From the Desk of Secretary General
Agriculture has been playing a pivotal role since time immortal in sustaining the livelihood and growth of humans, especially in the rural areas. The African-Asian region was not an exception. With the advent and application of science and technology for the welfare of mankind, agriculture too received due attention and encouragement by further specializing into areas like floriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, apiculture, sericulture (production of silk), etc. In this issue, AARDO wishes to highlight the relevance of sericulture in the socio-economic development of African-Asian countries as they possess conducive agro-climatic conditions to harvest 3-4 cocoon crops in a year. In fact, sericulture is a labour intensive activity as labour cost alone accounts for nearly half of the total cost in cocoon production. It is a cash crop with minimum investment, high employment potential, remunerative returns and low gestation period. Further, post cocoon production processes involving reeling, twisting, weaving, dyeing, printing, packaging and garment manufacturing offer additional avenues for income and employment. Promotion of sericulture thus can become one of the potent strategies for poverty alleviation and income generation as a large number of countries in this region are afflicted with endemic poverty. Sericulture also enhances green cover, reduces carbon emission and prevents soil erosion by virtue of being an environment friendly activity.

The African-Asian countries that have already acquired certain level of infrastructure, extension services and seed support in the sericulture sector could further disseminate these facilities among less skilled needy developing countries so that its full potential is harnessed. India, for example, could provide training and consultancy services to African- Asian countries in addition to exporting them quality silkworm seeds. Similarly, China, the biggest producer of silk in the world, can support African-Asian countries in a variety of ways.

To further expand and boost the sericulture sector, international organizations like ISC, FAO, IFAD, JICA and African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO) can play a catalytic role by bringing together all the stakeholders on a single platform by way of sensitizing top government officials at policy level, information and innovation sharing, demand driven production, highlighting achievements and perspective planning, etc. In this regard, International Sericulture Commission (ISC) is already playing a pioneering role by protecting the interest of sericulture industry by acting as referral agency, extending technical support and assisting in securing financial resources from multilateral agencies, etc. Thus, having this backdrop in view, AARDO, in collaboration with ISC, organized an International Workshop-cum-Exposure Visit on “Potential of Sericulture and Silk Industry for Employment and Income Generation in AARDO Member Countries” in April 2016 in India. The programme, attended by eighteen participants and seven experts from twelve countries, discussed in details various aspects of sericulture and silk industry. At the end of the programme, the participants arrived at a set of recommendations that, among others, included declaring sericulture as a priority sector in perspective development plans of the governments, special incentives for R&D programme, networking among African-Asian countries for promoting silk trade, developing global silk design bank, establishing global disease surveillance and forewarning systems, publication of training manual in native language, tax holidays for sericulture industry, etc. It is hoped that these and other recommendations will help policy makers and planners in drafting appropriate policies to boost this sector by taking into account that demand for silk products is steadily increasing all over the world, particularly in Europe and America. The outcome of this workshop will also stimulate deliberations on the issues involved in view of the fact that headquarters of ISC have shifted from a developed country (France) to a developing country (India) in 2013 which has a unique distinction of being the only country in the world to produce all the five varieties of silk, besides being a leading consumer and exporter of silk.