There was never any indigenous production of silk until about twenty two years ago when the Ministry of Agriculture brought silk from India and trained farmers on its cultivation. Silk production can be part of a diverse household economy as income that women earn and control. As such, it is more likely than not to be allocated to the health and education of the children.
The cultivation of silk is easy but time intensive.
Eri silk eggs hatch small caterpillars. The animals eat castor leaves for 45 days before they cocoon.
The cocoons are made of a beautiful, strong fiber that is silk. After two weeks, moths emerge from the cocoons. During the five days they live, they mate and lay over 200 eggs so the lifecycle can begin again. Once the cocoons are boiled, they can be hand spun into uneven, knobby thread.
Silk production at Sabahar
Sabahar weaves with eri and mulberry silk. Each variety is very unique in its aesthetic. Most of the silk produced in Ethiopia is eri silk. This is a rare variety that is hearty and easy to cultivate. The eri silk caterpillars eat castor, environmentally friendly plants that grow abundantly all over the country. The silk that is produced has a rough, organic look. We buy eri silk cocoons and thread from rural farmers, farming cooperatives and a few large-scale farms.
Sabahar also imports Mulberry silk from India in order to weave the two different types of thread in order to create a variety of different textures.
Today, Sabahar, still the pioneer of local silk, is one of the only companies in the world which produces textiles for export made of Ethiopian silk.