Uganda’s Silk industry at risk as MPs call for probe into Sh27.6Bn suspended Silkworm farming project

Legislators on Parliament’s Committee of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries are calling for an investigation into the expenditure of 27.6 billion Shillings in the government silkworm farming project. The Project, which was suspended falls under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Also known as sericulture, the silkworm project is one of the 17 science and innovation projects established by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in 2016. Since its inception, the initiative has received over 31 billion shillings from the government’s Innovation Fund.

However, lawmakers are concerned that after the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tropical Institute for Development Innovation (TRIDI) to promote the initiative, the project was terminated, resulting in economic losses and wasted investments.

Yona Musinguzi, the Ntungamo Municipality Representative, questioned why the Ministry rushed to terminate the memorandum of understanding with the contractor when the Ministry of Agriculture had already established the necessary infrastructure, and farmers had the silk-producing eggs.

James Kubeketerya, the MP for Bunya County East Constituency, revealed that in the Financial Year 2023/2024, Parliament appropriated 27.6 billion to enhance sericulture. He now wonders how the money has been utilized since the project was suspended.

Meanwhile, Committee Chairperson Janet Okori-Moe, the Abim District Woman Representative, observed that silk production in the country has the potential to significantly boost the economy. She blamed the suspension on poor coordination, legislation, and a lack of a committed team.

Speaking to URN on Monday, Dr. Monicah Musenero, the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, explained that the memorandum of understanding with the contractor was terminated following legal advice from the Attorney General. She added that the project was poorly designed.

However, Robson Aine, TRIDI’s Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, pointed fingers at Dr. Musenero’s Ministry for obstructing the progress of the silkworm project, a presidential initiative aimed at revolutionizing Uganda’s silk industry.

Aine explained that one notable achievement of the project is the successful production of a 100 percent Ugandan silk yarn brand called “Usilk,” which has gained acceptance in both European and Asian markets. He stated, “The Ministry of Science disrupted the project’s initial plan, preventing it from producing sufficient raw materials to meet market demand.”

In the 2022/2023 fiscal year, Parliament allocated 43 billion shillings for the project to facilitate the production of raw materials, install silkworm egg production facilities, and provide training for Ugandans in silk yarn production.

TRIDI management pointed out that the Ministry suspended the release of the funds, which was perceived as a violation of the Public Finance Management Act of 2015, resulting in the wastage of investments exceeding 85 billion Shillings.

It is understood that at the time of the MoU breach by the Ministry of Science, the presidential initiative had employed over 1,500 Ugandans and operated in 24 districts, including Kween, Bulambuli, Sheema, Kiruhura, Kamuli, Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Luwero, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Buikwe, Pallisa, Busia, Amolatar, Otuke, Lira, Agago, Luwero, and Pader, among others.

An annual Performance Report on the Commercialization of Sericulture Technologies in Uganda for the Financial Year 2021/2022 reveals that silk is the most expensive textile fiber, with a unit price 20 times higher than that of raw cotton.

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