South Africa

Development of the wild silk industry

The Southern African region is rich in natural resources of textile-based fibres, including wild silk. Potential exists for the complete beneficiation of these natural fibres to produce export marketable high-value niche products and create the associated employment and income generating opportunities.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the North West Provincial Government in South Africa recognised this potential almost a decade ago and started with technology based interventions at the Ganyesa Wild Silk project.

However, there are no systematic farming and value addition strategies in the region. An increase in production volume is necessary to make the expansion into the sophisticated textile processing of wild silk economically viable for creating self-sustaining employment opportunities. To achieve this, the participation of other South African provinces, such as Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, as well as other regional countries, such as Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, is required.

Due to its successful experience in the wild silk industry in Madagascar, where more than 20,000 families are supported by the industry, UNIDO was approached by the (CSIR) in South Africa to support the development of the wild silk sector in the region.

Accelerating the progress of this project depends upon the thrust investment in relevant technologies, human capital development and marketing strategies. This new overall programme strategy will involve the collaborative participation of the local governments.

A sustainable handcraft industry in the wild silk sector in the region will be established, producing niche products for the tourism industry. This will contribute to economic growth, increase employment opportunities, particularly in the rural areas, and the development of new enterprises by exploiting the commercial potential of the wild silk resource in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The estimated cost for the project in South Africa is approximately ZAR14 million over the period of three years. The project is financed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The project may be expanded to selected countries in the region.