By Shermain Bique-Charles
It may be a long shot but the Ministry of Agriculture is hoping to significantly reduce the presence of the Giant African Snail in communities around the island by year’s end.
Admitting that its attempts to do so failed two years ago, officials from the Plant Protection Unit are convinced that a new three-month national project is the real deal.
The project, which officials described as “a call to action”, will see a number of activities including town hall meetings in six strategic communities in and around Antigua.
The Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Janil Gore-Francis said the project will also include materials for communities that come together as a group to combat the snails.
“We must get them out of the island because if they stay, they just keep multiplying,” she said.
As part of the project, there will also be a series of educational drives where residents will be given an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions.
However, a similar approach that was undertaken by the ministry two years ago failed, and since then, the snail population increased exponentially and has inundated other communities on the island.
Dr Gore-Francis said the project did not “take off as expected”, and that it was also hindered by the lack of community support.
“There are persons who were trying their best to deal with the issue but their neighbours are not doing the same thing and they are suffering from re-infestation[SB1] [SB2] ,” she said.
A survey to quantify the impact of the Giant African Snail on various stakeholders will also form part of the new project.
Meantime, Agriculture Minister Dean Jonas said presence of the Giant African Snail has seriously compromised food security in Antigua and Barbuda.
“They have been wreaking havoc among the farmers and I would really like to see this under control. They have affected our families, our homes our communities,” Jonas said.
According to him, the collection drive implemented last year did not work for many reasons.
“Just collecting the snails haven’t been working and because there’s not been a lot of education. So, we have to implement a more studied approach and this is what the project is mainly about,” he said.
The project is funded by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture or IICA to the tune of US $10,000.
The snails are reportedly more prevalent in North Sound/Gunthropes, Hodges Bay, Carnival Gardens, Cedar Valley/Mount Pleasant, Cassada Gardens, and Fitches Creek.
They have also been seen in Barnes Hill, All Saints, Buckleys, Radio Range, Scott’s Hill and Crosbies.
Some of the first affected areas were Cooks and Cooks Extension, Golden Grove, Bolans, Jennings and Christian Valley, among others.