“When I was a little boy, I always had an interest in agriculture and commercial purposes,” says Onyedikachi Kingsley Ogbuagu (29), who started growing snails last August in a greenhouse in Ikontu, Lagos, Nigeria.
The snails are sold locally and internationally, including countries like Canada. Snail farming in Nigeria is one of the most popular and productive agricultural strategies that young people turn to embark on.
He had no idea of how to maintain snails but due to the advanced and technologically developed world that we live in, he was able to use the internet, particularly YouTube, to watch how to build a greenhouse farm.
A house of their own
“A greenhouse gives snails freedom to move; it makes them feel like they are in the wild,” he adds, noting that snails require moist soil to survive. “The greenhouse has sprinkling water pipes that release water in the form of rain making the soil wet enough for the snails.”
He proceeded to plant papaya trees to give the snails a feeling of being outside, ensuring the snails feel secure and free instead of being trapped.
Last September, Ogbuagu found himself facing a life or death situation. He was kidnapped outside his church on a normal Sunday for three days. The kidnappers took his money and left him floating in a dark pool of anxiety, depression and trauma.
During this period, between 300 to 400 snails died. “If it wasn’t for the kidnapping scenario, my farm would be more successful than it is now,” he says, explaining how therapy helped him bounce back.
How it all started
To kickstart his project, he built the greenhouse which included the installation of sprinkles on half a plot of land in his yard totalling 3 million nairas. The type of snails that are found on Ogbuagu’s farm is the African giant snail also known as Achatina achati and Fulica snails. He had 1500pcs of snails when he started and currently has 6000 in different sizes.
The process to grow snails is long but the results are pleasing. “Snail farming is profitable but it only takes patience and dedication.” Ogbuagu says eggs take 21 to 22 days to hatch and one has to wait for another five to six months for them to be ready.
The African giant snail lays 1 to 15 eggs and the fulica snail lays 20 to 200 eggs. But those that lay more eggs have minimal survival chances compared to those that lay less.
Keeping them happy
There are other different ways of farming these creatures such as using a tyre and covering it with a nest and a pen method building. But Ogbuagu prefers a greenhouse, which requires less effort. There’s plenty of food and you barely need to feed them every day like you will do with other snail farming methods.
The snails feed on papaya and its leaves, vegetables, watermelon, plantain leaves, cocoyam, grounded eggs shells and snail shells. Some are particularly carnivorous; they turn to feed on each other.
“They grow naturally … As long as you can keep them comfortable and prevent them from escaping, you can consider yourself a snail farmer,” says Ogbuagu.
People consume these shelled gastropods in different ways. The ones that Ogbuagu farms are usually cooked and prepared in different ways: namely, peppered, Egosi soup, vegetable soup and Okro soup. Some are dried and shipped across the world
Snails play an important role in strengthening our immune system and keeping it healthy. They contain a significant source of protein and low amounts of fat, a good source of iron, calcium, Vitamin A and several other minerals.
Looking forward to the future
Ogbuagu is focused on planning to expand his farm and turn it into a production factory, where they will be producing medication and face creams with the use of snail fluids. His farm is 100% self-funded.
“Getting funds in Nigeria is a struggle. Nobody sponsors you, you do everything by yourself,” Ogbuagu says, adding that he is also planning on introducing a plantation, where he will be farming watermelon and bananas.
“The way the food economy is going, in the next 10 years Africa is going to be the world producer when it comes to everything in agriculture,” he says. “Don’t wait until you have millions to start your farming business; consistency and hard work will always get you to the top. What doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.”