Agriculture in Nigeria is continually on the rise, there are different areas of agriculture people can get involved and one of such is snail farming. Snail farming, also known as heliculture is a lucrative business venture and it is one of the most lucrative farming businesses in Nigeria currently.
Snail farming in Nigeria is a popular and profitable agricultural business individuals can dive into, because of its low capital intensity and presently it is providing one of the great opportunities to make money in a short period of time. The demand for snail meat in Nigeria market is huge because of its nutritional value and unique taste.
Snail meat is very high in protein, and it contains a significant amount of magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamin A and it is very low in fat. Snail meat is considered as a cheap source of protein and iron for school-age pupils, young nursing mothers and could contribute in the fight against iron deficiency anaemia in human body.
Another important reason you should consider snail farming business in Nigeria is its economic value. It is considered that snail farming as a good money making venture. You can make good income from breeding snail within a short time.
The land snails are affordable and readily available source of animal protein. They inhabits in a lot of green forest and swampy area of most developing countries including Nigeria. It can also be cultivated (i.e culture), although, in the West, it is more familiar as an unusual pet than a meat source.
Snail farming is a low risk business that is also less capital intensive. When we talk about cost and time, it is profitable, unlike many other livestock businesses; snail farming requires very little startup capital and operating costs. An individual can start with ₦50, 000 to ₦150, 000 depending on the size of your farm.
Land snails are classified as Molluscan/Gastropod which is popularly known as Congo Meat in many parts of Africa. In Nigeria, it is called Igbin (Yoruba) or Ejula (Igbo). There are so many species of snails but the type that interests me is the African giant snails. They are suitable for commercial Snail Farming in Africa.
Types of African Giant Snails
- Achachatina Marginata – It has curved apex. The biggest species of land Snails in Africa, and one of the best species in the world
- Achatina Achatina – It has a pointed apex
- Achatina Fulica – Like Achatina Achatine, it has a relatively pointed apex, but different in shell pattern
Achatina Achatina can lay up to 80-350 eggs at once, 1-3times in a year
Achatina Fulica can lay up to 100-400 eggs at once in about 6times in a year
Achachatina Marginata can lay just 6-14 eggs about 4times in a year
Nature of Snails
- Snails are Omnivorous – They feed on animal (insects) and plants.
- They are regarded as nocturnal animals because they are more active at nights.
- They hibernate within their shell when the weather is hot. It is also a form of self-defense for them.
- They mostly eat once in a day and because they are active at nights, they feed at night.
- They are active when it rains; because it is cool and humid.
- They are hermaphrodite in nature.
Why Start a Snail Farming Business in Nigeria?
Snail farming in Nigeria and in Africa has a huge but grossly underrated market opportunity. Snails are a huge part of the diet in many parts of Africa, although they are not always available all year round. If you breed snail in commercial quantity, there is a ready market for you. Fast food (restaurants), Hotels and Bar lounges can be your regular customers.
In Nigeria, depending on the size of the snail, the price of a raw, matured snail goes for about ₦250 to ₦600. However, the demand for snail in Nigeria is about 7.6million kilogram annually. Snail trade is flourishing globally, in Europe and North America. The USA imports more than $4million worth of snails yearly from all over the world, including West Africa.
For so many years, handpicking snails from the bush or nearby forest was the only way to get snails to the market and dinner table.
But in recent times,, the demand for snail is higher than the supplies, an indication that the market potential of snail is inexhaustible, internationally and locally. the only way to fill up the void left between the demand for snail and its supply in Africa is by starting large scale snail farming business.
How To Start A Snail Farming In Nigeria
If you want to start a snail farming business in Nigeria and you want to be successful at it; here is a proven guide that has been used and works all the time.
Select 1 or 2 Species of snail to rare
Like other livestock animals, snails also vary in their species; hence, their growth, adaptability and susceptibility to environmental hazard are different. That is the reason you have to choose particular specie to rare or you can choose 2 for a start, then stick to the one you love the most. Or continue with both if they are good for you.
Personally, I recommend that you rare Achatina Achatina and Achachatina Marginata species. They are both good and Nigerian weather is favourable to them.
Set-Up Your Snailery or Farmland Housing
Snailery is the term used to name snail housing. I assume you’re going to be doing commercial snail farming, so your snailery must have enough space for your snails to graze freely.
Overcrowding your snailery inhibits the growth and development of snails and therefore should be avoided by all means possible. Spacious snail housing lowers the risk of disease outbreak that can be caused by overcrowding.
Snails know to escape from where they are kept, so you should manage to construct escape proof snailery. You can use a pen house that will be well spaced and accessible with a soil depth of 10 inches and trees around it to prevent wind.
Buy Your Snail From a Trusted Farm
To start up snail farming in Nigeria, it is recommended to get your snails directly from the forest instead of buying from a marketplace where they have been exposed to sunlight and have been dehydrated.
This is because snails like to be in a cool and humid environment. When they are dehydrated, there will be a reduction in their fertility. You can also get directly from farmers that are already into its farming.
When starting your snail farm, it is advisable to get fully grown snails that will soon lay eggs to populate your farm. You can be able to recognize a matured snail by its lip.
Snails are hermaphrodite in nature – i.e., they have both male and female sexual organs and can reproduce by themselves without mating.
Feeding of the Snails
Snails possess soft (chitinous) teeth which they use to rasp on food mats – fruits, leaves, softened meat. They like food mats that are soft and tasty and less fibrous. Thus they like ripe and succulent fruits more e.g. banana, pawpaw, citrus, mango, watermelon.
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Whatsoever, you’ll want to feed them with economic and rich feed (feed concentrate or feed combinations) that enables fast growth. I actually formulate feed (using similar ingredients to poultry feed but richer) to feed them.
In doing so, you have to know that changing their feed must be done gradually and systematically – if not, your snails will rush at the good feed and later start dying of malnutrition.
You should supply them with clean and potable water. This is better seen when you serve them with sweet but tasty drinks. For example: soft drinks and tea. They can be fed with almost anything, especially what infants would love. However, they hardly eat grass.
When you’re feeding them, make your feed items in such a way that it is quality, soft (and tasty – if possible) and less fibrous (leaves).
Harvesting And Selling Of The Snails
Mode of harvesting matured snails is simple; it is by mere handpicking of the matured snails and putting them in a container.
However, it is economically unwise to harvest your snails when it has not reached its full maturity; it has to be matured before harvesting. Do not harvest all the matured snails at a go. It is vital to keep few for breeding and to serve as base stock for your snail farm.
There is a good market demand and price for snail. Snails can easily be sold in the local market. Snail meat consumption rate is fast growing around the world. So, exporting to the international market will earn you more money.
Starting Cost & Projected Profit of a Snail Farming Business in Nigeria
The expenses you will need to spend when you plan to set up a snail farm include: housing, buying fresh snails, feeding, processing and handling of the snails, marketing, and transportation.
You can start snail farming in Nigeria with ₦60,000 or ₦100,000 depending on how large you plan your farm to be. Apart from your investment amount, it is possible to produce 1million snails now worth more than ₦5 million twice a year.
This is possible because of the readily available highly prolific Achatina achatina species of snails, which is capable of laying 80 – 350 eggs in one batch 2-3 times a year. If you produce 100,000 snails that sell for ₦250 each, which is ₦250 X 100,000, you will be making about ₦2,500,000. You will be making ₦25,000,000 yearly or more than that if you can produce up to 1million snails annually.
Creating a business plan for your snail farming is a crucial step that needs to be taken before you start. It will help you to have a deep knowledge of everything that needs to be done.
Types of Snail Housing or Snail Habitat System
Different people have different investment capital for their businesses; it is the same for snail farming business. The more money you have to invest, the larger your snail farm and the larger your housing system for the snails.
Housing system for snail is classified in to three types: 1. Intensive housing system, 2. Semi-intensive housing system and; 3. Extensive housing system.
Intensive Snail Housing System
Natural habitat of snails is recreated in this type of snail housing system.
Greenhouses, plastic tunnel pens, free-range snail farming system and structural buildings with regulated climate condition fall under this category.
This housing system is usually practiced by farmers who do snail farming business on a commercial scale and occupy large area of farmland.
Semi-intensive or Mixed Snail Housing System
In this system of housing for snails, egg-laying and hatching occur in a controlled environment.
Young snails are usually removed after about 6-8 weeks to a different snail habitat outside the snail house for further development and growth.
Extensive Snail Housing System
This is mostly practiced by small scale and subsistence farmers (mainly for consumption).
In this system, snail farming is done using relatively readily available and cheap materials like old car tyres, baskets, old water tanks or drums, pots, etc.
How to Construct Different Snail Houses
Although, there are so many different types of snail houses that can be constructed for your snail farming business in Nigeria. I will be discussing 3 most popular snail houses people construct in Nigeria.
1. Free Range Snail Farming System
Free-range snail farming system is a type of snail farming structure in which snails are freed to roam and feed on open pastures of living food crops, instead of being confined in a small pen and fed only compound foods.
The ability and freedom of the snails to roam in large areas allows them to avoid one another’s slime trails.
When there are too much slime and excess faeces on the ground, it can lead to a change in the snail’s behavior. They react by putting out chemical signals like pheromones which are detrimental to their growth and reproduction rates.
A pheromone is a chemical an animal produces which changes the behaviour of another animal of the same species
Letting snails to breed at their own pace and encouraging the natural biological cycle in an ecological farming system, results in better breeding performance, a faster growth rate, better reproduction yields and it meets the highest standards of consumption requirement.
The free range snail housing system has its own few disadvantages:
- More land is required than other types of snail farming.
- When practicing the free-range system, it’s a problem to locate and protect eggs and newly born snails.
- A fully enclosed and roofed pen is not economical to build or construct.
- In the open type of free-range pen, it is not easy to keep out poachers and predators.
- The big farm size makes it difficult to be able to control disease outbreak.
2. Drums/Old Tanks used for Construction of Snail Pen
In recent time, there is a loud advocacy for the need to recycle our used products. Instead of disposing your used drums and old tanks, you can put them into use for your snail farming business.
Old tank and drums are good for small-scale snail farming production (especially for immediate family consumption).
How to construct snail housing using old drums or old tanks (equipment needed);
- Perforate both ends of the drum/tank
- Lay sacks on the bottom of the drum/tank to hold the soil and then fill with loamy soil or humus soil to a depth of about 10cm-15cm.
- Place dry leaves on the topmost layer of the soil as mulching (to retain moisture).
- Cover the top of the drum/tank with a lid made of chicken wire mesh with mosquito net.
- Place the drum/tank on a stand if you want.
3. Trench Pen Snail House
Trench pens are a type of snail habitat that is built in a shallow pit.
How to construct trench pens (equipment needed):
- Find an appropriate site and peg out a position for your pen.
- The trench can either be dug into the ground or raised to about 40 – 50cm above ground level using concrete blocks.
- Make sure that the trench is well-drained to avoid water-log.
- Fill the trench with good humus or loamy soil to a depth of about 10 – 15cm.
- You can level concrete on the trench floor before topping with the soil if there is a proper drainage.
- Buid feeding and water trough to a height 5 –7cm above the soil level.
- Then, cover the pen appropriately with a well-fitted framework of chicken wire and mosquito net.
Advantages of trench pens:
- Trench pens are flexible, especially when sorting snails according to their sizes and their growing cycle. It makes it easy to locate the snails, for handling, feeding, selection, and final picking for sale or consumption.
Disadvantages of trench pens:
- Trench pens are costly and expensive to construct (especially the raised trench pen).
- The farmer may end up having back pains because of long minutes of stooping or kneeling due to the height of the trench.
Snail farming in Nigeria is no doubt a lucrative farming business anyone can do. It is also suitable if you are looking for a farming business as a side hustle. It is not capital intensive at all.
You also do not need a very big farmland to start it. You can actually start from your backyard on a small scale. Heliculture (Snail farming) is best practiced during raining the season when humidity is high in the atmosphere.
You can however, do it anytime of the year so far you are able to control its environment weather condition.