By Francis Ontomwa
He moves up and down in a small dark room, emptying shelves and changing leaves for thousands of silkworms being reared in the space.
Vincent Chimwani opens and closes windows at intervals — to regulate temperatures in the room, he says.
Chimwani is part of a 15-member group that includes youths and women that run a sericulture project in Iguhu village of Ikolomani constituency in Kakamega South District.
Sericulture is the harvesting of silk.The project requires little capital to start and little space.
To many, what started as an ‘over-ambitious’ project whose future looked bleak and ‘mysterious’ given that clothes were to come out of caterpillars, has now turned out to be one of Ikolomani residents’ most respected business ventures.
It has stirred interest even among those who once looked down upon it.
“We started off many of us but with time, the number dwindled as many expected to reap the benefits immediately,” explains Emily Bunoro, the group’s leader.
She adds: “Slowly things are starting to pay off and we are now witnessing many showing interest to join us again.”
In a small isolated muddy house in the village, the group has set up a structure made of shelves that resemble a double-decker bed where they rear silkworms.
These crawling insects produce raw silk — and the farmers’ income. Just a few metres from the structure is a small farm teeming with mulberry trees.
The silkworms feed solely on the succulent leaves of the tree, one that produces strawberry and therefore their availability must be guaranteed if the project is to be sustained. “We continuously feed the worms at least thrice a day but if we fail to do so, they die,” explains Chimwani.