Animal Health & Disease Management

Sericulture as a Business

Introduction to Sericulture

What is Sericulture 

Sericulture is the practice of rearing silkworms for production of raw silk. The entire practice, from soil to silk, can be broadly classified into four interdependent agro-industrial activities: 

  1.  Mulberry farming for leaf production
  2. Silkworm rearing and cocoon production
  3. Production of raw silk (cocoon post harvest technology)
  4. Weaving of silk fabric 

What is Silk? 

Silk is a unique protein fiber produced from the interface of plant and animal. It was discovered in China 4000 years ago and up-to-date silk has continued to reign supreme over other textile fibers both the natural (cotton, wool, jute) and man-made fibers (rayon, nylon, polyester, viscose, etc). It is due to its exclusive beauty that silk is acclaimed as the Queen of Textiles

Types of Silk 

There are two broad classifications of silk, wild silk and domesticated silk. Under 'domesticated silk' we have mulberry silk and non-mulberry silk. 

Global Silk Perspective 

Globally, over 30 countries produce silk, 16 of which are in the Asian continent, accounting for about 90% of the total world silk production. India is the second largest producer of raw silk after China and is also the biggest consumer of silk. 

Silk production in temperate countries like Japan, South Korea, USSR, etc is declining steadily, not only because of the high cost of labour and heavy industrialization in these countries, but also due to climatic restrictions which allows only 2 crops per year. Kenya has a distinct advantage of practicing sericulture all through the year, yielding a stream of about 3-4 cocoon crops as a result of its tropical climate.

Silk Production in Kenya

Sericulture in Kenya 

The potential of sericulture in Kenya is multi-fold, and is yet to be fully tapped. Sericulture viability in Kenya was established in 1972, when sericulture was introduced into the country through collaboration of the Goverment of Kenya (GOK) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

Sericulture potential in Kenya is associated with:

  • Ideal climatic conditions for mulberry cultivation and silkworm rearing
  • Silkworms can be reared in simple structures and equipment
  • Availability of cheap labour
  • Good cocoon quality with average filament length of 1200 meters
  • No major cocoon pest

Areas where sericulture is practiced in Kenya 

Nyanza Province: Bondo, Rachuonyo, Homa-Bay
Western Province: Busia, Budalangi, Kakamega, Emuhaya, Ikolomani
Rift Valley: Rongai, Wareng, Naivasha, Laikipia East and Central, Nakuru, Kajiado
Central Province: Kikuyu, Lari, Kiambu, Ruiru, Murranga South and East, Kirinyaga, Nyeri East
Eastern Province: Imenti South, Machakos
Coast Province: Kwale, Malindi, Tana River, Taita Traveta
Nairobi Province: Kasarani, Dagoretti

The current acreage under mulberry stands at 250 acres, spread over the above mentioned areas. More farmers have continued to engage themselves in sericulture either in groups or individually. The tree performs well and the expected cocoon yield is 640kgs/acre/year. 

Table 1. Production Data Table

Year Mulberry (Metric tons) Cocoons (Kg) Raw silk (Kg) Silk floss(Kg)
1 7.0 150 24 22
2 14 300 40 44
3 20 750 80 110

Silk Markets in Kenya

All silk produced in Kenya is consumed locally, and there is a bigger export market. Major consumers are the cottage industries, which also use cotton and wool. Most of the weavers use had looms to weave very beautiful fabrics, which are purchased locally by tourists and also sold abroad. A survey carried out showed that the finer silk fibre found in the shops is imported. This is an indication that there is market for silk fabrics and silk fibre in Kenya. Below is a list of silk market outlets in Kenya: 

1. National Sericulture Station, Thika
2. International Centre for Insect Physiology and Entomology (I.C.I.P.E)
3. Kakamega Forest Silk Market Centre, in Kakamega
4. Pendeza Weaving, in Kisumu
5. Spin Weave, in Nairobi
6. Gramwa, in Kiambu
7. Mwingi Silk Market Place, in Mwingi
8. Arabuko Sokoke Silk Market Place, in Malindi
9. Molo Weavers, in Elburgon
10. Rivatex, in Eldoret (Prospective large scale buyer)
11. Kimahuri youth group in Nyeri county
12. Sarah Jane in Nairobi

There are many other cottage weavers that we might not be aware of that are interested in buying silk. Farmers are encouraged to survey around their areas for upcoming and existing weavers.

How to Start Up Sericulture

Basic Requirements 

1. Land: This is the most important requirement for from it food for silkworms will be harvested.
2. Planting material: It is important to select varieties that bear many leaves, at least 30m tons per acre (good variety of Mulberry cuttings).
3. Silkworm rearing house: Must be one that can retain basic requirement of hygienic conditions.
4. Rearing equipment: Appropriate and approved rearing equipment such as rearing beds, mountages, sprayer pump, chopping boards etc are required.
5. Silkworm eggs: Must be obtained from approved silkworm egg breeders.
6. Training: A person intending to rear silkworms must have basic training of at least two weeks so as to master rearing techniques.
7. Farm equipment: Jembes, for digging and weeding, secateurs for pruning and harvesting of leaves, pruning saws for cutting larger shoots, fencing materials to prevent animal pests. 

Link to Mulberry Silkworm 
Link to Mulberry Trees

Sericulture Economics for One Acre

Cocoon production economics

(Investment costs spread over 20 years production/accounting period)

Yield Price/Kg Gross Income Production Cost Yearly Profit
YEAR 1        
160 kg 350 56,000 55,295 705
YEAR 2        
320 kg 350 112,000 82,895 29,105
YEAR 3 onwards        
640 kg 350 224,000 131,295 92,705


Initial Investment Overview 

Item Price Ksh
Rearing house 208,769
Mulberry establishment 96,000
16 beds 22,784
Partitions and frames 44,120
Spraying pump and protective gear 10,000
Variable rearing costs Year 1 32,400
Total Year 1 414,073


Rearing House Building Costs

Cost of mulberry establishment and rearing house is spread over a period of 20 years.
Cost of materials and labour from region to region, so below cost estimate could easily differ in your area.

7m x 5m house is adequate for 2 cases rearing. 

  Quantity Unit Price KSh Total Cost Estimation
Timber 808 ft 45 36,360
Off cuts 1,360 3 4,080
Roofing nails 5kg 280 1,400
Ordinary nails 4" 30 kg 180 5,400
Iron sheets 64 pcs 700 44,800
Sand 2 lorrys (7 ton) 10,000 20,000
Cement 5 bags 800 4,000
Posts 20 250 5,000
Coffee tray mesh 1 roll 4,000 4,000
Polythene sheet 15m 150 2,250
Labour (skilled) 30 mds 700 21,000
Unskilled labour 30 mds 400 12,000
Hard core 2 lorry (7 ton) 2,000 4,000
Door 3 3,500 10,500
Windows 10 1,500 15,000
Miscellaneous 10%   18,979
Initial Investment - house     208,769
House cost spread over 20 years Per Year   10,438



To save on space, rearing beds can be stacked (tier rearing beds).


        Cost Per Year
Timber (6x1) 20ft 25 500  
(2x2) 8ft 23 184  
Ply wood 1 550 550  
Assorted nails ½ kg 90 90  
Labour (skilled for one bed) 1 100 100  
Sub-Total     1,424  
Total 16 beds   22,784  
Spread over 20 years       1,200
Partitions (Mountages) 256 150 38,400  
Frames 26 220 5,720  
Total     44,120  
Spread over 10 years       4,412



Mulberry Establishment Costs

Cost of mulberry establishment and rearing house is spread over a period of 20 years.
Manure: Manure and fertiliser should be added to the mulberry crop at least twice a year. Waste from bed clearning can be composted into manure.


YEAR 1      
Land preparation 20 MD 200 4,000
Digging holes 4,000 holes 10 40,000
Manure 8 tons (1 lorry) 10,000 10,000
Manure application 10 MD 200 2,000
Fertilizer DAP/NPK 8 bags 2,500 20,000
Sapplings 4,000 sapplings 3 12,000
Planting labour 20 MD 200 4,000
Pruning and training 20 MD 200 4,000
Total     96,000
Cost spread over 20 years Per Year   4,800


Mulberry Growing 

Variable costs per year      
Weeding 4 times 20 MD 200 16,000
Fertilizer CAN 8 bags 2,000 16,000
Manure 8 tons (1 lorry) 10,000 10,000
Application labour 5MD 200 1,000
Prunning 4 times 10 MD 200 8,000
Total     51,000



Silkworm Rearing Costs 

Fixed Costs      
Spraying pump 1 5,000 5,000
Protective gear 1 5,000 5,000
Total     10,000
Cost spread over 5 years     2,000
Variable Costs      
Silkworm eggs NB: 1 case is 20,000 silkworms 8 cases 500 4,000
Disinfectant 5 litres 160 800
Leaf harvesting & rearing labour (4 rearings) 21 MD 200 16,800
Harvesting of cocoons and deflossing 4 times 12 MD 200 9,600
Gumboots 1 pair 1,000 1,000
Thermometre and Hydrometer     200
Fixed cost spread over rearing years     22,895
Total     55,295
YEAR 2      
Silkworm eggs 16 cases 500 8,000
Disinfectant 5 litres 160 800
Leaf harvesting & rearing labour 154MD 200 30,800
Harvesting of cocoons and deflossing 4 times 96MD 200 19,200
Gumboots     1,000
Thermometre and Hydrometer     200
Fixed cost spread over rearing years     22,895
Total     82,895
YEAR 3      
Silkworm eggs 32 cases 500 16,000
Disinfectant 5 litres 160 800
Leaf harvesting & rearing labour 308MD 200 61,600
Harvesting cocoons & deflossing 144MD 200 28,800
Gumboots     1,000
Thermometer     200
Fixed cost     22,895
Total     131,295

Information Source Links

  • National Sericulture Station (2008). Manual guide to Sericulture practices in Kenya.
  • Dr. Manjeet S. Jolly (1987). Appropriate Sericulture Techniques.
  • Dr. K. Kawakami (JICA) and Dr. H. Yanagawa (JICA) (2993). Illustrated Handbook on Silkworm Disease Control Technology.
  • FAO Bulletins (1987) Manuals on Sericulture.
  • Dr. M. N. Narasimhanna (1988) Manual on Sericulture Egg Production.
  • FAO Bulletin (1991) Silkworm diseases.
  • Jica. Third country training Programme (2010) Bivoltine Sericulture Technology.
  • Central Silk Board (2003) Seri Business Manual: Users Guide.

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