Farming Wild Silk: Planting, Training, Rearing
Wild Silk is produced by silkworms and other insects that are not domesticated by humans, but rather exist in the wild.
There are many different types of silkworms and each one produces a slightly different type of silk cocoon.
CPALI farmers began working with Antherina suraka first because it is native to the area, produces a viable silk, and eats a fast-growing, primary rainforest tree, Polycias bakeriana.
Planting tree nurseries
Each farmer working with CPALI plants at least 250 host trees on their land to feed the silkworms. Because CPALI only works with native trees, most farmers already have a few mature trees on their property with which they can practice until their saplings reach maturity. Some of the more ambitious farmers have planted over 1000 trees supporting both habitat recovery and income generation.
By Step 3, farmers have practiced rearing silkworms on their farms for at least one generation of silkworms and usually two or three. After 15 months, the host trees are large enough to support about 30 larvae each. The SEPALI Madagascar team returns to the farms once again for a month-long, intensive training session. Upon successful completion of a month of continuous, in-village training, farmers are considered independent breeders.
Learn more about producing wild silk with our Silkworm Rearing Manual for Antherina Suraka:
After planting the trees, farmers enter Stage 2 of the process: training to raise silkworms. The CPALI training program is organized and conducted by the SEPALI Madagascar staff. It is an intensive, three-phase process.
First, the staff conducts a hands-on demonstration of each rearing step at one of the demonstration sites. After farmers are trained in small groups, they are given one-on-one training on each individual's farm. The high degree of attention to site allows the team to troubleshoot site-specific challenges due to variation in soil types, distance from water sources, slope of farmland and distance of the farmland from the village. The goal is to enable each farmer to rear silkworms independently.
CPALI buys all of the cocoons that farmers produce at a mutually agreed upon price that is fixed at the beginning of the rearing season. Cocoons are purchased at above market prices because CPALI recognizes that learning new field techniques and accepting new practices is time consuming and difficult. Most farmers decide to defer financial payment for cocoons until they have produced 2000 or more. Hence, farmers are using CPALI as a "bank" and building up a savings account of cocoons based on the monetary returns for their production.