“The Giant African Snails` presence is a ticking time bomb to food security in the Caribbean region.”
That’s the view of Dr. Marcus Ramdwar of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), who has expertise in Agricultural Plant Science, Agricultural Philosophy and Agronomy.
Dr. Ramdwar, who wrapped a visit to Antigua this week, was in the country as part of a Caribbean tour to investigate the impact of the Giant African Snail in Antigua, Trinidad and the wider Caribbean and to develop strategies to eradicate and control the invasive species.
The UTT expert had the opportunity before his departure to make a brief presentation to Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Dean Jonas, other agriculture officials and a few representatives of the farming community about this project.
He explained that although the Giant African snail is present in Barbados, that country has implemented a number of strategies which have now brought the snail population under significant control.
From his observations in Trinidad and the feedback received from his counterpart in St. Lucia, Dr Ramdwar said that the snail problem is very prevalent.
In speaking of the grave impact of the pests, Dr. Ramdwar said in his tour of various farms, some farmers are now going through a process of what he referred to as ‘Crop Transitioning.’
“They are switching the type of crops they have been growing for over 20 years,” Dr Ramdwar stated.
He said that he has met a leaf crop farmer who he is now switching to other crops that are not eaten by the Giant African Snail.
In terms of root crops, he said the Giant African Snail has a preference for sweet potatoes.
Compared to any single agricultural pests, Dr. Ramdwar noted that the Giant African Snail is by far the worst as it consumes over 500 species of vegetation and it is a vector for the rat lungworm which causes Meningitis.
He suggested that the Ministry of Health works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that the snails are tested to ensure that they are not carrying the rat vector.
Dr. Ramdwar also advised that produce from farms that are being frequented by the Giant African Snails should be washed properly in Clorox water to avoid transmission of bacteria which can cause persons to become ill.
As the country embarks upon its strategy for dealing with the reduction of the Giant African Snail population, it should simultaneously get rid of the rats.
According to Dr. Ramdwar, with the prevalence and the unique dynamics of the pest, there is urgent need for the entire population to get on board with the government to get rid of this pest.
He added, “everybody thinks that the government should do something while failing to recognize that as citizens, they must come on board in terms of collecting the snails, following the procedures as applied by their individual governments or agriculture agencies.”