ST. JOHN’S — Farmers have sent a desperate plea to the government to move swiftly to deal with the invasion of the Giant African Snail.
The agriculture pest is now wreaking havoc on many farms in Jennings and surrounding areas, and according to one farmer, the authorities have done little to nothing to help the situation.
Janet Cornelius, a farmer for the past 50 years, said she has been living this nightmare for over two years.
She said on a daily basis, she collects thousands of snails from her farm alone.
The snails are not simply crawling around; they are damaging her crops, the essence of her livelihood.
“What I don’t kill with a stone, a hoe or a mortar, I start to pick them up and throw them into a half drum, a bottle and a bucket,” Cornelius said.
The frustrated woman explained after crying out publicly, a few farmers advised her to tackle the pest using the water from pickled (salted) meat, which failed after a short time.
“They also told me if I throw the pickled water on the ground, it would damage the plants, so what I did, I walked and collected what I could and placed into the pickled water,” she said.
The veteran farmer also pointed out the bait, issued by the Plant Protection Unit, only helps the situation during the dry periods and by the time it rains, the bait is washed from the soil.
When this reporter visited the farm, the snail and its eggs could be seen at the base of every other bank already prepared for cultivation.
Freshly planted ginger and Sorrel, both of which are high in demand at this time of the year, were damaged from the root.
Cornelius said the pest attacks the root of the sorrel plant, then spreads its slime over the other portions of the tree, leaving it to wither and die.
An environmentalist in the area, MacBeth George, said the invasion of the snails is a threat to food security on that part of the island.
“If this happens to spread to the east, where you have a lot of commercial farmers, it would be catastrophic in this country,” George said.
“So I am appealing to the government, please assist the farmers with the Giant African Snail because it is a threat to our food security.”
Meanwhile, Head of the Plant Protection Unit, Dr. Janil Gore-Francis said lack of adequate transportation has hampered the unit’s ability to tackle the mollusks. She, however, added that the bait is available at all major farming outlets. (Antigua Observer)