Several years ago, for Shilpi Rani, a housewife of village Borhor in Gazipur's Kapasia, managing her family with the meagre income of her husband was a constant challenge.
Doing something of her own, going beyond the family means, was daydreaming.
But the situation is no longer like that. Cultivating silkworms (called polu poka in Bangla) at home, she has brought about a positive change: she can now contribute to her family financially.
The same is with Jaheda Akter, of the same village. She started silkworm farming five years ago. At that time, she would struggle to bear all her family expenditures – including her children's education expenses – with the earnings of her husband.
Now she can add Tk15,000-Tk20,000 to her family income.
Many other women of village Dighirkanda and Borhor of the upazila have similar stories.
Kamal Hossain of Dighirkanda village said he was in a financial crisis before his wife started silkworm farming a few years ago.
Golam Sohurul Alam, supervisor of Kapasia Sericulture Extension Centre, said the Gazipur District Sericulture Extension Office motivated the ultra-poor women – of Kapasia, Mymensingh, Jamalpur and Tangail's Modhupur – in silkworm cultivation by giving them training on it several years ago.
Md Abul Kalam Azad, assistant director of Gazipur Sericulture Extension Centre, said, "The project of sericulture extension was undertaken to make the rural women self-reliant. The project started with 50 families in Kapasia in 2014. Later, more families became involved in it. A silkworm farmer can earn at least Tk7,000-Tk8,000 every three months."
One kilogramme of cocoons sells for Tk350. The Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board collects 1,700-1,800 kilogrammes of silkworm cocoons annually from the farmers of Kapasia. It takes 10-12 kilogrammes of cocoons to produce one kilogramme of yarn and one kilogramme of silk yarn costs Tk3,500.
Eggs of silkworms turn into the worms within several days. The silkworms are fed chopped leaves of mulberry trees (tut in Bengali). Silkworms start to produce cocoons within 20-25 days. After a cocoon is produced, it needs to be dried in the sunlight so that the silkworm inside the cocoon dies. The process of making the cocoons sellable takes three months.
All things related to silkworm farming – from distributing the eggs of silkworms to producing silk cocoons – are monitored by the Sericulture Development Board. Later, the board buys the cocoons from the farmers to produce silk yarn. Silkworm cocoons can be produced four times a year. The cocoons are collected in the Bengali months of: Bhadra, Agrahayon, Chaitra, and Jaishthya.
The Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board helped 64 women of Borhor and Dighirkanda villages do all the necessary things, including building rooms for silkworm farming, to produce silk cocoons under a coordinated project of sericulture extension.
As silkworms feed on the leaves of mulberry trees, the Sericulture Board has planted the seedlings of the trees over five kilometres of land along the both sides of Bordar Canal in Kapasia. Further, the Sericulture Board has distributed around 1,500 mulberry seedlings free of cost among the villagers. The seedlings take two to three years to become trees.