Sericulture’s steady profits attract hundreds of female workers in Upper Egypt

female farmers
female farmers

By Marwa Yahya

“High temperature and concerns about the spread of COVID-19 … haven’t hindered my work in feeding silkworms to produce silk,” said Sherry Roshdy, a 22-year-old university graduate.

Located in the desert of Naqada city in Qena province in southern Cairo with 20 feddans (about 84,000 square meters), a sericulture farm was established as the first of its kind in Upper Egypt.

Employing 890 females, the farm is funded by Egypt Foundation for Integrated Development, a charity association, and run by several civil organizations in partnership with Qena province that provided the project with the land.

“I breed the silkworms and watch them grow for a month. The cocoon-spinning process takes about three days and then, the threads are dissolved in certain reels,” Roshdy told Xinhua.

Wearing a face mask, she noted that most of the reels in the farm are operated manually, adding that the project is expanded and more automatic ones will be installed soon.

“Separating the silk from the cocoon and extracting raw silk is a very sensitive process which I enjoy a lot,” she explained, saying that it is the first time in Upper Egypt to produce pure silk.

“I earn a reasonable sum of money after the farm sells cocoons to the silk producers,” said 30-year-old Aziza Gad, another worker, in the farm.

She highlighted that “three boxes of cocoons make 1 kg of raw silk which is sold for 40 U.S. dollars.”

Working for nine hours per day, Gad, a mother of two, started in 2019 her work on the farm by chopping the mulberry leaves, feeding the worms, and reeling the silk.

Now, the young mother has promoted to the department of using the extracted silk in making scarves, carpets, and some clothes at the same farm.

Ashraf al-Dawidy, governor of Qena, said that “the farm produces natural silk threads that are used in making silk textile and carpets.”

He highlighted “the farm is an untraditional project” as it depends on advanced methods in irrigation and plantation as well as new types of only one-meter high berry trees that produce large quantities of leaves.

The farm also depends completely on the solar energy for pumping the groundwater, he said, noting that two 60-meter-deep wells were dug.

The first phase of the farm started in November 2019 by cultivating three feddans of mulberry bushes, al-Dawidy said, adding each feddan produces 13 tons of berry leaves.

He added that the project provides work and training for almost 1,000 females in feeding the silkworms, reeling the silk and producing silk products.

He hopes more young entrepreneurs will join the same field to meet the local market’s growing demand for silk goods.

Egypt consumes more than 350 tons of natural silk annually, with only 1 ton is produced domestically, according to official statistics.

The Egyptian Ministry of Finance announced in October last year lifting customs duties on the imports of silkworm eggs to revive the silk production industry in Egypt.

Boosting the silk industry in Egypt is part of the government’s moves to develop the small- and medium-sized projects that provide more job opportunities especially for females and increase the country’s exports, according to a statement by the Ministry of Finance.

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