Snail farming is one of the veritable means of generating income and achieving self-sufficiency.
There is now a renewed interest in snail farming because of its inherent importance to food security and sustainable livelihood in rural households. Snails are boneless shelled creepy crawlies mostly found on walls, under vegetations, in drainages, or just crawling along on their way to do one crucial thing or the other to save the snail universe.
Like most animals, they occur in the wild but man has been able to raise them in captivity for year-round harvest. This process is called snail farming. Snail meat is rich in protein, iron, and amino acids and low in fat and sugar, and its consumption dates back thousands of years among various civilizations and races.
In Africa, it’s common to pick snails during the wet season for consumption, with the rest sold in open markets. In France and many parts of Europe, a delicacy called Escargot; is a dish of snail meat cooked in butter, parsley, and garlic. Snails are also used in various recipes in Greece, Italy, and the United States.
Snails can be farmed for personal consumption or commercial purposes. If you want to set up a snail farm, it is imperative you consider the following useful tips:
1. What Species to Rear in Your Snail Farm.
There are tens of edible snail species, but the most common, especially in West Africa are;
1. Achatina Fulica (The East African land snail, or giant African land snail)
When completely grown, Achatina fulica has a slender, conical shell that is twice as long as it is broad and includes 7 to 9 whorls. The shell is usually reddish-brown with faint yellowish vertical stripes; however, coloration varies according to the environment and food.
It’s typical to see a light coffee color. Adults of the species can reach a shell length of up to 20cm, but most are between 5 and 10cm. The snail is about 32 grams in weight on average.
2. Achatina Achatina (giant Ghana snail, giant tiger land snail)
With rapid reproductive rates, these are typically very large, air-breathing, hermaphroditic land snails. Achatina achatina’s shell can grow to 200 mm in length and a maximum diameter of 100 mm, similar to the other species in the genus.
The shell is frequently widely oval and has 7-8 whorls. Although albino variants may exist, the animal’s body is silver-brown.
3. Archachatina Marginata (the giant West African snail)
As these snails can reach a length of 20cm and survive for up to ten years, Achatina Achatina is the most desirable of these three species for farmers.
They grow to be the world’s largest snail species, and because Achatina Marginata originated in Nigeria, it is considered a native of the country. It also has a high yield potential.
2. What Kind of Housing
This will depend on if you are running a commercial farm or a subsistence one, your intended capacity, space, and budget. If you want to keep just a few hundred snails, you could use rubber tires covered with nets, perforated containers, or build pens with wood or corrugated sheets.
On the other hand, commercial snail farming will require more elaborate structures and measures to prevent overcrowding leading to cannibalism, escape, injury from falls from high places, adverse environmental conditions, and pest invasion.
Now you know what specie to house and what kind of structure to use, what ecological factors should you look out for?
3. Snail Farming Environment
Snails are quickly dehydrated, and wind speeds up the rate of moisture loss in the snail, causing the animal to become dry. Your snaileries (the snail house) must be positioned in a wind-protected setting to prevent snails from losing water too quickly.
A low plain, downhill location with plenty of trees is ideal for snail farming. To protect your snail farm from the wind, plant plantains and bananas around it.
4. Soil Types for Snail Farming
The soil is a snail’s primary home, and soil contains some of the components and chemical substances it requires to exist. Not all soils, however, are suited for snail farming.
The snail’s shell is mainly calcium, which gets most of it from the soil. Snails lay their eggs in the earth and suck water from it. These ingredients must be present in snail-friendly soil. It must be balanced, not flooded, not very dry, and not acidic.
Sandy-loamy soil with little water holding capacity is the best soil for snails. Acidic and clayed soils must be avoided.
5. Getting the Initial Snail Stocks For Your Snail Farm
It is preferable to obtain snails straight from the forest rather than purchasing them from the market after being exposed to sunshine and having dried up. This is due to snails’ high water consumption, which causes them to get easily dehydrated, stressing them out and reducing their fertility.
The aspiring snail farmer could, during the rainy season, clear a small section of land and sprinkle spicy fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain, banana, and other fruits at around 5 p.m.; when you go back there at 7 o’clock or 8 p.m., you will pick up snails ideal for rearing.
Repeat the process until you get a sufficient quantity. Without these, a reputable snail farm can be visited, and required breeders’ stock obtained.
6. Feeding in Snail Farming
Snails are typically herbivores (although they are opportunistic carnivores, so it is correct to refer to them as omnivores.) and they feed on vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, cocoyam leaves, pawpaw leaves, and even carrots.
They also feed on fruits like mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, eggplant, pawpaw, pears, and cucumber. You can also provide them with formula from agricultural stores for supplementary nutrients.
As it has been said, 98% of their shell is made up of calcium, so it is recommended to include a source of calcium in their diet. Ground eggshells or cuttlefish bone are good sources of calcium.
As profitable and low maintenance as snail farming is, things can go south quickly if the snails are not given proper care and attention. The soil should be checked frequently for pests like termites, and the housing should be inspected regularly for any damage that can compromise the safety of the snail.
Farmers should be on the lookout for empty shells as this is a pointer to the possibility of predation or cannibalism. More so, more giant snails should be separated from the small ones to prevent cannibalism, and the pen should be kept clean always with uneaten food from days before being cleared away.