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Giant snail farms are booming in Ivory Coast

A worker holds a snail at a snail farm in Azaguie on November 23, 2023.   -  
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ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP or licensors

Ivory Coast

Weighing up to 500 grams, growing to a length of ten centimetres and highly prized in the Ivory Coast, giant snails have regrettably fallen victim to deforestation and pesticides, and are disappearing from the rainforest.

In an effort to save the species, while making an earning, locals are breeding them in booming farms.

"Snail farming is less expensive, it doesn't require any veterinary products, and it's one of the few types of farming where you won't be told to buy veterinary feed or pay outside expenses. So it's less expensive, it's easy, it's natural, and it's organic," said Bernus Bleu, founder and director of the Côte d'Ivoire expertise escargots (CIEE).

The simplicity, productivity and profitability of snail farming have prompted thousands of Ivorians to take up the trade after receiving training: progress has been impressive, with production rising from 25 to 250 tonnes of snails per month in five years, according to the government.

Today, there are some 1,500 in the humid south of Côte d'Ivoire.

"We train the farmers, we set them up and then we buy back. And our sale outlets, of course, are the snail shells, which are used to feed livestock. The third outlet is the snail's slime, which can be used to make cosmetic products, and we have exclusive rights to make soap from snail slime," added the CIEE director.

At the Côte d'Ivoire expertise escargots headquarters in Azaguié, 40 km north of the capital, four women make soap and shower gel from snail mucin, mixed with coconut oil, green colouring and perfume. On average, 5,000 soaps and 5,000 bottles of gel are produced each week in the small workshop.

"Snail mucin hydrates the skin. It moisturizes, it improves the complexion, and it slows down the ageing of the skin," says Nelly Blon, workshop manager. 

Beyond its excellent cosmetic abilities, snails are first and foremost a delicacy, present in many Ivorian dishes.

"People like it because it's sweet... If it's well-prepared, it's very tasty," said "La Jumelle", a snail vendor. 

Nearly 90% of Côte d'Ivoire's forests have disappeared in 60 years, mainly due to agricultural exploitation, particularly of cocoa, of which the country is the world's leading producer.

This regular deforestation, use of pesticides and climate hazards are fatal to both the people and the fauna.

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