Usine Textile du Rwanda (Utexrwa) has invested an equivalent of Frw2.8 billion in developing a silk textile industry in the country.
This money has been sunk into remodeling a cotton textile mill to produce silk thread, importing appropriate machinery, and developing 25 hectares into mulberry tree growing, the tree whose leaves are fodder for the caterpillars that make the silk.
In addition to all these, Utexrwa has trained staff that will participate in the production process. The country is expectant, as this venture of silk fabrics looks set to become a big foreign exchange earner, being the market leader in the Great Lakes region.
Mega-bucks players like Rwanda Investment Group have taken keen interest in getting a piece of this silken pie, planting an additional 20 hectares of mulberry in Rusizi. For optimum operation, Utexrwa needs an average of 60,000 cocoons (it is producing 1000 cocoons now).
This is a huge number to raise, and more acreage needs to be put under mulberry cultivation, just as more people need to be trained in silkworm rearing. It is obvious that Rwandans stand to benefit greatly from this enterprise. We should therefore not wait until the field has been invaded by too many players in order to wake up and take interest.
Whoever wants to lift up their incomes should take appropriate steps to study and actively participate in this venture. This is a business that can greatly rely on out-growers’ cooperatives, just like the sugar cane industry or tea growers depend so much on out-growers.
We should not wait for factory owners to advertise for jobs to work for them; instead we should be part of the greater plan to make the factory run, and run non-stop, by feeding it with the raw materials.
Part of the government’s and factory owners’ game plan could be taking a few potential entrepreneurs to Kericho in Kenya to see the tea plantations, and Kakira Sugar Works in Uganda, to see how profitable being an out-grower can be.
The two examples, albeit completely different, have great lessons in involving wananchi in producing and feeding a factory enterprise. These people will come back to sensitise others, as well as starting their own silkworm farms immediately.
While in Kenya, these pioneer farmers could go to Kakamega for the real sericulture experience from a women’s group. That will complete their training.