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Snails Cultivation as a Small Scale Business

By Charlotte

Snail farming is not something new. From early ages, human has been living on snail meat because of its high protein content, high iron, low fat, and also include almost all the amino acid which is needed for human body. Snails are a huge part of the diet in many parts of Africa, although they are not always available all year round. Their high protein content, low fat and cholesterol content make them a nutritional favorite. Because snails are very dormant during the dry season, this make them become increasingly scarce during this time and the market is starved of sufficient supply until the next wet season. Due to steady growing demand from customers, hotels and restaurants are always in need of snail delicacies on their menus. Given the significant upside to the profits that can be made, it makes a lot of sense to take maximum advantage of this market when the supply of snails is significantly short. In terms of cost and time, snail farming is a low risk business when compared to other livestock businesses. The process of raising land snails specifically for human use, either to use their flesh as edible escargot, and recently, to obtain snail slime for use in cosmetics, or snail eggs for human consumption as a type of caviar is known scientifically as Heliciculture. Snails are grown in cool climates with temperature ranges from - 4°C to a maximum of 30°C.

Farming place and size

A suitable area where plants can grow for their feeding and shelter will be good for snails farming. A farmer also has to make sure predatory insects and pests are eliminated from the site. For this reason, soil analysis and ensuring healthy growing leafy, green vegetable crops have to be carried out.  A calcium rich soil with PH between 5.8 and 7.5 will be suitable for farming. The soil texture should be light as it is appropriate for the snails to lay their eggs and move around freely. A proper drainage system is necessary because no water should remain on ground in puddles. It is important to have a farming area that is as large as possible and also to limit snail numbers accordingly to avoid overcrowding. A large, free range farming area results in higher production rates, lower mortality, a more ethical and less stressful environment and the resulting snails are of good quality.

Building a Snailery

Type snaileries include:    Hutch boxes, trench pens, mini Paddock pens, moveable pens, free range pens. These are built using decay and termite resistant materials such as Miliciaexcelsa (common name- iroko); Naucleadiderrichii (common name- opepe); Lophiraalata (common name – ekki), concrete blocks; mosquito nets and polythene sheets. Also, to build a snailery you should take into consideration the snails stage of development and snails habit.

Once you have constructed a galvanized fence it is important to install mesh holding pens made from open weave shade cloth. A double layered cloth (or flaps) is recommended to prevent the snails escaping. A good irrigation system is crucial, this helps to maintain a healthy food source and ensures the snails are kept active for eating, breeding and growing.

Feeding and diseases

Snails are generally vegetarian, they feed on leaves, tubers, fruits, flowers such as cocoyam, kola, paw paw, cassava, mango, banana, pear, oil palm, fig tomato, yam, sweet potato and plantain. Farmers should provide nutrition rich feeds that enhance the growth of snails. When the snails are well bred, they should start to reach market size from six to twelve months, although some farmers like to leave theirs for much longer.

Snails can be attacked by parasites, nematodes, trematodes, fungi, and micro arthropods when the populations of snails are dense. A hygienic environment is recommended for snails farming. This prevents the spread of disease and improve the health and grow rate of snails.

Mating and egg lying

Snails are hermaphrodites, this means they have both male and female reproductive system. Despite they are hermaphrodites, they do intercourse with another snail of same species before laying eggs. Some snails act as males one season and as females in another season and they fertilize each other simultaneously. Snails generally mate in late spring or early summer. They need at least two inches deep for laying eggs. The area should be pests free such as ants, millipedes etc. Dry soil, clay soil heavy soil is not suitable for snails to lay their eggs, this type of conditions decreases the reproduction and hatching ability. Eggs hatching depends on soil temperature, soil humidity soil composition etc. Moist soil is suitable for laying eggs. After laying eggs, a snail can lose its weight and some do not recover it. Some investigation shows that about one-third of the snails die after the breeding season.

Marketing

Snails consumption are mainly in the West Africa and West France. In West Africa, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, most of the snails supplied to the market are gathered from bushes and forests during the rainy season (usually between April and September).

France plays a significant role in snails’ marketing. Some of the snails are imported from France and exported to other European countries or North America. Annually, the USA alone imports about $200 million worth of snails. Other markets are Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Austria, Denmark etc. and the main suppliers to these markets are, Turkey, Rumania, Algeria, Tunisia etc.

France plays a significant role in snails’ marketing. Some of the snails are imported from France and exported to other European countries or North America. Annually, the USA alone imports about $200 million worth of snails. Other markets are Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Austria, Denmark etc. and the main suppliers to these markets are, Turkey, Rumania, Algeria, Tunisia etc.

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