Lao PDR Silk Industry Value Chain - NZODA’s Asian Development Assistance Facility - Glenhill Consulting Limited

Lao Sericulture

In 2004 Jock Struthers investigated the Lao PDR Silk Industry Value Chain to develop a successful proposal for a $500,000 grant under NZODA’s Asian Development Assistance Facility (ADAF).      This required:

  • A socio-economic, poverty assessment of beneficiaries for grant eligibility
  • A feasibility study of a village development program from land / mulberry development, silk worm farming, to silk processing, spinning, weaving and marketing
  • A full project design document including logframe, time lines, personnel and work schedules, 3 year budget etc.
  • An assessment of existing community organisations, producer and processing groups and potential investors
  • A strategy for coordination between different groups
  • Engaging organisations in capacity building and institutional strengthening
  • A project implementation strategy and plan including co-ordination of following local groups:
    • an NGO (Consortium Lao) for technical inputs,
    • a local consulting group for socio-economic base line assessment and monitoring,
    • the Development Banks for future funding,
    • the Department of Agriculture’s sericulture research station facilities,
    • the Lao Women’s Association for microfinance and village women support,
    • the Mayors and  Poverty Reduction Office of the Vientiane Municipality,
    • the Governor and provincial government staff of the Sangtong District,
    • the Lao Handicraft Association and private sector silk marketing companies including the Lao Sericulture Company and Nikone.

Village Silk Display Xieng Kouang

Sericulture – The Process of Silk Production

Village silk production using native varieties of silk worm is a cultural feature of most Lao villages primarily to meet their own clothing requirements. Through the introduction of hybrid varieties of silk worm and mulberry food stocks, significant advances can be made in producing greater volumes of higher quality silk and silk products to meet the growing and unsatisfied market demand locally and abroad.

Sericulture – the term given to the silk production industry, provides an ideal option to raising the income earning potential of poor rural families, through the involvement of all family members.

Firstly there is the requirement to grow sufficient mulberry trees to produce enough leaf to feed the silk worms (around 1 hectare per family). This is established mainly by men and youth. The silk worms (or technically speaking – caterpillars) must be raised from eggs through a 25 day life cycle during which they grow rapidly and consume as significant amount of mulberry leaf, particularly in the last week or do of the cycle.

After they pupate, the cocoons are placed in boiling water to soften the binding "glue", allowing the threads of silk to be drawn from the cocoon and hand spun. This is a task suited to women young and old for it can be done in the home at any time within five days of pupation, (before the developing moth is ready to chew its way out). The yarn can then be woven into cloth and further processed within the village, including natural dying.

New Mulberry Development

Alternatively, Mulberry leaves can be sold for the growing Mulberry tea market. Silk can be sold as cocoons, spun yarn, dyed yarn, woven material or finished products. Mulberry berries also provide a good source of nourishing food, juice and wine and finally. the “worm” can be eaten.

Another advantage of sericulture is that with monthly cycles, production can stop and start in unison with other village crop planting / harvesting demands. Production is very much in the control of the small holder.

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