Although most farmers dislike snails and see them as pest, there has been growing interest in the snail for both the medicinal value it may contain and culinary delicacy. In Kenya, a number of farmers have considered it as a source of food and income.
To spread the gospel of snail farming, JKUAT through the Directorate of Research and Innovation hosted a webinar that delved into the bio snail value chain, benefits of snails to our ecosystem, nutritional benefits of snails, medicinal and cosmetics use of snails, Thursday, May 6, 2021.
The webinar that sought to show snail as a viable business venture was spearheaded by JKUAT, Bio Snail Project Coordinator, Dr. Paul Kinoti and Ms. Jacqueline Rajuai of Amiyo Farms Limited who is also an Alumna of JKUAT.
Dr. Kinoti underscored the importance of understanding the background information of snail farming before venturing into it. He stated that there are two types of snails aquatic and terrestrial. Snail farming mostly involves rearing terrestrial snails since they are easy to maintain. According to him, the whole snail, including the shell, slime and meat contain nutritional and medicinal value beneficial to humans.
“Snail meat contains proteins and is a rich source of omega-3, iron, calcium and vitamins. It also contains tryptophan which plays a vital role in the body’s regulation of sleep, impulse, appetite, and even improve moods. The snail slime contains selenium that has anti-cancer properties, boosting the body’s immune system to fight against cancerous cells,” said Dr Kinoti.
Adding on the nutritional and medicinal benefits of snails, Ms. Rajuai, noted that snail meat helps in managing health complications like high blood pressure and diabetes because it has low levels of cholesterol.
She further stated that snail slime helps in treating skin conditions such as dermatitis, black spots, eczema, light acne and warts and is mostly used in the production of cosmetics. It can also be used to treat burns.
While encouraging farmers to venture into snail farming, Ms Rajuai said Kenya has conducive weather condition favourable for snail farming throughout the year. On commercialization, Ms. Rajuai averred that snail farming in Kenya mainly aims at exporting the snails but there is also a substantial local market in the country as demand for snails increase.
She however informed the participants that for one to venture into snail farming, it is a requirement that you 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.
Asked what plans JKUAT is putting in place regarding capacity building, Dr Kinoti stated that the institution conducts a three-day (mainly from Wednesday-Friday) training for farmers on the basics of snail farming and facilitates registration of farmers with KWS to make it easier to start the farming without delay.
To encourage more farmers to join the venture, JKUAT plans to buy slime from farmers and make slime-based cosmetic products. According to Dr. Kinoti and Ms. Rajuai, interest in snail slime as a skin treatment was generated from observations made by workers farming edible snails.
“After their skin came into contact with the slime during handling, they reported that cuts and scars tended to heal easily and rapidly making their hands soft,” said Ms. Rajuai.
Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, lauded the organisers of the webinar saying such initiatives are a good example of collaborations between academia and industry.
She encouraged researchers in the University to collaborate with peers in academia, government and private sector and take advantage of government agencies such as National Research Foundation (NRF) in order to attract funding for research activities.
“Universities cannot work in isolation. There is need for partnership across the whole ecosystem in order to make the research outputs and innovations being produced by universities to have the desired outcome in society,” said Prof. Abukutsa.