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Yes, there's cash in snails

By Lydiah Nyawira
Jvyrose Mnialoh a student under Dr Kinoti at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology in Department of Horticulture and Food Security, displays some snails, during the ASK Show at Kabiruini Ground in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu/Standard]

For most farmers, snails are considered pests, a slimy nagging pest in most wet gardens. But one scientist, has fresh ideas on how to make a kill from snails.

Dr Paul Kinoti of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology stole the limelight with this unique innovation during this year’s Central Kenya Agricultural Society of Kenya show at Kabiruini grounds.

Under the bio snail production project, the researcher has been organically farming the shelled molluscs of the giant African land snail to generate income for farmers.

“Yes snails are known as messy and disgusting, but they produce something that can earn farmers an extra coin,” he told eager show goers at the University’s stand.

To make the hand and body cream, the researcher and his team use the slime, which the snails produce as a defense mechanism.

Harvesting slime

“To get the slime in plenty, the snails are subjected to a specific pressurised system which makes them stressed and produce the mucus which is then collected and used to make body cream,” he says.

Some of the benefits of the Bio Snail cream are reduction of acne, black spots, eczema and rashes in children.

The snail cream also has anti-ageing properties though studies are yet to confirm this.

Some reports show that snail slime has been shown to have antioxidant properties, as well as the ability to stimulate collagen production and enhance wound healing.

It is also rich in hyaluronic acid, which is a humectant ingredient that pulls in hydration to the outer skin layer.

Source of income

The main aim of the snail project, Dr Kinoti says, is to create a source of income for farmers.

“We want to show farmers the benefits of rearing snails and encourage them to take up the snail farming. With many farmers rearing it, there will be mass production. For now we are farming them at the university,” he says.

Other than the skin care products, the snails are also a pricey delicacy.

“Snails are served in high end hotels and a plate of the same can cost up to Sh4,500,” he says.

Additionally, their shells can be crushed and used to produce fertiliser says the researcher.

“Once the shells have been crushed, they have high calcium content which can been used to fortify the compost fertilisers,” Dr Kinoti says.

Boost eggs production

The shell powder can also be fed to poultry to boost eggs production.

“If used in poultry feeds, eggs become stronger and are less prone to breakages, due to the high calcium content,” he states.

 Though they have huge potential, snails value addition is yet to be tapped.

“Indeed, this is an untapped market,” he says.

Other than the snail, other technologies that were showcased at the fair include the Capillary Wick system among others.

Capillary Wick System

The Capillary Wick Irrigation System is a sub-irrigation system that involves the use of a device that delivers water by capillary movement from a reservoir to the plant growing medium.

The capillary wick irrigation involves using ropes as wicks to supply water to plant roots below the soil surface and thus minimize evaporation.

The concept is similar to a kerosene lantern with a wick, which keeps drawing fuel up the wick when the lantern is lit.

One of the minds behind the idea, Josh Njani, a student in the horticultural department says this model ensures that the plant will access the water necessary without frequent watering of the plant.

“When you water the plant frequently, the soil losses nutrients through leeching, this is a way to maintain the soil,” he explains.

The wick itself is the most important part of the system, because without a good absorbent wick the plants would not get the moisture and nutrients it needs. Capillary wick system is suitable for kitchen gardens as it ensures no water goes to waste.

With this model, Njani says they are targeting farmers who live in a urban areas and do not have enough water or land to grow their vegetables. 

The positive attributes

The system minimises wastage of water as crops are able to take only what they require.

“When you water your plants directly the surface run-off takes with it a lot of soil nutrients and fertilisers and the excess farm chemicals further results in environmental pollution,” he says.

The beauty of the wick system is that the materials to set it up are affordable and readily available.

“The materials you need include rope, cotton, nylon, and polyester which are all locally available and affordable,” Njani said.

The technology requires little planting material and supervision as the plant determines how much water it needs and what time it needs it.

Baobaob Mabuyu Project

Under the Baobab Project, the researcher aims to add value to Baobab tree seeds.

One of the researchers Monica Omondi, says the project study which took place in Kilifi and Kitui counties seeks to map out the characteristics of the tree, ways to propagate and reduce the amount of time it takes to grow. The project also seeks to use the baobab seeds to make flour.

“Popularly known as Mabuyu, the seeds are often discarded but they can be crushed and used as flour which can be consumed and has high nutritional content compared to other foods,” she says.

Locally mabuyu seeds are flavoured and coloured to attract consumers.

The scholar says the baobab flour has 3 times the vitamin C found in oranges and 2 times the calcium found in milk.

The project is focused on the medicinal and nutritional value of the plant as well as income generating opportunities for farmers.

Growing it

The Indigenous variety of the Baobab tree takes 25 years to mature but if grafted, the domesticated tree can mature in 12 years.

The leaves are high in iron and can be cooked and eaten while oil can be extracted from the seeds and the back can be used for ropes.  

Lnyawira@standardmedia.co.ke  

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