Snail farming is one of the top interesting business opportunities in Africa.
West Africa is home to the largest species of land snail in the world. The Giant African land snail (Achatina species), is known to grow up to 30cm in length and can be found in the dense tropical rain forests across the region from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana to Nigeria.
For hundreds of years, Africa’s appetite for snails has been served through traditional means. Snails handpicked from the bush (usually in the dead of the night) have been the only way to get snails to the market and dinner table.
However, as Africa’s population explodes and our forests continue to be sacrificed to build cities, the (bush) supply of snails cannot keep up with the soaring demand.
This has created an opportunity in the market for snail breeders and farmers who now cultivate these interesting creatures on small farms and in their backyards for impressive profits.
Let’s find out how fast these slow animals can bring in cash….
First, the impressive success story of an African snail farmer…
Snail farming is a niche and unusual business and successful snail farmers like Nigeria’s Ismail Abdulazeez are enjoying the huge rewards of this lucrative but little known venture.
In his interview with CNN (see video below), Ismail, who cultivates snails in large cages in his backyard, shares his experience breeding snails for profit.
His prized products end up in some of the kitchens of high-end hotels in Lagos where they are creatively used to prepare tasty African dishes.
Snails are a great delicacy, and for good reason too…
Snails are a huge part of the diet in many parts of Africa, although they are not always affordable and available all year round. Their high protein, low fat and cholesterol content make them a nutritional favourite.
Snails contain almost all the amino acids needed by the body and most of its by-products are used for cosmetics and medicines.
As our population becomes more interested in healthier living and low-cholesterol diets, snails will become a popular alternative to to all the fatty and non-healthy meats that flood our markets nowadays. They are much cheaper than red meat with greater health benefits on top!
Snails have, for a long time, been a popular and recurring item on the menus of hotels, restaurants and bars where they often feature as boiled, fried and spiced kebabs. They are also a great addition to soups and stews which are a significant part of most African dishes.
Tasty African delicacies featuring the Giant African snail (photo credits: afrolems.com; mamadish.com)
Market Opportunities for Snail Farming in Africa
Most of the snails supplied to the African market are gathered from bushes and forests during the rainy season (usually between April and September).
Because snails are very dormant during the dry season, they become increasingly scarce during this period and the market is starved of adequate supply until the next wet season. This makes the supply of snails very seasonal in many parts of Africa where they serve as food.
As a consequence, snails can fetch much higher prices during the dry season (December to March) when supply often does not keep up with demand.
Snails may go on break during the dry seasons but the human appetite for its taste always remains, and continues to grow throughout the year. And to think that several festivities take place during the dry season (Christmas et al), makes this a first choice agribusiness.
Due to steadily growing demand from customers, hotels and restaurants are always in need of snail delicacies on their menus. And given the significant upside to the profits that can be made, it makes a lot of sense to take maximum advantage of this market when the supply of snails is significantly short.
There is also growing demand in Europe for giant African snails. Apart from their great taste, many people abroad like to keep them as pets and keepsakes due to their sheer size (I was surprised too!). But never mind, you are likely to be very busy satisfying the local demand to bother about exports.
However, it’s still good to know that such foreign market opportunities exist for this small business. If you’re interested in exports, you could read up the How to export to the USA and Europe section of our Dried and Smoked fish export article.
Giant African snails are a popular sight on Africa’s interstate and transnational highways (photo credit: Frans Lanting)
Success tips for aspiring Snail farming in Africa
As a Smallstarter, your primary goal should be to take advantage of the seasonality of this market in order to gain premium prices for your snails. Target the high-end customers (hotels, restaurants and households) who can afford to pay a premium for a steady supply of the product.
If you supply all year round, you are likely to earn lesser during the rainy seasons (when supply is in abundance) and more in the dry seasons (when the product is scarce).
You could buy cheaply from the villages and other remote areas while the supply is up during the rainy season and maintain a healthy stock of large snails that you can unleash on your customers when supply falls in the dry season.
But to achieve this, there is a very important condition. The size of your snails must be large and ‘intimidating’ enough to command a premium (high) price.
For this to happen, you must start your snail farm with the right species (the Giant African type) and ensure that you apply proper breeding, stocking and feeding practices to achieve the huge sizes that will make you a highly sought after supplier.
If your snails are bred well, they should start to reach market size from six to twelve months, although some farmers like to leave theirs for much longer. (photo credit: msn.com)
Presently, more than 90 percent of the snails supplied to our local markets are picked from the forests. While this has been the traditional supply source, our growing population and rising rural to urban migration rates make it unsustainable.
An artificial intervention like snail farming is the only way to satisfy the growing demand. And as long as a huge chunk of the market depends on snails captured in the wild, nobody can assure a steady and consistent supply of large snails like a farmer who breeds snails in his/her backyard!
Some things you should consider before you start a snail farm…
In terms of cost and time, snail farming is a low risk business. Unlike many other livestock businesses, snail farming requires very little startup and operating costs.
It can be run from your backyard (if you have a sizeable one) or on that piece of land wasting away in your neighbourhood or village.
Snails are friendly to the environment and their droppings are not offensive (unlike pigs and poultry) so there’s no chance an angry neighbor will come knocking.
Snails also multiply really fast laying up to 100 eggs in one go. Because snails are hermaphrodites (have both male and female sexual organs), they get to mate easily throughout the year. This high reproduction rate has made snails a pest in many regions of the world.
However, it’s this fast reproductive ability that makes these slow creatures a delight to an entrepreneur. Snails can give very high returns on your initial investment if you do your homework well and target niche and repeat customers. (photo credit: scientificamerican.com)
An interesting resource for snail farming in Africa
A Practical Guide to Snail Farming: This 78-page guide is unbelievably FREE and contains everything (theory and practice) you’ll ever need to start and succeed in a snail farming business. It covers all areas of the subject and even offers tips on how to market your snails.
Many thanks to the guys at openideo.com for this wonderful resource!
If you have any experience in this area, we’re sure a lot of people reading this would love to learn from you. Please leave a comment in the section below or share this opportunity with a friend.
Remember, you can find more interesting success stories and business opportunities like this one in the Business ideas section of Smallstarter.
To your success!
And by the way, if you enjoyed reading this article and you’re thinking of raising capital to start or grow your business, you’ll love my amazing and life-changing FREE course.
Click the course banner below or click here to get started with the course.
Great article! I never knew snails could make such yummy dishes! I’ll be looking forward to trying them out on my next trip to Africa!
People really eat this stuff?
Where are you from? The moon? Snail meat is low on cholesterol, and here in Nigeria it is a delicacy and pretty expensive too.
[quote name=”Eno”]Where are you from? The moon? Snail meat is low on cholesterol, and here in Nigeria it is a delicacy and pretty expensive too.[/quote]
LOL! Very valid points Eno.
In our country Indonesia is very annoying pests, but it turned out that these pests can provide considerable benefits especially health
Isn’t it funny how one person’s food is another’s pest? 😀
Checked out your blog. Nice! Make sure you keep up the good work.
Thanks for leaving a comment!
It seems like raising snails will be a very lucrative business.
Can someone tell me how much space will one need to raise 1000 snails in the indoor system?
Thank you very much for taking the time to ask your questions.
On Page 50 of the book recommended in the article, [u]”rearing density (the number of snails raised per unit of space) affects the growth and breeding capacity of snails. High-density populations tend to grow slowly, develop into smaller adults, and lay fewer clutches of eggs and fewer eggs per clutch. If the snails are very densely packed, they may not breed at all. Other disadvantages of high density are the high rates of parasitism and ease of transmission of diseases.”[/u]
As a result, the recommended density is [b]1.5 kg per square metre[/b] (this should be about [b]15 to 25 snails per square metre[/b]). [u]For 1,000 snails, that’s about 40 to 60 square metres.[/u]
The manual further goes on to say that “It is best to start a snail farm with as low a density as possible. As the farmer becomes more familiar with snail habits and with managing the enterprise, the numbers could be increased.”
I strongly recommend that you read the complete manual. It’s very rich in information and will teach you everything you need to know about snail farming. You can read it online or download for FREE at: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
I hope this answers your question. If you have any other questions, just ask!
i got more knowledge here…. A brilliant article indeed, am looking at starting snail farming. But please can u send me d manual to my e-mail box? As u said is free, or how much will i pay?…….. I want to know d answer up there about the space required for 1000 snails….. Inbox me pls… Am waiting
Hello Farmer Duke,
Thank you very much for the kind feedback.
We have answered your question about space required for snail farming in our last response. Please read it.
As for the manual, you can read it online or download for free by following this link: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
It’s an information-packed book and you will find it very useful.
Please feel free to ask us any other questions you may have about snail farming.
Such an insightful article. However, the link to the Guide is probably broken or the information on the page has been moved. Please can you provide another link?
Thank you so much
Thank you for pointing out the broken link. Luckily, I saved the guide during my research. You can download it by following this link: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment.
Hello, ur writeup on snail farming was really insightful n great. My problem is downloading d guide. It says something abt something being wrong with the site. Is there any way else around downloading it? cos I really need d material urgently. Thanks for ur co-operation. 🙂 🙂
Thank you for the kind feedback. I have corrected the error in the link to the Practical Snail Farming Guide. You can read it for yourself at: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
I hope you find the material useful.
Very insightful article, I have so much interest in snail, I tend to practicalise it some time ago, now am making plan to invest in it, but is how to get my breeding stock, I don’t want to get from the open market. I will need a ur farm info or any close one around, am base in benin. Thank you
I’m happy with your interest in snail farming. I hope you have fully read the Practical Guide book at the bottom of the article?
I actually believe the best breeding stocks can be selected from those very big (massive) snails that are caught in the wild. Benin (Nigeria) is one of the best places in Nigeria to find some of the biggest/good breeding stocks. Get to one of the big markets and select about 6 to 12 big snails as your breeding stock.
Unlike pigs and poultry, there are no hybrids (yet) for snails. Let me know if you have any other questions.
my question about the export of frozen or dried snail is not answered here.
Hi Max, exporting frozen/dried snails depends on the requirements of the buyer. However, exporting frozen goods is still a challenge due in many parts of Africa due to inadequate refrigerated storage. Your goods may likely go bad before it reaches your customer.
There may be some considerable local demand for ‘dried’ snails. You will have to do some market research first to find out the size of the demand before you start this business.
Thank you for your patience and questions.
[b]John-Paul [/b] 😉
Thank you much for the information. The articles above are very interesting. However i cant get the copy of the booklet. Is it possible to receive a copy on email. Thank in advance. I will like to start up something in kenya
You can download the book by following this link: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
I’ve also sent a copy of the book to your email just in case you have any difficulties downloading it.
I hope you find it useful.
Great article. I reside in kaduna, how can i get giant African land snails to start up with? Pls also email the book to me.
Great job once again.
Mind I get the book too via my e-mail.
Hi James and Anthony,
Thank you for your comments.
It’ll be difficult to email the Practical Guide on Snail Farming to everybody. Please follow the link below to read the book and download it. It’s simple and free.
The link is: http://sdrv.ms/Kb9a8N
Hello guys, thanks a lot for this amazing manual on snail breeding. It will be very helpful.
I seriously want to start a snail farm and I have tried reading / downloading the book using the link http://sdrv.ms/kb98a8N as indicated but am told the link does not work any more. Can you please direct me to where i can read or download the book?
Call me i have the best snail farming innovation for optimum results. +2348174899333
Exquisite. superb, innovative and applicable
This is just so wonderful. I am startting a snail farm in Cameroon, my country, and my goal is not jus the local market. I must say this was very helpful.
Hello! Pls I need help. Lots of my snails are dieing. I don’t know why. I suspect it could be because of the slime, as the book explains, bu though the pen is big, they prefers to be saturated on particular corners. They don’t move around, especially at the center of the pen. Pls some one help fast before I lose all my snails.
Call me Umoh i have a solution 08174899333
Hi, I just read through this post. I hope my advice can still help. I have had issues of high mortality in my farm. Most crippling situation could be flood or extreme dry.
The slime and crowded stay may affect growth as I read, but it will not cause them to die in a disturbing scale.
Pest as well must be watched for. Predators
Please can I have a sample of a questionnaire for my local customers to know the market before supplying snail ?
Can I please have a sample of a questionnaire for my local customers to know the market before supplying the snail’s ?