Demand for Snails delicacy is slowly gaining popularity in the country, following the rising number of immigrants visiting the country.
According to a recent report from United Nations Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Kenya has been named among the countries with the largest number of immigrants, where the influx of West Africans and Asian nationals has led to the rise in snail delicacy demand.
Due to the rise in demand, snail rearing business is now becoming a big deal with the country’s humid climatic condition providing a conducive environment for the snails to thrive.
In Nakuru County, snail rearing is increasingly becoming an economic activity with a number of farmers engaging in the farming with the help of Kenya Wildlife Service.
One such farmer is Wangui Waweru who rears her snails in a 10m by 10m greenhouse in her compound in Lanet area, where she has partitioned the snail house into four rooms with each containing several plastic basins covered with fine wire mesh to keep predators at bay.
Ms Waweru whom we caught up with exhibiting her produce at the World Tourism Day held in Nakuru City, said she discovered snail rearing as a farming business opportunity after a visit to Kisumu to sell farm produce, eight years down the line and she has never looked back.
She, however, noted that marketing the produce has been one of the challenges experienced as most farmers harvest the produce at the same time flooding the market.
Ms Waweru disclosed that her biggest market was from expatriates who visits the country from Europe, Asia and West Africa, unlike the locals, who she said consider the delicacy as unacceptable despite the snails being a healthy meat source with high protein nutrients and very low cholesterol.
The farmer explained that snails are a common delicacy among communities in West Africa and she has established a niche market among Ghanaians, Cameroonians, Nigerians, Senegalese, Sierra Leones and Togolese, South Americans and Asians in the country.
With much experience, Waweru said Africa was home to the largest species of snails in the world, the Giant African land snail, where she said compared to other livestock, snails were easy to rear and cheap to maintain.
The farmer who keeps 4,500 snails of the Giant African land variety (Achatinide fulica), which she sells at between Sh. 2,000 t0 3,000 per kilo. She said the Giant African snails thrives in hot and humid environment and could get to an average lifespan of 5-7 years or even 10 years with good management.
Giant African land snails are hermaphrodite, which means that they have the reproductive organs for both male and female. A snail produces 300 to 500 eggs in three months, which hatch after 11 to 15 days, enabling one to increase their population faster.
Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 allows communities to farm animals such as snails, ostriches, snakes and crocodiles. After issuing a permit KWS sends a research team to access facility in addition to conducting periodical monitoring of the management of the snail farms.
Before selling snails for consumption in hotels or for the export market, one has to be certified. In addition, farmers have to make quarterly reports to KWS.
By Esther Mwangi and Alhakim Hussein