Nelly Bassily | March 22, 2010
Lum Ndenecho lifts the mesh cover of her snail house. Snails cling to the lid in clusters. The larger ones are about the size of her hand. She gently removes one for inspection.
Each of these snails contains a substantial amount of meat – a good source of protein and a tasty food. As the price of red meat has risen, snail meat has become increasingly popular.
Ms. Ndenecho has big plans to enter this growing market. At the time of the interview, she was researching snail farming at the University of Buea, in Cameroon. She established her breeding stock in the first year, before entering full production. Her hope is to expand her snail operation within two years, to produce about 50,000 snails per year.
The street life in Buea sheds light on why farmers are keen on snails. Before the city’s offices close at 3:30 pm, many workers rush to restaurants. They want to secure their plates of snail pepper soup, lest they miss it for the day.
Some snail farmers meet the appetite of city-dwellers. Others produce it for their own kitchen tables. It all starts with small snail houses in the backyard. These days, they can be found in backyards all over Cameroon’s Southwest Region.
Ms. Ndenecho offers some tips for raising snails. The best time to grow snails is during the rainy season, normally March to October in Southwest Cameroon. But by creating a relatively cool, moist, and shaded area that mimics a tropical rainy season, you may be able to raise snails year round.
Snails eat mostly leaves, fruit, and tubers such as cassava. But Ms. Ndenecho explains that farmers must also provide snails with calcium. She supplements her snails’ diet with burnt eggs shells and bones. By keeping snails well-nourished, you can reduce the chance of them eating each other.
While Ms. Ndenecho is currently focused on snail rearing, she knows that snail processing is the path to higher income. This is something other farmers in the area have discovered. Dorothy Ebako is another snail farmer in Buea. She is renowned for her dried snails. Many visitors to Southwest Cameroon do not consider their trip complete unless they take home a parcel of her dried snails.