November 18, 2015–Snails may be the fast track to economic growth and empowerment for women living in West Africa, thanks to a pair of Ghanaian research students heading a project sponsored by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Snail on a leafFor the two years environmental scientist Mildred Quaye, MSc., and agricultural biotechnologist Lydia Quansah, Ph.D., have been setting up snail farms in rural areas of Ghana. Their important work was recognized at the recent 2nd Pears Foundation Alumni Symposium in Plant Sciences, entitled, “Knowledge Sharing – A Key for Enhancing Productivity” which took place at The Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus.

The international Pears symposium brings together alumni in the plant sciences and other young professionals with Israeli and worldwide experts to exchange ideas and to engage in knowledge-transfer of agro-technologies, contributing to global food security.

In Ghana, the all-women-run hatcheries are yielding year-round snail availability for the local market, providing important protein for the local beneficiaries and their families. Concurrent with the nutritional significance provided by these invertebrate creatures to the rural populace, the snail-farms have proven to be a profitable venture. As a result, what began on a small-scale in Asikuma, a provincial community in the eastern region of Ghana, is expanding to additional parts of the country.

Heliculture – the science and occupation of raising snails for food – is now becoming a main facility for occupational training of African women. Ghanaian woman farmers are raising 100 hatchlings in concrete pens. Within a short span of time – between two-three months – the embryonic snails grow from “juveniles” to adults and are ready for sale to the market.

iStock_000023392056_MediumAt present, the snails offered are fresh and in a raw state. The goal is to extend their shelf life through the latest agricultural biotechnology methods. In conjunction with Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Hebrew University Pears Foundation researchers Quaye and Quansah are in the process of securing plots of land within other communities in the country. They are training women – for now – in how to breed snails for human consumption.

Israel and Ghana have a longstanding relationship of working on joint agricultural projects. Since Ghana’s independence in 1957, several Ghanaian students have studied agriculture, irrigation and a variety of other environmental sciences through Hebrew University.  The University has also provided Israeli instructors and students to work on projects in Ghana and other sub-Saharan African nations for nearly six decades.

The Pears Foundation of London, United Kingdom, works to create meaningful social change and inspire people to support their communities. It provides scholarships for students from developing countries to acquire postgraduate (MSc.) degrees in public health and agriculture at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Located in Rehovot since 1942, Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the only institute of higher education in Israel offering university degrees in agriculture and is home to the only Schools of Nutritional Sciences and of Veterinary Medicine.