupae are rich in oil content and pupal oil is used in the cosmetic industry and the remaining pupal cake is a rich source of protein suitable for poultry and fisheries. The mulberry fruits are rich in minerals and vitamins; mulberry wine originates from the fruits of this tree. Some of the woody mulberry trees provide timber that is resistant to termites; the timber from these trees has also been used to make toys and other sports items. Mulberry leaves are also used to make green tea as well as eaten as a vegetable; research has also shown that these leaves can help control blood pressure and heart-related diseases.
About the future of the project, Ms. Lagat syas, “The Sericulture Centre's future plan is to purchase modern sewing machines, to help fast-track the production of silk in the country and to help meet the ever-increasing demand for silk clothing items.”