Rearing silkworms smoothes out lives affected by war and exile
“We learned about hatching and molting, proper feeding techniques and how to control temperature and humidity."
September 2013- Like many Afghan refugees who fled Taliban rule in the 1990s, Laila returned from Iran in 2011, glad to be home but worried about the future. The mother of five was unsure how she would keep her family fed. It took two classes in rearing silkworms for Laila to realize that this might be the answer.
Silk production used to be a flourishing sector in northern Afghanistan, and Mazar-e-Sharif is famously located along the ancient Silk Road. But decades of conflict laid waste to the tradition of household production, leaving women like Laila with few economic opportunities.
USAID helped to revive silk production in 2010 through its Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW) program. The work is considered ideal for Afghan women because it can be done at home, requires very little startup capital, and has low associated costs and a good chance of a healthy income. Since 2010 until September 2013, the program has trained 2,400 women and distributed 3,400 boxes of silkworm eggs.
“We learned about hatching and molting, proper feeding techniques and how to control temperature and humidity,” Laila, who attended the classes in 2012 and 2013, recounts. Trainees were also taught how to harvest the silk from the cocoon.
Women like Laila who participated in USAID’s silkworm trainings harvested an average of 19 kg of raw silk, which for an income of $204.
It has helped smooth out the many bumps in Laila’s life and that of many other women.
Last updated: September 29, 2015