What are the problems of snail farming in Nigeria and possible solutions?
As the name implies, snail farming involves the rearing of land snails for human consumption. It can also be regarded as Heliculture, Heliciculture, or Escargot Snail Farming. In Nigeria, the demand for snails is on the rise and the uniqueness in taste and nutritional value has earned it a place in the market. Despite the benefits surrounding this venture, it is a neglected farming practice in Nigeria. There is a decrease in the throughput and biodiversity of snails in the Western region of Africa in recent times. The decrease in snail production has been ascribed to the following factors; predators, human activities, diseases, and climate. Hopefully, snail farming can be sustained in the ecosystem when proper measures are adopted. In the subsequent paragraphs, the problems faced by snail farmers will be sufficiently explained.
Problems Of Snail Farming In Nigeria
The activities of humans contribute largely to the problems faced in snail farming. They include;
Deforestation which means the falling of trees is one problem contributed by humans to snail farming. The forest which is home to the snails is one of the most threatened precious systems. The falling of trees contributes to the loss of a large number of snails to extinction.
Use Of Agrochemicals
The use of nematocides, pesticides, fertilizers or other agrochemical products with the aim of controlling pest or for crop production could change the soil pH and this could cause a decline in the biodiversity of the snails.
The ancient bush burning farming practice adopted by rural farmers poses threat to snails as it disposes them off their habitat and could possibly expose their eggs to sunlight or other harsh weather conditions.
Population growth could also pose threats to the sustenance of snail farming. An increase in population could increase the demand for cheap animal protein, hence, people indiscriminately hunt for snails.
Unavailability Of Resources
The unavailability of required resources for snail farming could also be a problem. The required resources could be in the form of feed or suitable stock for either the large scale or small scale farming.
Snail farming can only survive in humid tropical forest zone due to the following possessed feature; the relatively high humidity, constant temperature, the constant day and night rhythm, and the season which is not dry. Snail farming can actually be practiced in the absence of the aforementioned climate but only with the application of costly artificial means of climate control. In the presence of unstable climate and unfavorable climatic condition, snails could be exposed to infections and diseases.
It is the main climatic factor that strongly influences snails’ activities. The moderate temperature required for the proper development of the snails, normal feeding, growth, and normal body functions is between 23-28 degrees Celsius. The snails are susceptible to serious economic threat when exposed to hot environmental temperature and this could result in decline in their population. Heat stress causes decrease in feed consumption, little utilization of the consumed feed, decrease in egg production, decrease in body weight, decrease in growth, decreased fertility, and poor hatchability.
The rainy season is most conducive for the rearing of snails as it is that they like moist and cool environments. With a relative humidity that is between 70-90%, snails tend to be very active. Snails die from a prolonged period of dry and hot air and this could only be avoided when the atmospheric air is moist from the rain. The pens where the snails are being reared should be regularly sprinkled with water during hot seasons.
Movement of excess wind could cause the snails to retract into their shells. When the excess wind is prolonged the snails will become severely dehydrated and they will retract into their shells for a prolonged period and this could result in dormancy.
Light is required for the proper breeding and feeding of the snails. Even though snails tend to be more active at night, they still require some amount of light to carry out their photosynthetic and digestive functions.
Snails are dependent on the soil for their food and for laying eggs. Surviving without soil seems like an almost impossible task since they would be ineffective. The snails are endemic to soils that are moist, aerated, not waterlogged, easily drained, and non-acidic. Mineral and organic matter rich soils are very good for snail farming but only after they have been sterilized.
The land snails are prey to some predatory animals and this is a big challenge they face in their habitat. The snails are at the risk of growing and reproducing abnormally once this happens and if proper measures are not taken to curb the activities of the predators, it would eventually result in extinction and decrease in the biodiversity of the snails. The snail predators feeding on the snails are:
Insects: Mites, termites, beetles, ants, moth, and cockroach
Crustaceans: Centipedes, millipedes, crabs, forest spider, and crickets
Amphibians: Turtles, frogs, toads, and nematodes
Reptiles: Snakes and lizards
Rodents: Mice and rats
Aves: Crows, birds, turkeys, and ducks.
DISEASES AND PARASITES
Some of the symptoms that are noticeable in diseased snails include:
Excessive accumulation of serum (Oedema)
Little or no tentacles
Inactivity of the snail
Inability to reproduce
Impairment of the operculum
Impairment of the shell
Lose of color in a new shell
COMMON DISEASES AND PARASITES
Below are the lists of common diseases affecting snail:
The major fungus affecting the snails is Fusarium spp and it is otherwise known as rosy eggs because it causes the death of the egg. Infected eggs take a reddish-brown color and snails in the West African region are susceptible to this disease.
The major bacterium affecting the snails is Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. This bacterium causes intestinal problems in snails and it also hinders their growth and development.
One of the parasites responsible for disease conditions in both wild and domesticated snails is Alluaudihella Flavicornis.
The domesticated snails are more susceptible to this disease condition and it occurs as a result of poor feeding and lack of some vital mineral nutrients. The noticeable feature in a snail with this disease is the whitish color the shell takes.
Snails possess gender-ambiguous sexual organs (hermaphrodites). The snails have both male and female reproductive organs and are very productive. Each snail is capable of producing eggs six times in a year and they have a throughput of 80 to 100 eggs. Snails are highly nutritious and are better than red meat for consumption. The nutrients that can be gotten from the snail meat include iron, calcium, protein, and phosphorus. Domestic snail farming can be practiced for family consumption alone while commercial snail farming can be practiced as a form of business. The practice of commercial snail farming can go a long way in improving the country’s economy. The capital required for starting a snail farm is very low and the income is encouraging. The loss associated with establishing a snail farm is less in comparison to other livestock farms. Other benefits attached to snail farming are; it doesn’t consume too much time and stress.