Revitalizing Afghan Silk

Afghan silk
Afghan silk rug. Photo courtesy
of team abundo

Once part of the Silk Road, the Herat province of Afghanistan was a thriving center of production for silk and the manufacturing of silk carpets. The dry climate is ideal for the growth of mulberry trees, the main food source for silk worms. However, the Afghan-Russian War of 1979-1989 cut off this region from trade routes and deeply affected the industry. This was worsened by the Taliban, who wouldn’t allow women to work in factory jobs.

Thankfully, the Afghan Department of Agriculture has seen the need to reinvigorate this industry. In an initiative to increase silk production again, the department provided about 5,050 silkworm boxes to many different areas in the province. This would create more jobs in not just silk production, but in weaving carpets as well. Carpets are Afghanistan’s biggest export. Carpet weaving, done mostly by women and children, employed about one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population at one point.

Synthetic "silk" has really affected the silk trade, but it comes with lessened quality. This initiative was created to provide income to many impoverished citizens, as well as push Afghan silk back into the international silk market. This process will also potentially protect skills that have been passed down in families that have been involved in the silk trade for generations. Many people had left the trade, taking with them ancestral knowledge of silk drying, spinning, and weaving. A reinvigorated silk trade can also keep these traditions alive.

For some amazing images of the Afghan silk trade, check out this article from Daily Mail UK. 

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