Sericulture, or the cultivation of silkworms, has empowered the tribal women of Aawapalli, a Naxal-dominated area in Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh. The women's group, known as Tassar Kosha Keera Palan Swayama Sahayita Samooh, was formed in 2007-2008. The group was trained by the district administration and given eggs of the silk moth free of cost to produce and sell cocoons, giving women in the poverty-ridden village a chance to earn their livelihood.
In sericulture, often the returns initially are not good and the death rate for silkworm larvae is also quite high. It is very important to constantly keep vigil and save the larvae from insects and birds. Initially, the production was quite unsatisfactory. The quality of cocoon produced was low and for an 18-member group, the returns received was just a little over Rs 1 from three crops, despite the tremendous effort they put in.
Disappointed with the returns, everyone in the group started giving up except a woman named Sarada. She continued to work hard and ultimately her patience and perseverance paid off. She alone earned more than ₹84,000.
Talking about the accomplishment, Sarada told Hindu Businessline, "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.”
“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 the cultivation of silkworms. Now they too have started to earn,” she added.
The group has so far earned ₹5,14,080 and each member was paid as per the number of cocoons they produced.
Nodal officer of Bijapur district praised Sarada and said that her success had encouraged others, especially women, to take up sericulture in Aawappalli. He also said that the local administration -- after seeing women’s efforts and the production output -- has now decided to set up a plant in the village which would eventually increase their income.
In the process of sericulture, the training period involves approximately 50 to 60 days. Each member is given 100 moths which make around 20,000 eggs at a subsidized rate of Rs 2. The mortality rate of larvae is generally 50 per cent. The member then sells the cocoons at the rate of Rs 1.50-3. The work usually involves cleaning the cocoons, spinning the silk thread and then processing the silk thread balls.
After the production is done and cocoons are ready, a van from the cocoon bank in Dantewada arrives and collects all the cocoons and pays the self-help group. The money is later distributed among all the members equally either through direct cash payments or through their respective bank accounts.
The collected cocoons are then processed in Modakpal and Naimed villages where the unit is set up and trained women of another SHG spin the silk thread from the cocoons manually or sometimes using machines.
Initiatives like this will definitely help empower women.
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