For Meena Devi of Ree Bhalan and Amar Singh of Ghaloon village, the sericulture industry has proved to be a big boon. With the rearing of silk cocoons and production of mulberry trees, families of both now earn close to Rs 60,000 per annum.
Sericulture is an agro-based industry. It involves rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk, which is the yarn obtained out of cocoons spun by certain species of insects. The major activities of sericulture comprise food-plant cultivation to feed silkworms that spin silk cocoons and reeling the cocoons for unwinding the silk filament for value-added benefits, such as processing and weaving.
With good foliage and root-spread, mulberry contributes to soil conservation and provides green cover.
Waste from silkworm rearing can be recycled as farm yard manure. Dried mulberry twigs and branches are used as fuel in place of firewood and therefore reduce the pressure on forests.
Moreover, being a labour intensive and predominantly agro-based activity, involvement of smoke-emitting machinery is minimal and the developmental programmes initiated for mulberry plantation are mainly in upland areas where unused cultivable land is made productive.
It is practiced even in small land holdings. An acre of mulberry garden and silkworm rearing can support a family of three without hiring labour.
The Central Silk Board (CSB), Union ministry of textiles, has taken up initiatives for sericulture development on cluster mode with participatory approaches and active participation of people in planning and implementation, through its flagship Catalytic Development Programme (CDP).
As many as 1,369 families across the district have taken up sericulture in rural areas and earned a total of Rs 78 lakh last year, claims an official spokesman. The number of families adopting sericulture production has been rising every year, says Ram Pal, the general manager of industries, Hamirpur.
According to him, the Silk Board of India has been holding training camps for farmers every year at their doorsteps so that they were fully trained in this household business and can stand on their feet. Pal says one can raise three crops every year by having 300 small and big mulberry trees in their possession. For each crop, one has to work only 20 days and rest of the time can be dedicated to household chores.
Moreover the department has been providing various subsidies to farmers of this industry.
According to him, the developmental programmes initiated for mulberry plantation are mainly in upland areas where unused cultivable land is made productive. Mulberry can also be cultivated as an inter-crop with numerous plantations.
Mulberry being a deep-rooted perennial plant can be raised in vacant lands, hill slopes and watershed areas. In Hamirpur, there are seven silk rearing farms located at Nadaun, Kangoo, Balh-Bihal, Bhalwani, Bohni, Salasi and Jangelberi.
Ram Pal said the department distributed silk seeds to 1,355 farmers and they produced about 40,545 kg green cocoon. Deputy commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur said the sericulture industry had done a lot for helping the people of the district earn their livelihood.
Thakur was hopeful that more farmers of the district would join this industry in the times to come as was apparent from their keenness towards various camps being organised by the Silk Board of India.