Rui. Tucked away in drought-prone Beed district near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, this village has nothing to do with its name, but everything to do with silk.
All of Rui’s 6,000 strong population has been through never-ending cycles of acute water scarcity: fi elds of wheat, tur and cotton yielding next to nothing, keeping the farmers in poverty. In Hindi, cotton is called rui.
It fell upon their 37-yearold sarpanch, Kalidas Navle, to lead a young brigade to find better livelihood. He got the village to grow mulberry and turn to sericulture, and Rui took the road to spin a story in silk. The village with 800 acres of mulberry cultivation today has the largest area under sericulture in India, selling cocoons or raw silk to generate a collective revenue of Rs 2.2 crore each month.
Navle said the village rewrote its agrarian makeover in just four years. The switch to sericulture came out of sheer desperation when extreme water scarcity forced many villagers to move out. Eight years ago, he and seven other farmers initially started growing mulberry after some training. At present, 300 people, most of them marginal farmers with one to two and a half acres, are sericulturists.
Navle read about sericulture in an agricultural magazine and his group also found a few farmers from a nearby village practising it. He, his brother and three friends saw their project and they decided to bring it to Rui.
Every acre of mulberry needs an investment of Rs 3 lakh of which the state government gives a subsidy of Rs 2.2 lakh. Each acre yields 10 quintal of cocoons a year. They earn between Rs 55,000 and Rs 85,000 per quintal.
Silk traders and exporters from all over the country want a slice of Rui’s raw silk. Aman Khan, a Bengaluru-based trader who processes cocoons, extracts silk thread and sells it, said Rui's cocoons are the best. “We get one kilo of thread from six kilos of cocoons. But if they are from Rui, we get as much thread from just 5kg of cocoons,” he added.
Ramnagara in Karnataka has a state-run department that sets the price for cocoons. An ecosystem that provides subsidiary work for many more has come up in Rui after its sericulture debut. Besides cultivation, the villagers work in segregation of cocoons, transporting and ferrying them to places all over India.
Along the way, there were quite some mistakes and lessons learned in time. For instance, farmers would buy silkworm eggs from the state agriculture department, but because they lacked expertise, 50% would be useless.
Farmer Sudam Pawar then went to Bengaluru to learn more about hatching and he started a centre. “We have a 90% success rate and employ over 20 workers for Rs 500 per day,” Pawar said. He charges Rs 3,000 for 1 lakh hatchings and makes a profit of about Rs 1.2 lakh per month.