The next time you see a land snail in your backyard garden or farm, you may have to think twice to consider it as a meal to eat on your barbeque dish or leave it as an organ to add organic manure to the soil.
Land snails are important creatures in maintaining natural balance in the ecosystem. While they are used as fish bites for sport fishing, they are key players in the forest decomposition process and contribute to the nitrification of soils through their decaying bodies.
In Musanze district, hoteliers and citizens have managed to explore the first option of turning snails into edible dishes served in the form of skewer shrimp steak commonly known as brochette.
Helped by Dominique Xavio Imbabazi, a veterinary medicine graduate and founder of Golden insect ltd, the Musanze hospitality sector has had a breakthrough that has proved that Rwandans can now eat and enjoy snails equally as skewer shrimp beef.
The breakthrough comes after Imbabazi’s research thesis on different insect dishes where he says he discovered that snails can be a source of yummy food for Rwandans and though costly, it could attract visitors who would like to have the same meal away from home.
“When I established the firm, some people said I was crazy, but people are now surprised when I started getting clients from across the country,” Imbabazi said.
Snails contain significant sources of protein, low fat and are also good sources of iron, calcium, Vitamin A, among others.
Edible snail meat is also scientifically recorded as highly nutritious meat that can treat and prevent malnutrition in children as a result of the protein content of snails – which is similar to the protein found in pork and beef.
An edible snail dish could be new in Rwanda but globally snail dishes are commonly found in Italy, Spain, Vietnam, Portugal, Greece and Malta among places where each dish is prepared differently.
To prove that Rwandans can actually join the above communities, this Friday Hotel Centre Pastoral Notre Dame de Fatima in Musanze in collaboration with Imbabazi’s firm (Golden insect) threw the first ever snail barbecue tasting spree to common citizens visiting the hotel.
“I wanted to feel the taste of these snails after hearing that they are so nutritious. Truth be told, unlike chicken steak which is commonly dried up, these are soft and more yummy. The softness is something between chicken and fish dishes,” said one Varelienne Marita, a mother who tasted the Skewered snail steaks for the first time.
After having a similar taste, Bienvenue Kwizera, a professor at University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB) said that such a project should be expanded to a national level to tap on the local population and tourist’s food preference while visiting Rwanda.
The cost of snail meat is slightly higher than that of skewered beef steak. One kilogram of the snail meat cost Rwf5000 compared to meat which is at Rwf3000 per kilogram in the area.
Ahead of the June 2021 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting in Kigali, hoteliers in Musanze district say they are exploring edible snail dishes on their menu to serve the appetites of thousands of clients who will be visiting the country.
“We have the source of edible snails here in the volcanoes therefore we want to explore this natural asset so as to meet the food choices of CHOGM visitors, which will increase our clientele during the commonwealth meeting in Rwanda,” Intore said.
The snail business currently earns a living to Golden Insect Ltd founder Imbabazi and 20 other youth employees who make sure the right edible snails are collected, grown and distributed to hotels in Kigali and Musanze.
Innocent Kamanzi, Monitoring and Evaluation officer in Musanze district said that if one of their youths has taken advantage of the strategic location of the district to explore natural gifts (snails) and tourism, the same should be done by more youths to feed the country’s growing hospitality.
“We have many hotels in the district because of the tourist scenery. So, youth should learn from this investor to come up with such innovative projects which explore the gifts of the environment and nature,” Kamanzi said.
Additional Reporting: Williams Buningwire & Servilien Mutuyimana