Market Opportunities for Snail Delicacy Opening Up

Dr Kinoti conducts the Bio Snail training

Snails business is becoming a major attraction to farmers in the country. This is informed by the fact that Kenyan snails whose quality is regulated unlike is the case in other countries have become such a delicacy in the Middle East, making it most preferred. It is as a result of this interest that most farmers are positioning themselves by acquiring some training that would enable them rear edible snails that are of quality.

It is most probably for this, and many other reasons, that over 100 farmers from different parts of Kenya converged at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Horticulture Centre for a three-day practical training workshop on snail farming held between Wednesday, May 26 and Friday, May 28, 2021.

Snail farming is an emerging, regulated practice in Kenya and therefore it is important for potential farmers to learn vital basics such as identifying the correct species to prevent transmission of diseases such as Meningitis and Bilharzia, which is common with slugs – the snails that we encounter in our everyday environment.

According to Dr. Paul Kinoti, a lecturer at the Department of Horticulture and Food Security, JKUAT, and the lead trainer, the market for snail products is now gaining traction both locally and abroad, with stakeholders from different sectors pledging their support.

“This year, we held talks with Hon. Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, to facilitate the exportation of snail products to different countries. We have identified four markets in Dubai, and also established that HACO Industries and BIDCO Company in Kenya, require constant supply of snail products,” said Dr. Kinoti.

Snail products include meat for human consumption, while their shells can make good animal feeds that have a ready market for companies such as BIDCO. In addition, cosmetic manufacturers such as HACO Industries are in the market looking for local high-quality slime which would be used to eliminate the need to import, and therefore make the product affordable.

Currently, JKUAT is supporting farmers by buying snail slime from them at Ksh 1,200 per liter. The slime is used to manufacture cosmetic products such as face cream and antimicrobial soap as part of its innovation mandate. These products have been highly endorsed by former Senator, Isaac Mwaura, as they have proven to be immensely beneficial to persons living with albinism.

One of the participants, Winnie Wangari, a young farmer from Tetu, Nyeri County, was happy to have had the opportunity to train for this unconventional agricultural product, unique from the chicken and dairy farming she has practiced since 2005.

“I traveled all the way (from Nyeri) because I am determined to make my farming venture a success. With this diversification, I believe I am on the right track. I am however disappointed that only a handful of young people turned up, yet they always complain about unemployment in this country!” remarked Ms. Wambui.

Snail farming offers numerous benefits to farmers. In addition to the aforementioned products such as meat, snails can coexist with earthworms to create compost which is safe for potted house plants. It encourages vegetation cultivation which benefits the environment. Further, snails also feed on layers mash thus benefitting a chicken farmer. Because the venture requires minimal effort, even physically challenged individuals can easily engage in it.

The training which was organized by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE) was aimed at teaching the basic concepts of snail farming and providing certification which is a mandatory requirement for all aspiring snail farmers when seeking for a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). JKUAT also offers training to persons wishing to become trainers in this field.

Ndiga Karari (right) who is visually impaired, confers with his friends Muriuki Githinji (left) and Rosemary Mugo all from Kerugoya

Dr. Kinoti says it is important for farmers to undergo training so that they can produce products that meet international standards and thereby fill the global gap. Further, such fora provide farmers with the opportunity to form groups that can then source funding to buy the required prerequisite equipment.

The training which focused on the production of snails covered topics such as selecting appropriate breeds as well as the breeding process from reproduction to maturity, site selection and housing, predators and diseases, harvesting, processing, and marketing, among others.

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