Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has received a Nature Conservation research grant award of €950, 646 from the Cherasco Worldwide Institute of Snail Breeding to advance its snail breeding value chain research.
The grant is a culmination of three rounds of funding calls that attracted more than ten countries from across the globe. Kenya, through JKUAT, outsmarted Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon, to the grant award.
The Principal Investigator, Dr. Paul Kinoti, credits the award to the novelty of the innovation and its potential for change as a major consideration that set the university apart as the best from the rest.
The snail breeding value chain project in JKUAT has been focusing on value addition, coming up with an array of products ranging from delicious snail meat, skincare products, organic fertilizers, and animal feeds.
The new frontier of the research will focus on tapping the medicinal value of snails, looking into generating a cough syrup from snail slime. This, the researchers believe, will be a groundbreaking solution and a game-changer to persistent coughs, especially among children under the age of five.
From a medical perspective, persistent dry cough in children under the age of five is considered a matter of significant concern. The airways of young children are relatively smaller and less mature, making them more susceptible to infections and airway obstruction. Persistent coughing can therefore exacerbate existing respiratory infections, leading to conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses which can be life-threatening.
The use of the existing over-the-counter medications for cold and persistent cough in children has been a subject of considerable debate in the medical community in recent years.
The efficacy of these medications has been evaluated in several studies, with the results suggesting that they may not only be ineffective in treating these conditions in children, but also, pose life-threatening risks.
The JKUAT research project will entail the analysis of the constituents of the snail slime to come up with a natural, organic and affordable syrup to address persistent coughs.
“We are excited that the efforts we’ve made over the years have not been in vain and have been validated. We started small, and now we are going to impact lives. I am very grateful for the enabling research environment in JKUAT, and to all our partners and funding organization,” says Dr. Kinoti.
The research project is centered on the need to economically empower marginalized and disadvantaged groups, and will see the university work with youth, women groups, and persons with disabilities from across the country in the snail farming initiative.
The project will look at supporting and empowering these groups to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs through snail breeding.
“This will also help create a sustainable supply of the highly sought-after snail in the African and European market. Kenya’s climate is one of the best for snail breeding, and is also the natural habitat of the giant African land snail,” opines Dr. Kinoti.
JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, avers that the research project will critically plug into the university’s focus of leveraging research, innovation and technology for sustainable development, as well as supporting the national government development agenda.
“The business of snail farming requires low capital investment and is highly profitable. The global snail industry is currently valued at 2 billion dollars, which I believe Kenya can emphatically tap into. With this, we’re looking at a considerable impact on Food Security, Entrepreneurship through Agri-business, Climate change mitigation, and achieving Universal Health Coverage,” says Prof. Ngumi.
The project is expected to run until May 2025, and will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the university as well as several other partner organizations locally and globally.