(Last Updated On: November 3, 2022)
PHOTO: One of the local Farmer, Emmanuel Giddings
By King Brown with New Narratives
KPANDY TOWN, Grand Bassa County – For Emmanuel Giddings, raising snails is second nature. The 47-year-old farmer has been raising, selling and eating the mollusks since he was a child. Giddings’ late father used to sell snails ensuring the family always had food to eat and never ran out of money.
But it was only in 2000 that Mr. Giddings, a trained agricultural technician, turned that childhood activity into a thriving commercial business. Snail rearing has been his major source of income, he says, supporting his family including sending several children to universities in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, and his younger children to boarding schools in the county capital Buchanan.
Now Mr. Giddings is urging more farmers to get into snail rearing so they can enjoy the economic security it has brought him and help protect themselves from climate changes caused by global warming.
”Since I ventured into snail farming my life has improved,” says Mr. Giddings. He says snail rearing is far easier than other forms of farming. “Snail farming is lazy work. You only need to build the cave and monitor the snails daily and start a business.”
And snails are fast to grow. “I raise over 1000 snails every three to four months. I have built two houses for myself, one is on rent and my family and I are sleeping in one.”
Mr. Giddings is part of a new program run by Community Empowerment for Change (CEC), a Liberian community organization helping communities build their resilience as the impacts of climate change increase. CEC is training 25 people in five communities in Grand Bassa County to breed and raise snails. The goal is to give them protein-rich sources of food for themselves and a product to sell. CEC has trained more than 100 farmers since 2017 according to James Otto, Executive Director of CEC in Liberia, with support from the America World Jewish Service and Concern Worldwide.
“As the snails multiplied, we distributed it amongst individual farmers under the banner ‘family connects farmers’,” says Otto. “We are also working to ensure farmers are connected with buyers to benefit from their snail businesses.”
A bigger goal of the project is to give community members an alternative to cutting down the neighboring community forest which is straining as people cut down trees for the production of charcoal.
Climate change is causing chaos for plants and animals across the West African region and Grand Bassa is no exception according to Mr. Blojay P Doe, Program Director of CEC.
Mr. Doe says snail rearing business is intended to shift the minds of local farmers from always destroying the forest to burn charcoal. He said most of the community forests in the five electoral districts of Grand Bassa County are slowly being destroyed as a result of people cutting it down to burn charcoal.
Snail farming, he says, will help protect the community forest and the crucial animal and plant biodiversity within it. Liberia’s fragile biodiversity protects plants and species that are essential to keeping Liberia’s farmland fertile.
Mr. Doe tells people here that if the forest is protected, farming yields will increase, providing more nutrition for families here and putting more food on the markets for all Liberians.
Climate change has been one of the leading factors responsible for a looming food crisis in Liberia according to Mr. Doe. He says sixty percent of those farming are also involved with cutting down the forest to burn charcoal to get money and support their families. Snail farming will allow them to not only eat snails but also start their own businesses by collecting snails in the forest, raising and selling them.
Janjay Nymah, a 47-year-old mother of seven, is one of the beneficiaries. She said after years of relying on farming snails are now her major source of income. The program has helped her open a savings account where they give loans to individual farmers in their community to start snail rearing. Nymah says snail farming is easy.
“I am a farmer and I don’t have a husband,” says Nymah. “I do my small cassava or eddoes farm yearly to eat. When people told me about the snail business I went there and they teach us. The snail business is what I am doing now to survive”.
Another beneficiary is Morris Williams, a 55-year-old father of ten children who says things were tough on him but he can now take his snails to the market and do business to get some money to provide for his family. Williams says he has been doing cassava farming and burning of charcoal for more than 20 years but since he ventured into snails he can now handle over USD$100 after every four months.
“Last year I built my local snail bank and I have been raising over 800 snails every 3-4months,” he said. “I’m 55 years old and I don’t have the strength again to still be doing hard work, so I am glad that I learn about snail farming.”
Mr. Giddings noted snails are one of the fastest growing creatures on earth. They take less than four months to mature for eating. He says it takes a snail 19 days to lay eggs; 32 days to hatch its eggs and it produces up to 92 to 135 eggs.
Snail farming requires a farmer builds a small hut with either thatch or zinc. It is one foot deep with one or two courses of cement or dirt bricks laid around it to prevent the snails escaping. The hut is well protected and covered with a wire screen which helps breeze to enter the hut and save the snails from dying of heat. Inside the pit there are food stuffs like potato green, cassava leaf, pawpaw and among other food to keep the snails alive.
Mr. Giddings sells a single snail to restaurants that prepare snail dishes for $LD300. He also sells a 25kg bag of snails to businessmen and women which he says generates $US200-$US300 per month.
He added “One big snail is sold in a restaurant in Ghana from 25 to 30 USD. Snail is a quick business. Within three months’ time you are into business. From 12 snails you can get about a thousand plus and make good money. I raise over 1000 snails every three to four months.”
Mr. Giddings says snails are rich in nutrients, high in protein and iron, low in fat and contain amino acids which can help prevent many diseases. He said eating snails repairs the human body and it is a good meat for eating.
Mr. Giddings picks his snails from a forest in Bong County. He goes out at night and sometimes picks about 100 snails.
Liberians have been resistant to rearing and eating snails because they are unfamiliar with them. And people face financial challenges building secure structures to protect their snails. Otto told a story of thieves recently stealing more than 700 snails from a CEC center in Gay Peter Town which has slow down their activities in that area.
“Snail makes a lot of money so people always come to steal it and go to sell it on the local market,” said Otto. “Snails need special care and attention and people are not delegated.”
If farmers can get it right, the potential is big. In Ghana, the snail farming industry is a small but growing part of the local economy. The primary sector in Ghana is agriculture, with cocoa and coffee being the biggest cash crops. But snail farming has recently begun to take off, with farmers converting small plots of land into snail farms to meet the country’s growing demand for snails.
Mr. Otto is urging those who want to learn about breeding and raising snails to reach the offices of CEC or Concern Worldwide in Grand Bassa County. This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of Investigating Liberia. Funding was provided by the Swedish Embassy in Liberia. The donor had no say in the story’s content.