Snail Project

WEST COAST SNAIL INDUSTRY

LAUNCH DATE: 

The initial loan for the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility was paid in three installments: April 2006, June 2006, and September 2006.

IMPLEMENTATION AGENCIES: 

Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Coalition of the Urban Poor (CUP), and Community Resource Organisation (CRO).

COMMUNITY PARTNERS:

The Poor People’s Movement (PPM), The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Dorka Snails (Clanwilliam), and West Coast Savings Groups (Klawer, Clanwilliam, Citrusdal).

FUNDING PARTNERS:

Phila-Ngokuzenzela, IBIS, MitonOptimal, Elezane Industries.

PROJECT COSTS: 

Development Capital: 80,000 Rand (IBIS)
Capacity Building: 40,000 Rand (IBIS)
Project Support (Klawer Harvesting Team): 15,000 Rand (MitonOptimal)
Project Support (Clanwilliam): 18,000 Rand (CORC)

CONTACTS: 

Theunisen Andrews aka Bumper (CUP): +27 79 1905124
Erin Torkelson (CORC): +27 72 4474019

CONTEXT:

In 2002, the Department of Social Services’ “Rapid Review of Vulnerable Areas in the Western Cape” demonstrated that many West Coast communities have an extreme lack of economic opportunity (particularly for women), limited essential services (healthcare, food security, transportation, education) and a culture of debt amassed to cover basic living expenses. The study concluded that without a significant strengthening of the economic base, any future investment in the infrastructure of these cities would simply “improve the living environment of the people, but not decrease their dependence on social and welfare grants, nor improve their ability to earn a living wage.”

With the introduction of savings into West Coast communities (Klawer, Clanwilliam, and Citrusdal), neighbors have been combining their money to create a grassroots social security program, generating a pool of resources to be used as a loan fund for basic needs. Participants have been able to pay off debt, plan ahead for emergency expenses, and decrease dependency on government grants. These savings groups, however, are not only concerned with the collection of money, but also the collection information about communities. When the West Coast savings groups meet, they discuss local challenges and develop solutions. One such solution to the limited economic opportunity in the region has been an innovative and widely publicized snail harvesting project, enabling 100 women to access an income, gain basic economic skills, and stimulate development in their region. Combining community development with environmental sustainability, snail harvesting also allows farmers to decrease the use of pesticides, preventing the destruction of the local ecology.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:

In 2000, the Poor People’s Movement (PPM) initiated savings groups in the West Coast. With the support of CORC and CRO, the West Coast saving groups held exchanges to increase their knowledge of economic development opportunities in their region.

In 2005, the West Coast savings groups formed a partnership with Elezane Industries, a black economic empowerment business, specializing in the export of snails to gourmet food companies abroad. Needing a constant supply of live snails, Elezane hires community groups to harvest and sort snails in fertile regions. After training the West Coast savings group members, Elezane agreed to purchase all snails produced in the region. The West Coast savings groups then, negotiated contracts with local farm owners to harvest snails on their property. The farmers, in turn, agreed to decrease the use of harmful pesticides.
 
By 2006, Elezane assessed the West Coast Snail Harvesters production and encouraged CORC to provide a loan for the construction of a Snail Hibernation Facility in Clanwilliam. This site was chosen for its central location – harvesters from nearby cities (including Klawer and Citrusdal) could access this facility as well. One harvesting group, called Dorka snails, was chosen to manage the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility. Dorka snails became the middle-man, purchasing snails from the community groups and selling them to Elezane Industries.

The construction of the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility has greatly improved the chances of success for the West Coast Snail Industry. Given that snails can be kept alive for several weeks in the Hibernation Facility, the cost of transport has been greatly reduced – larger quantities can be transported to Elezane less frequently. These developments have encouraged the expansion of the industry and the employment of several hundred women.

PRESENT SITUATION:

The West Cost Snail Industry has successfully run for one full season, enabling the snail harvesters to learn the trade, develop contracts with farm owners, and expand production. Even so, earnings from the project have been minimal because of two main challenges: the control of the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility and the high cost of transportation.

Cooperation of Clanwilliam
Since the inception of the West Coast Snail Industry, Dorka Snails has been in control of the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility, serving as a middle-man who purchases snails from harvesting groups (in Klawer, Citrusdal, and Clanwilliam) and sells them to Elezane Industries (in Hermanus). Under this system, Dorka Snails has been struggling to pay the running costs of the hibernation facility, and has thus reduced the amount paid to snail harvesters in the region. The entire project has suffered as a result.

Currently, the project is undergoing structural transformation. The Klawer, Citrusdal and Clanwilliam harvesting groups are organizing the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility as a cooperative. In an effort to eliminate the middle man and maximize the profit for all stakeholders, the groups have decided to share the running costs and collectively own the Clanwilliam Hibernation Facility. The earnings of each harvesting group will first cover the costs of the facility, and will then be divided up among the workers. Although DGRV (an NGO specializing in the establishment of cooperatives) has offered its services, this transformation will take additional funding for legal, financial and technical support.

Transportation Cost
Additionally, the cost of transportation is especially high in the West Coast Region due to long distances between towns, inadequate roads, and limited availability. A high proportion of the snail harvesters’ earnings then, must be spent on transportation.
 
PROJECTED OUTCOMES:

Social Benefits for the West Coast:

  • Decreased vulnerability among West Coast women: This project will give about 200 poor women of Klawer, Clanwilliam and Citrusdal access to a liveable wage, making them less vulnerable in relation to their husbands, fathers and brothers.
  • Increased equality in engagement: This project will create a space for the poor to negotiate with farm owners on an equal platform. As the snail harvesters offer a service that is unique and necessary for the health of the farmers’ vines, they have the capacity to relate to farmers not as disempowered workers but as essential service providers.
  • Strengthen extant savings culture: Due to the strong culture of saving already existing in West Coast, this project will further encourage self-reliance and community-driven development. The additional resources earned will allow participants to save larger amounts of money each day, thus collecting funds for larger expenses (such as housing or tertiary qualifications).

Economic Benefits for the West Coast:

  • Increased earnings in the West Coast: The money generated through this project will support the West Coast savings groups and their families.
  • Increased business knowledge among West Coast women: The snail initiative will help women develop the skills necessary to run small businesses. Other members of the community will be able to take advantage of the knowledge developed through this project to initiate other small business ventures related to snail processing and production.

Environmental Benefits for the West Coast:

  • Decreased use of pesticides: The snail harvesting industry will lead to the decreased use of pesticides on farms in the region, encouraging environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

Benefits Beyond the West Coast:

  • Creation of a Reproducible Model: Since many snail “hotspots” exist across South Africa, this project is fully reproducible in other areas around the country, and the snail market in Western Europe and China is large enough to sustain this expansion. The savings network is a perfect tool through which to replicate projects – with additional funding, we will facilitate learning exchanges between interested savings groups to grow and expand production to other regions with similar economic challenges.