Stories by Chinyere Anyanwu || [email protected] 09028770040
Snail farming, when the process is meticulously followed through, is one business in the agriculture value chain that can transform an investor in it into a millionaire within the short period of 12 months, and that with minimal capital. This is because snail meat is a healthy, delicious delicacy that can completely replace red meat and other unhealthy protein sources in the diet. Snail production, however, is still inadequate to meet market demand. This, therefore, implies that venturing into snail rearing promises to be very rewarding financially.
Land snail belongs to the class of Molluscan Gastropod. There are many species of snail but the types in consideration here are the ones that are suitable for commercial snail farming in Africa.
Health benefits of snail
Snail meat packs a lot of health benefits that endear it to consumers. It helps to restore and strengthen bone-cartilaginous tissues. It is as well a powerful aphrodisiac with beneficial effect on male potency and female libido. Snail meat is very useful for those suffering from atherosclerosis and liver diseases. Slime of snails contains a natural component that can regenerate cells. Therefore, it is actively used in cosmetology and medicine. Protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscle has been found to be richer in snail meat than in most sea foods. Snails are also a good source of iron essential for building red blood cells and carrying energy around the body. Snail meat is rich in vitamin B12, which is needed for making red blood cells, keeping the nervous system healthy and processing folic acid.
Snail is also a good source of magnesium needed to maintain a normal blood pressure, strengthen bones and also keep heartbeat regular. Selenium, needed for maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting cells against damage is equally abundant in snail. Snails also supply the body with Omega-3, which is good for the heart.
Species of snail
There are several species of snail including East African land snail with a scientific name, achatina fulica; archachatina marginata commonly known as the giant West African snail, which can grow up to 20cm long and live up to 10 years; and achatina achatina, among others.
Among these three species, achatina achatina is the most desirable for farmers because it can grow to become the biggest snail species in the world and has its origin in Nigeria. Another reason it is the preferred species for farmers is its high yield capacity. Giant African land snails are hemaphrodites, meaning they possess both the female and male reproductive organs. However, two snails are still needed for breeding but they are very prolific breeders.
Achatina achatina is also known as the giant tiger land snail. It is a large, air-breathing land snail with a shell that can attain a length of 200mm and a maximum diameter of 100mm. It may possess between seven and eight whorls and the shell is often broadly ovate. Its body is silver-brown in colour although albino morphs may exist.
Right environment for snail rearing
Snails are easily dehydrated and wind increases the rate of moisture loss in snail, which in turn leads to its dryness. To prevent snails from losing water quickly, the snail house must be located in an environment that is protected from wind. A low plain, downhill site surrounded by enough trees is perfect for snail farming. Plantains and bananas may be planted around the snail farm to prevent the impact of wind.
Soil type for snail farming
Snail’s major habitat is the soil, and soil contains some of the components and chemical substances it needs to survive. However, not all soils are suitable for snail rearing. The shell of the snail is mainly calcium and it derives most of it from the soil. Snail also lays its eggs on the soil and drinks water out of the soil.
Hence, the suitable soil for snail farming must contain these elements. It must be balanced, not waterlogged, not too dry, and must not be acidic. The most desirable soil for snail is sandy-loamy soil with low water holding capacity. Clayey soil and acidic soil must be avoided.
Getting the sails for farming
To start up a snail farm, it is advisable to get snails directly from the forest instead of buying from the market after they have been exposed to sunlight and have been dehydrated. This stresses them out and reduces their fertility.
The intending snail farmer could pick the snails from the bush with a simple technique; clear a little portion of land during rainy season and sprinkle fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain and banana, among others, at about 5pm. When you go back there at about 7pm or 8pm, you will pick up snails suitable for rearing. Repeat the procedure until you get the desired number.
Another way could be to pick up snail eggs littered in the market place where it is sold and through a technique, check the fertility of the eggs, because some of them must have lost fertility due to exposure to sunlight. The eggs are later put inside a container containing wet sand and covered with cocoyam leaf. Between 21 and 28 days, the eggs would hatch into baby snails. Start feeding them and gradually raise a snail farm.
Constructing the snail house (snailery)
Snaileries can vary from a patch of fence-protected ground, sheltered from the wind to a covered box if breeding is on a small scale. For larger population of snails, a trench can dug or a concrete pen with soil depth of about 10 inches and covered with screen or wire all round to prevent the snails from escaping. Snails love dark and cold places but ensure the humidity does not drop to levels harmful to the snails. Also, the wire is useful in keeping away rats and snakes or other predators from eating the snails in the snail farm. Aside these bigger predators, there are smaller ones like ants and termites. Construction must take these predators into consideration.
Snail food and feeding
Snails, especially achatina achatina, feed mainly on green leaves and fruits though they can eat other foods such as formula from the feed store. Apart from food to grow tissues, snails need calcium to grow shells. They can be fed cocoyam leaves, pawpaw leaves, okra leaves, cassava leaves, eggplant leaves, cabbage and lettuce leaves. The fruits include mango, eggplant, pawpaw, banana, tomatoes, oil palm fruits, pears and cucumber. Once they start growing, separate the big ones from the small ones. It takes more than a year for the achatina type to grow to harvest size. Others mature in two years.
Fifty thousand (50,000) snails after a year or two sold at the rate of N100 each (highly reduced price) will generate about N5 million.
Harvesting the snail
It is not economically wise to harvest the snails before maturity. They have to be matured before harvesting. To know if the snails are ready for harvesting, check the brim of the shell. If it is matured enough, the brim should be thicker and harder than other parts of the shell. Do not harvest all the matured snails at once for the market. It is important to keep few for breeding and to serve as base stock for the snail farm.