KOLKATA, 3 NOV: The state department of Sericulture and Central Silk Board has taken up a project to cultivate Eri Silk in the Sunderbans.
The poverty alleviation project funded by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), has been formulated to provide training and required infrastructure for silk cultivation to the farmers in the Sunderbans who lost their agricultural land after cyclone Aila last year.
Ingress of saline water has left their land unfit for agricultur. The project aims at providing them an alternate livelihood and at the same time boost silk production in the state.
Mrs TS Raji Gain, general manager of Natural Resource Management Centre, Nabard, said the reason why Sunderbans was preferred for the project is that the Eri silkworms feed on Castor plant that can grow on saline land, which is abundantly available in the Sunderbans. And, it can also be a rehabilitation project for the farmers who have lost their land in Cyclone Aila.
The annual outlay for the project is Rs 35 lakh and Nabard is extending the financial support. Altogether 35 beneficiaries for the first year have already been identified in the Sunderbans.
The project would start from Chandanpiri village in Namkhana, South 24-Parganas, and will be replicated later in other parts of the Sunderbans.
Two NGOs would be implementing the project at the ground level. While AIM, an NGO, would co-ordainate training programmes among the farmers, monitor the expenditure and extend the project, Chandanpiri Sri Ramakrishna Ashram would take up plantation, rearing and grassroots training of the farmers. The project has just started and at present plantation of Castor plants is going on in Chandanpiri.
The Central Silk Board would extend support services like resource development programme for those who will monitor the project.
They will organise trainings for the farmers and also take them on a study tour to Cooch Behar where Eri Silk is widely cultivated.
A cocoon market would be developed close to the city though the area has not yet been identified. Silk could also be brought directly from the village co-operatives. A private export company has already approached the Silk Board for buying all the silk produced in the first phase of the project.