Rosemary Odinga is ODM leader Raila Amolo Odinga and mama Ida second-born child. Unlike her younger sister Winnie, She has kept away from politics instead channeling her energies in farming as some of her social media posts attest.
Rosemary nearly lost her eyesight after she suffered a mild stroke in 2017. Even with this setback, her entrepreneurial spirit remained alive. She is the first and only snail farmer in East Africa.
Rosemary began this interesting and intriguing venture as a hobby in 2007. She recalls her start after a visit to Nigeria saying, “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.”
She learned the various types of snails, their behavioural characteristics, environmental preference, market demographics, and breeding.
Snails exist in three broad categories namely the Giant African Land Snail – Achatina fulica, Garden Snail – Helix aspersa, and Roman Snail – Helix pomatia. These categories further have various species such as West Africa’s Achatina Achatina and East Africa’s Achatina Fulica under the Giant African Land category. Musombi went on to donate thirteen giant African land snails for her to start off her snailery.
Learning through experience and consultation, Rosemary Odinga would better understand the necessary conditions for snails to thrive. These include cool temperatures and wet surfaces.
She set up a greenhouse in her Kiserian farm where her snails multiplied in the favorable environment. For labor, she hired three individuals who would help with the greenhouse workload. She has over three thousand snails in the greenhouse which have now made her a profit-making entrepreneur.
Talking to the Standard in April 2015, Rosemary highlighted the different methods of snail-rearing. There is the free-range system where the snails are let out in an open space and the closed system where the farmer sets up a greenhouse fitted with several basins to host the snails.
She highlighted that they do not use ordinary soil in the project and they have to purchase treated soil that will then be enriched and kept moist for the snails to thrive in.
She said that although it is a lucrative business, there are downsides. She said, “I know this thing may have all the dynamics of a quail project — zero capital, zero labor, an ever ready market and profits! Far from it. There are several steps a farmer has to go through before they can be allowed to rear snails,” she told the Standard.
Rosemary Odinga added that snail farming is regulated in Kenya by the Kenya Wildlife Service which gives operating licenses, strict requirements, and guidelines on how to farm the snails.
The interested farmer must also prove that they are knowledgeable enough and have the capacity to breed the slimy creatures. She encourages those interested in the venture to undertake in-depth research to learn more about the processes involved.