Snail farming is simple and the management practices are very simple. We need to ask and answer some of the following questions below on snail rearing to enable us understand the impacts of snail farming on the environment more:
• What is the effect of rearing snail under domestication on the wild?
• Environment i.e. the atmosphere? Is the rearing a nuisance to man?
• What are the likely source of the pollution?
• How can the pollution be controlled?
Now let us answer the questions above to enable us get the clearer understanding about the impact of snail farming on the environment.
The edible giant snails in African belong to two genera Achatina Lamarch and Archachatina Albers. Species of both genera are common south of the Sahara; Achatina achatina being the most common species in West Africa, while Archachatina marginata occurs more commonly in Southern Nigeria and in the Congo basin (Hodasi, 1984).
The West African species prefers primary rain forest habitats but also occurs in moist secondary growth and in the undergrowth of cocoa and rubber plantations.
Snail populations especially when done on a commercial snail farming system are highest during the rainy season when they are collected in large numbers by rural communities, Snails are marketed fresh or smoke-dried and can be very cheap during the season when they are abundant. Attitudes of people to snail consumption vary within the sub-region with three main tendencies.
In the southern forest regions, snails are a delicacy for a large number of people and such people are prepared to pay high prices for them. In the northern areas, snails are a taboo and many tribes will not touch them, let alone eat them.
In between the two extremes, are those who would prefer other forms of animal protein, but who would take snails, particularly during the season of abundance when snails can be collected freely from the wild or purchased cheaply from the markets. It is the first category of people that snail farming ventures could target.
Attempts at wild animal domestication have not been restricted to vertebrate species; invertebrate species including snails and caterpillars have also been the subject of domestication.
The Romans farmed snails for decades (Elmslie, 1982). In Africa, the feasibility of farming the giant snail was demonstrated by a number of researchers in West Africa in the early 1970s (e.g. Ajayi, 1971; Plummer, 1975; Ajayi et al., 1978; Hodasi, 1979).
Snails have been raised in small pens in many areas within the sub-region and currently in Ghana, there is a major campaign to promote snail farming both as a back-yard activity to supplement household income and protein supply and as large scale commercial activity.
Read Also: How to Choose a Snail Farming System
In the wild, snails actively grow and reproduce during the rainy season and estivate in the dry season. In captivity, they can grow and reproduce throughout the year if they are provided with regular supply of water, food and lime (Ajayi et al., 1978).
In the wild, they are predominantly vegetarian, browsing on tender leaves, vegetables and fruits which have dropped to the ground. Captive snails have been fed on wild lettuce Lactuca taraxacifolia and a wide range of other leaves and ripe fruits including pawpaw. Ajayi et al. (1978) listed 28 species of dicotolydons and six species of monocotolydons eaten by A. marginata and reported mean incubation period (measured from onset of egg laying to hatching) of 38 days (range 30 – 45 days). Body weight at hatching averaged 2.14 gm with a weekly growth of 0.85 gm and adult weights of up to 230 gm were recorded. Young snails reach sexual maturity at approximately 7-8 months of age.
The snail farming industry or snail production is growing rapidly in West Africa, and with adequate support, both financial and technical, the industry has a high potential as a source of animal protein for both rural and urban households.
Apart from being cheap, snail farming business or snail business have the advantage of being easily transported and easy to store alive for a considerable length of time. The small unit size also means that producers for household consumption can harvest just what is required for a meal.