A blog from our Community Conservation Manager, BenJee Cascio!
Working with the forest dependent communities requires innovative solutions to address their subsistence and livelihood needs. Assisting the communities in alternative livelihoods allows community members to reduce dependency on the forest and reduce poverty. CERCOPAN has been involved in alternative livelihood projects in Iko Esai for some time and has recently extended the projects to the neighboring village of Owai. The first project that was implemented was giant snail farming.
For those who are unfamiliar with the species, the Giant African Snail (Archatina mariginata) is a snail that is common in forest areas of Nigeria. These snails can grow to be between 200-450 grams and provide excellent nutritional benefits and high reproduction rates. Snail farming is a relatively new idea though the consumption of these snails is common practice in our partner communities. The community of Owai selected snail farming as one of the livelihood options during a focus group needs assessment.
Fifteen people were selected to begin the project and after weeks of training and preparation, the construction of the snail farms was completed in May. The onset of the rainy season is the optimal time to raise snails as they reproduce and provide new stock, allowing farmers to sell off their mature snails for profit. CERCOPAN provided an initial stock of 40 snails and the community members matched this contribution with snails gathered from the forest.
Raising healthy snails requires a few crucial things: food, water and shade. The snails eat a variety of foods including locally available pumpkin leaf, papaya leaf, papaya and a variety of other leafy greens. Gathering food is a relatively easy task for farmers as the products are available locally and only small quantities are required. It’s important to keep a steady supply of water for the snails though the wet season assists in keeping the moisture content at an optimal level. Since the snails are nocturnal it is imperative they are kept in the shade and cool during the day. Farmers had constructed their farms under trees or have built temporary shelters to keep the snails cool.
With all the right ingredients for success the snail farmers are experiencing benefits within their first few months of training. The snail farmers have even been able to network with an outsider who is interested in purchasing snails in bulk, thus facilitating the organisation of a formal cooperative to sell and manage the snails. Although there have been some obstacles such as minor mortality and ant infestations, the group has worked together to address and troubleshoot these problems. As the first batch of eggs are hatching the snail farmers are beginning to formulate their strategy to sell their first batch of snails!