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KENYA – Clothing made with Calotropis procera, a species of flowering plant native to parts of Africa and Asia, are likely to hit shops before the end of 2018 after interest from a group of Chinese investors.

Tests on Calotropis procera, a wild plant grown in some of the most arid parts of the world, have delivered some highly promising results. Kenyan scientists carried out a series of tests on the plant and found it yields fibres with silk-like qualities. They are now working with Chinese investors who have expressed a firm interest in working with the fibres. Calotropis procera can also be blended with other types of fibre to produce a different fibre with unique attributes.

The Genetics Resources Unit at the World Agroforestry Centre (Icraf) is the agency coordinating the study along with three doctorate students from Moi University and South Eastern Kenya University. The scientists have established Kenyan demonstration plots in Makueni and Tharaka Nithi counties where domestication of the plant has been tested.

Tom Gard from organic farming business, Migo Ranch and Farms initiated the project. Asked about the fibre’s properties, Gard said: “From available information from the Chinese manufacturer, the resultant fabric has properties between that of cotton and silk. Unlike silk, however, the fabric, although strong, is environmental-friendly.”

Gard said the Calotropis procera tree species is sparsely distributed in the wild, hence there is not an abundant supply. “This is the reason why World Agroforestry Centre is conducting research aimed at domesticating the tree species. The purpose of the domestication research is to ascertain the best soil type and how to develop a fast-growing and fast-maturing tree species,” added Gard.

Read the full interview in the first printed issue of Apparel Insider.

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