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Kenyan farmers tap into foreign nationals snail appetite

pexels snail

In 2007, Rose­mary Odinga, the daugh­ter of former Prime Min­is­ter Raila Odinga was the only snail farmer li­censed by the Kenya Wild­life Ser­vice (KWS) to raise the slimy creatures. However, the ven­ture has been on the rise among Kenyan farm­ers due to in­creas­ing de­mand brought about by the in­flux of West African and Asian na­tion­als into the coun­try who find snails a com­mon del­ic­acy.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the United Na­tion’s trade and de­vel­op­ment arm, UNCTAD, Kenya has among the largest num­ber of im­mig­rants across African na­tions due to the coun­try’s di­ver­si­fied eco­nomy that at­tracts la­bour from other re­gions and con­tin­ents.

Many of the im­mig­rants come from West Africa, from coun­tries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Ni­geria, Senegal, Si­erra Leone and Togo, and are cre­at­ing a luc­rat­ive mar­ket for the snail farm­ers in Kenya.

Wan­gui Waweru is one such farmer, in Na­k­uru. She star­ted rear­ing snails way back in 2012 when she vis­ited a fel­low farmer from Kisumu who was rais­ing the creatures: im­me­di­ately she de­veloped in­terest and re­gistered for a course by KWS.

snail pexels

Photo of an African giant land snails

On com­ple­tion and li­cens­ing, which cost her Sh1,500, she in­ves­ted Sh30,000 from her sav­ings to set up the snail farm, buy­ing green­house poly­thene, wire mesh and 100 plastic basins. Since then, she has never looked back.

She says her biggest cus­tom­ers are ex­pat­ri­ates in Kenya who come from West Africa, Europe, and Asia who, un­like the loc­als, have de­veloped a taste for what loc­als con­sider un­pal­at­able, but which is very healthy meat, high in pro­tein and very low in cho­les­terol.

“I rear Giant African land snail which I sell at between Sh2,000 to 3,000 per kilo, while on av­er­age I sell 30 kilo­grams of the snails per month to Ghanai­ans, Cameroon­i­ans, Ni­geri­ans, Sene­g­alese, Si­erra Le­ones and To­golese, South Amer­ic­ans and Asi­ans in the coun­try,” said Wan­gui.

Ac­cord­ing to the farmer who cur­rently has 4,500 snails in her farm, the Giant African snails that thrive in hot and humid en­vir­on­ment like that in Lanet have an av­er­age lifespan of 5-7 years, but with good man­age­ment, they can live up to 10 years.

RE­LATED CON­TENT : In­ter­na­tion­als drive local de­mand for snail farm­ing

An­other farmer in the same line is Mi­chael Muchilwa from Kisumu who also rears Giant African land snails in his 10m by 10m green­house in his com­pound.

He in­ves­ted Sh40,000 to set up the farm, which now has over 2,000 snails and he says that feed­ing the creatures is not as ex­pens­ive as other an­im­als as they feed on ve­get­able leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and tree barks once in a day. However, their slip­pery nature calls for a con­stant sup­ply of water.

“We also feed them egg shells for cal­cium to strengthen their shell. We boil the egg shells to kill any patho­gen, crush into fine powder and sprinkle on the soil,” said Muchilwa.

RE­LATED CON­TENT : Nairobi’s Karen farmer bets on un­pop­u­lar snail farm­ing for cash

He sells a kilo of snails from Sh2,000 to Sh2,500 as de­mand is high among Ni­geri­ans, Ghanai­ans and Asi­ans for­eign­ers who buy at least 5kg of snails weekly. 

The rising ven­ture has also drawn in stu­dents. Rous­soss De­misse Odhi­ambo a 24-year-old thrid year IT stu­dent at MKU Uni­versity re­cently de­cided to ven­ture into it after a visit to a res­taur­ant where he found people served snails and de­veloped an in­terest of doing it as a side hustle and sup­ply­ing them to such food joints. He got some 15 snails from Mom­basa after set­ting up a small struc­ture at his farm at Karen Nairobi and ob­tain­ing a li­cense from KWS. Today, the creatures have mul­ti­plied fast, from 15 to over 1,800, and he is selling a kilo of snails at Sh1500 to Sh3000.

RE­LATED CON­TENT : En­ter­pris­ing Kenyan leader spear­heads snail farm­ing

“I mar­ket my pro­duce mostly through so­cial media and most of my cus­tom­ers are Ni­geri­ans Ghanai­ans, Itali­ans, Chinese, and Span­ish while other cus­tom­ers are usu­ally re­fer­rals by other cus­tom­ers. who really en­cour­age him,” said Odhi­ambo.

Farm­ers in­ter­ested in rear­ing African Giant Snails  must first get a no-ob­jec­tion let­ter from the Na­tional Mu­seum of Kenya then pro­ceed to the Kenya Wild­life Ser­vice (KWS) for a rear­ing per­mit. This is be­cause snails are con­sidered wild­life.

Farm­ers in­ter­ested in rear­ing African Giant Snails  must first get a no-ob­jec­tion let­ter from the Na­tional Mu­seum of Kenya then pro­ceed to the Kenya Wild­life Ser­vice (KWS) for a rear­ing per­mit. This is be­cause snails are con­sidered wild­life.

African Giant Snails can then be ob­tained loc­ally since they are com­mon in the coun­try es­pe­cially dur­ing rainy sea­sons or the uni­versity is also of­fer­ing train­ing to dis­cern­ing farm­ers be­sides selling snail stocks.

Jomo Kenyatta Uni­versity of Ag­ri­cul­ture and Tech­no­logy (JKUAT) sells 30 African giant snails at about Sh10,000.

The snails are fed on fruits and ve­get­ables and their hous­ing de­mand is also quite mod­est since they can be bred in wooden boxes or even old tyres as long as a low -tem­per­at­ure en­vir­on­ment is guar­an­teed.

Given they are herm­aph­rod­ites, snails re­pro­duce eas­ily throughout the year, some­times lay­ing up to 300 eggs at a time while by six months the young snails will be ma­ture enough to begin pro­du­cing eggs. Snails also re­quire low main­ten­ance in­clud­ing feed.

It is es­tim­ated that the global snail in­dustry is worth more than $12 bil­lion or Sh1.2 tril­lion, with 450,000 tons con­sumed for their meat and byproducts each year.

This level of con­sump­tion is driven by the high nu­tri­tion value of snail meat.

Ac­cord­ing to a study by a team of ex­perts from Nnamdi Azikiwe Uni­versity in Ni­geria on Mar­ket­ing of African Giant Snail (Achat­ina Achat­ina) in Anam­bra State, snail meat is high in pro­tein (12-16%), low in fat (0.05-0.80%), has iron con­tent between 45-50mg/kg and con­tains al­most all the amino acids needed by hu­mans.

Rous­soss De­misse Odhi­ambo can be reached on +254 705 210 033 while Wan­gui Waweru on 0721433221

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