How to start snail farming in Nigeria while still in school

A number of students in Nigeria want to begin nurturing their entrepreneurial skills while in school. As such they look for a business they could do while still in school which will not affect their studies. Well, you can develop the same spirit and do something while still in school. That way you will not only pay your own school fees and take care of other demands but you’ll also be sure of something lucrative once you graduate.

One very great business you could do is snail farming. This is one area so many people are making serious profit in various scales. All you need do is understand the basics of snail farming in Nigeria with special focus on the scale on which a Nigerian student can begin the business. Then you’re good to go.

What is small farming in Nigeria all about?

Land snails belong to the class of Molluscan, Gastropod. The one popularly known as ‘Congo Meat‘ in many parts of Africa. Nigeria – Eju, Igbin, etc. A lot of species of snails exist but the the focus here is on the ones suitable for commercial Snail Farming in Africa. This business is so lucrative that you could make a much as N5 million if you do the right thing. Here we are focusing on how you can start on a small scale.

Popular snail species you should consider 

Not that you need to memorize the names of these species while commencing snail farming on a small scale but you need whatever knowledge you can get on snails to do the right thing. Here are popular species.
1. Achatina Fulica
The East African land snail, or giant African land snail, scientific name Achatina fulica, is a species of large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae. It is the smallest in size among all the desirable species for rearing in Africa.
2. Achatina Achatina
Achatina achatina, common name the giant Ghana snail, also known as the giant tiger land snail, is a species of very large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae.
3. Archachatina Marginata
Archachatina marginata, common name the giant West African snail, is a species of air-breathing tropical land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae. They can grow up to 20cm long, and live up to 10 years.

Facts about snail farming in Nigeria 

Here’s what’s expert wrote from his wealth of experience in snail farming. You might find it very useful. Read below.

Achatina is a genus of medium-sized to very large, air-breathing, tropical land snails, terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusks in the family Achatinidae. There are some 200 species of Achatinidae in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some species are kept as terrarium (just a fancy name for an aquarium without water ; LOL) animals due to their size and colourful shells.
For the purposes of snail farming however, we will concern ourselves with only the three species of that genus that is commercial , marketable and of course profitable. They are Achatina achatina Linnaeus, Achatina marginata and their younger brother – Achatina Fulica.

Breeder snails are the patriarchs and matriarchs (even though snails are hermaphrodites) of your prospective snail farm. Snails are “highly reproductive”! . these breeders are 12-24 months old snails who possesses the required qualities needed to start, sustain and “successfulize” your snail venture. Logical characteristics include shell health, age, species, source location, stress factors present in capturing and transporting as well as your own size of farm (estimated), location of farm and type of housing to implement. I always suggest sourcing mature adult snails from deep in the forests rather than farms. Farms are a good way but not really the best because the forest snails have had a natural life and are usually more hardy. Snails from farms have had too much contact from ‘snail slime’ from the snail trails of other snails in the farm and this significantly reduces their fertility and overall immunity to diseases. (Snails from farms are spoilt kids.Check out ‘Density Matters‘) .
The only place you shouldn’t buy snails though are your city markets. Live snails from such markets are usually stressed and are best for eating.

Calcium is the single most important factor in the feeding of any snail venture. Why? Simple. Low calcium intake will slow the growth rate and cause the shells to be thinner. Calcium may be set out in a feeding dish or trough so the snails can eat it at will. Food is only one calcium source. Snails may eat paint or attack walls of buildings seeking calcium, and they also will eat dirt. I use two cheap calcium sources in all my farms. One from the green outer leaves of cabbage (you do not pay for this. It is freely available in any fruit/vegetable market in Nigeria). They will even beg you to help them carry the ‘dirty’!

“An experiment was carried out to assess the growth performance of African Giant Land Snail Achatina achatina fed with three natural feedstuff; pawpaw fruit, pawpaw leaves and cabbage leaves. A total of 24 growing snails of approximately one year old were used for the study. These were randomly divided into six groups and then allotted into the three experimental diets, arranged in a completely randomized design (CRD) order. Dry matter intakes of feed being served every other days, weight gain and size increase of snails were assessed fortnightly. The results showed that pawpaw leaf is higher in protein than cabbage leaf and pawpaw fruit.

However, cabbage leaf contains some essential mineral elements, which are useful in body building than the other two feedstuffs. It also showed that snails fed with cabbage leaves had the highest dry matter intake and weight gain of 14.2 and 18.6 g, respectively. Highest shell length and circumference increase of 0.3 and 0.6 cm were obtained in pawpaw fruit and pawpaw leaf respectively. Although there was no significance difference (p > 0.05) in the weight gain of snails fed with pawpaw fruit and cabbage leaves, cabbage leaf seems to be richer in protein and other essential mineral elements than pawpaw fruit. It was therefore concluded that cabbage leaf could serve as a good substitute for pawpaw fruit and leaves, which hitherto were known as the preferred natural feedstuff of snails.”

The other cheap but effective calcium source is broken rock fragments of limestone. Just place them as ‘Licking stones’ in pens or the habitat where you plan to house your snails. Find them easily in stores where poultry feeds are sold or just take a hike to the hills of Okpella in Edo, Nkalagu in Ebonyi, Obajana in Kogi or mfanmosing in cross river and load sacks of it for you.
Good Calcium Supply, Bigger Healthier Snails.

Density matters! Instead of wondering what brought Physics into snail farming, proper use of space can determine if your snail venture is successful or not. Why have plenty of snails in a confined space or little snails in a wide enclosure. One issue as I mentioned in ‘Breeder Snails’ is the fact that density affects the growth and breeding capacity of snails. High density populations tend to grow slowly, develop into smaller adults, and lay fewer clutches of eggs and fewer eggs per clutch. If the snails are very densely packed, they may not breed at all. The accumulating slime suppresses reproduction. Other disadvantages of high density are the high rates of parasitism and ease of transmission of diseases.

Snails tend not to breed when packed too densely or when the slime in the pen accumulates too much. The slime apparently works like a pheromone and suppresses reproduction. On the other hand, snails in groups of about 100 seem to breed better than when only a few snails are confined together. Perhaps they have more potential mates from which to choose. Snails in a densely populated area grow more slowly even when food is abundant, and they also have a higher mortality rate. These snails then become smaller adults who lay fewer clutches of eggs, have fewer eggs per clutch, and the eggs have a lower hatch rate. Smaller adult snails sell for less. Dwarfing is quite common in snail farming and is attributable mainly to rearing conditions rather than heredity factors. Crowding snails is false economy
Think of about 20 Mature snails per square meter.( Infact, Per cube meter as they tend to climb). 40/Sq3 for medium snails and 80-100/Sq3 for baby snails. Density matters!

Escargot simply means snail meant for consumption usually in Europe and particularly in France, Spain and Portugal. For this backyard farming purposes, I will restrict it to farming, harvesting, processing and marketing of well packagaed snails. You have to get to the ‘escargot level’ if you are ready to fully exploit the goldmine that is snail farming. It is not really expensive to start. As little as having 100 mature snails laid freely by 5 breeders can start off your snail empire. Instead of selling to the market woman who would price and haggle, just harvest your snails, clean them hygienically and store raw in a freezer. Now you can have a better price from your road side ‘frozen chicken and fish store’ , a neighbour or even a hotel or fast-food chain. 100 pieces x 250-400Naira in 6-8months.Do the maths for 1000 pieces when all you need is 50 metres square (5metres by 10metres piece of land).

Bigger escargot operations can rake in Millions from exporting to Europe, Asia and of course U.S.A. The U.S.A is a goldmine as the government banned ‘Live’ snails from being imported. Our African brothers need snail in that country no be small since no Giant African Snail farm can exist legally.
You can even do what I call stock market trading in snails. I simply buy small to medium sized snails from the forests at a very cheap rate in the rainy season (we are in one at the moment but it will soon end so take action now and put them in my ‘snail bank’ for 6 months). With a mix of expertise not unrelated to cheap/quality feeds and complete snail care you can sell in the dry season 4-6 months later and make 4-5 times gross profits. (Take into account initial capital, feeding costs ).
Example buy 1000 snails at N50 and sell for N250 after ‘Banking’ them. More preferable is you harvest, clean and market yourself.
This stock market is surer than sure.

Feeding is the single most important factor in snail farming. Snails are easy to feed, they will feed on nearly every organic food source that is non-toxic, not hairy/waxy including leaves, fruits, vegetables, tubers and household wastes (that contain no Table Salt (NaCl).
Common food sources include fruits and veggies like banana, melon, cabbage, carrot, pawpaw, lettuce, cucumber, potato, pumpkin, plantain etc. Some people formulate special feeds for snails but you have to outweigh the cons with the pro. Why buy when you can have it all natural and next to free? Think of cheaper sources! Fruit markets, gardens and even the bush behind your house.
The type of housing and the scope of your farm will ultimately determine your source and type of feeds. In that respect, contact a consultant.

Unless your snail farm is of the very extensive type, you will have to provide your snails with some or all the food they need for good development. This will require efforts on your part in growing or collecting snail food, or cash for buying it. Therefore, you must know what snails eat and what they need. Smaller snails will prefer juicer feed sources while adult snails can eat hardier feeds and will sometimes eat soil substrate to enrich its calcium source.

Calcium as I mentioned earlier is plentiful in some sources. I used to peel off the outside leaves of the cabbage until I read that the outer leaves have as much as 80% more calcium (40mg/kg and 70mg/kg) than the inside leaves. I also wait until the last minute to cut the cabbage, as exposure to the air causes loss of vitamin C.
Not forgetting the calcium/magnesium balance needed in feeds as too much magnesium will prevent calcium absorption which creates growth problems. (source: nairaland)

Can I afford to start a snail farm business as a student in Nigeria?

I understand this question to be a serious one in view of the Nigerian economy. Probably a student might say “how the heck do you expect me to get the money to start snail farming?” Well, might be surprised that this business is easy to begin.

In terms of cost and time, snail farming is a low risk business. Unlike many other livestock businesses, snail farming requires very little startup and operating costs.

It can be run from your backyard (if you have a sizeable one) or on that piece of land wasting away in your neighbourhood or village. So we’re talking about next to nothing in terms of cost. You can even start with as low as N1,000 to N10,000 since we’re looking at small scale farming here. You can even start with used car tyres on a small scale.

What of the environmental pollution? 

You won’t worry much about this at all. Snails are friendly to the environment and their droppings are not offensive (unlike pigs and poultry) so there’s no chance an angry neighbor will come knocking.

How often do snails reproduce?

Snails also multiply really fast laying up to 100 eggs in one go. Because snails are hermaphrodites (have both male and female sexual organs), they get to mate easily throughout the year. This high reproduction rate has made snails a pest in many regions of the world.

However, it’s this fast reproductive ability that makes these slow creatures a delight to an entrepreneur.

 

Summing Up

So in conclusion you can see that this is a very good business you can start as a student on a small scale. If you have a good space in your lodge you can this business by a corner. You can also ask any landlord to give you space in another area where you can do this while you study. It won’t take much of your time like poultry business. Just make a decision and begin the first step.

Snails can give very high returns on your initial investment if you do your homework well and target niche and repeat customers.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

He is a Senior Lecturer in a Nigerian University.

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