For our 2017 Young Africa Works Summit, we chose a photo that captures the theme ‘youth driving agricultural transformation’.
This photo represents the multiple employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people along the silk value chain, from harvesting, to processing, to packaging and marketing silk-based products. Through our partnership with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), we’re working with young entrepreneurs who are transforming Ethiopia’s traditional craft of cotton-weaving to high quality silk production. By integrating the latest research and technology on silkworms with technical and business management skills, the project offers lucrative opportunities in the Ethiopian silk industry, which is projected to grow five percent annually (Ethiopian Embassy, 2008).
Pictured here are Mulunesh Ena on the right, and Shegenay Kafana on the left. Mulunesh was previously a homemaker and now owns a silk farm in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Early each morning, along with other women in her farming group, Mulunesh walks down the road to a small garden and picks leaves from the mulberry plant. She collects the leaves in large bags to transport them to her silkworm rearing farm.
The silkworms are fed in homemade woven trays. When they grow larger and become restless, they are transferred to corn husks where they build their cocoons. Worms take about one and a half days to build a cocoon.
Before the silkworms transform into moths, Mulunesh and her farming group harvest the cocoons and sell them for 70-100 Ethiopian Birr per kilogram (approximately US$3-4.50) to a silk processing centre nearby – also managed by young entrepreneurs. At the processing cooperative, the cocoons are cleaned, spun into thread spools and sold to a weaving centre where young artisans create and market the final silk products (such as scarves, towels and blankets).