Sericulture, especially eri-culture (rearing of eri- Attacus ricini) is a popular tradition among the indigenous people of Northeast India. The silk produced from eri culture is also called as “silk of the poor” as the cost of production is less in comparison to other silks like Muga and Mulberry. Eri-culture is multivoltine in nature. Six broods can be reared in a year and so it has high rate of production. Eri silk is used for production of many different types of winter garments and these garments are among the costliest sericulture products in India. Endi garments, specially shawls, have very good demand and are traditionally used in Assam and in some other states of India. The main drawback of eri-culture is the non-availability of sufficient quantity of food plants (castor plant-Ricinus communis). Castor is a wild plant and mostly grows in forested or degraded areas. Hence, for rearing Eri caterpillar the castor leaves needs to be collected from the wild areas. Eri caterpillars are generally voracious feeder and need huge quantity of food during cocoon formation. And due to non-availability of sufficient food a very high rate of mortality of Eri caterpillars have been observed and the raisers have to face huge loss. If this problem can be addressed Eri-culture can be a sustainable livelihood for the poor people living in the forest fringe areas.
Dolphin Foundation stated working on the issue 10 years back, carried out extensive studies and experiments on the possibility of commercial cultivation of castor plants in the starting years and have already achieved significant success in this line. The program has already developed around 6 hectares of unused public land into castor plant garden in the fringes areas of Manas with community participation and Eri-raisers of the areas start getting benefit out of these gardens.