Sustainable farming is meeting the society’s present agricultural needs without compromising the future generation’s ability to do the same. Sustainable snail farming therefore is the cultivation of snails for the present generation without jeopardizing the future generation from meeting theirs.
Sustainable agriculture can only be possible if there is an in-depth understanding of the ecosystem. Snail farming also known as Heliculture in Agriculture is the rearing of snails for various purposes.
Snail business is the act of selling snails whether as a snail farmer or as a snail marketer. Snail farming practices and management are simple, low cost as well as easy. The terms snail farming and snail business will be used interchangeably in this article.
Snails are creatures around us and the rearing of snails is of old therefore, it is important to know how these creatures can be domesticated in our environment for sustainability.
One major difference in snail farming is the fact that snails don’t make noise nor does their waste give offensive odour.
This is in favour of sustainable agriculture as the environment is not polluted. Snails are domesticated and reared in homes as pets, for healthy nutrition and a source of earning extra income.
Human Activities And Snail Farming Business
There are various human activities that have disrupted the natural environment and agricultural practices are not excluded. Industrial activities are the most common ones such as vehicle exhausts, industrial waste in our water bodies etc.
While agricultural activities are subtle such as the use (indiscriminate and legal) of insecticides, use of chemicals to harvest fishes especially in large water bodies and the use of fertilizers for an improved output.
However, for the purpose of this article, we shall only be looking at sustainable snail farming in agriculture.
According to Hodasi (1984), the Giant African Land Snails (GALS) belong to two genera; Achatina Lamarch and Archachatina Albers.
Their species are common in the south of Sahara with Achatina achatina being the most common species in West Africa, while Archachatina marginata occurs more in Southern Nigeria and in the Congo basin.
The West African species (Achatina achatina) is housed by primary rain forest habitats but are also found in other moist secondary growth and also in the undergrowth of cocoa and rubber plantations.
Snail farming when practiced in commercial quantity requires a large expanse of land and some snails can escape from their snail houses.
The population of snails increase exponentially especially during the rainy season and are collected in large numbers by host rural communities for sale to urban dwellers.
Snails are sold fresh, fried, smoked in markets; eateries, restaurants and bars can have slightly different mode of preparation depending on their clientele.
Snail business blooms during the rainy season although snails are very cheap during this season due to their abundance in the wild.
The acceptance of people to snail consumption varies globally due to traditions, cultural beliefs and religion.
There are some regions that see snails (rearing and consumption) as taboo or cursed creature and would not even touch it.
They believe that snail consumption means slow progress due to the slow pace with each snails move; there are some that believes that a pregnant woman who consumes snails will give birth to a drooling child.
This is so amazing that people still believe these things despite civilization. In other regions though, snails are a delicacy and people are prepared to pay exorbitant rates for them.
These and many more are factors that affect snail business in different parts of the world. And there are those who would only consume snails during the rainy season when they can pick them from bushes and forests around them and not spend money to buy them.
Eating snails began in the United States in the 1850’s.
Snail Farming Activities In Snail House And In The Wild
Snail farming practices has been dated for ages just like the domestication of some other wild animals.
Domestication of wild animals is not restricted to the vertebrate species only as snails are invertebrate animals and are now domesticated.
The giant snail domestication was done by researchers such as Ajayi, Plummer, Hodasi to mention but a few in the early 1970’s.
Snails are being raised in commercial quantity and in small pens in many regions.
In Ghana, there is an ongoing campaign to promote sustainable snail farming business as farm-to-table activity, supplement household income and protein supply and invariably result in large scale commercial activity.
Snail activities in the wild are quite different from when they are domesticated.
In the wild, snails grow and reproduce in high quantity during the rainy season and aestivate (stay in the shell and have a white layer of covering) in the dry season.
In snail houses or pens however, sustainable snail farming is possible because snails can grow and reproduce throughout the year if all requirements such as regular water supply, food and lime intake are met (Ajayi et al., 1978). Snail farming is an agricultural activity that can be sustained all year round.
Snails are naturally vegetarians in the wild, feeding on leaves, vegetables and fruits which have dropped to the ground or when they wander into farmlands.
Captive snails (snails in snail houses and pens) can feed on a variety of food, fruits and leaves provided by the snail farmer such as wild lettuce and pawpaw.
Research has shown snails eating over 30 varieties of leaves from birth to maturity.
A newly hatched baby snail can weigh about 2.14gm and an average increase of 0.8gm through to maturity where it can weigh an average of 230gm; this maturity stage is attained after about 8months of life.
Coming down to Africa, the snail farming industry is growing rapidly in Africa, and with enough support, financial and technical from the private sector and the government, there is a huge potential for snail farming.
These potential include being a source of healthy protein for both rural and urban families; source of foreign earnings through exportation; source of employment generation and many more.
Snail farming business is a sustainable one which has come to stay. This is due to the fact that snails have special adaptability features making them survive for decades.
Snails are easy to rear and cultivate, they have low operational cost and can be transported and stored alive for some time. The farm-to-table snail farms can also meet household demands and earn extra income.