Meet Rosemary Odinga, The Only Snail Farmer in East Africa
Rosemary Odinga is an entrepreneur and an advocate for alternative agriculture and proponent of social equality from Kenya. She is known for being the only snail farmer in East Africa and the Second child of the popular Kenyan politician; Raila Amolo Odinga.
Rosemary started out her snailery initially as a pastime. In her words “I started this project as a hobby in 2007. Before I started, I had gone to Nigeria where I had the privilege of visiting former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo. He is one of the biggest snail farmers there. He is the one who challenged me to think about farming. He was so convincing with the snail farming, I promised to do something when I came back home.”
On getting back to Kenya, Rosemary did an intense research on the same. “I visited the University of Nairobi and met one Musombi (now deceased) a snail expert who was passionate about snail farming. I learnt everything from the types of snails, to their behaviors, ideal environment, feeding, breeding, market potential plus more. He saw my passion and volunteered to act as my mentor.” To start off, Musombi donated to Rosemary snails, the giant African land snail.
As expected with new farmers, all the snails died except two because of exposure to heat. The research made her realize that snails thrive in cool temperatures and wet surfaces. Hence, the reason why they multiply during the rainy season.
Rosemary went ahead to construct a greenhouse in her 25-acre farm in Kiserian and placed the two surviving ones there and they multiplied within 3 months, she started donating to her foreigner friends and she started getting orders from a French restaurant.
She also brought on board three farmhands to help with the extra workload. Now, she has 3,000 snails at various stages. Her farm Shelltops Ltd, packs the slimy creatures in 160gram bags (contains 24 pieces).
“The orders from high-end hotels became so overwhelming, I could not meet it. Because of the pressure, I decided to just focus on individual clients who comprise expatriates and Kenyans of foreign origin. But I also supply to a few upmarket restaurants,” she says.
Commenting on how young people can venture into snail farming, Rosemary said “Snail farming is lucrative, but there are very strict requirement from Kenya Wildlife Service. This is not just something you jump in; you have to read extensively to know snails in and out. Having said that, I would like to encourage them to do their research and embrace unique projects. They should look beyond the obvious.”
Rosemary suffered a minor stroke, leading to her hospitalization in South Africa in February 2017. The stroke affected her eyesight partially and forced her to withdraw from the Kibra parliamentary race that same year.
However, she has not relented in impacting Africa even while adjusting to her new life after losing her sight. She remains resolute to empowering African youths and implementing projects to make Africa stand out among her peers.