By Cynthia Aber
NEBBI - Collecting sea shells at Panyimur landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert in Nebbi district is clear testimony of changing trends of some youths.
Jonas Murongo and Jeptar Osinge, both seashell collectors, pack 150 sacks of seashells on three trucks to sell them in Gulu, Kampala and some parts of West Nile every week.
Each sack sells at sh150,000.
Initially, the two were rearing birds (hens), but when it became difficult to feed the poultry, they thought out an idea to feed the hens on ground seashells.
Soon, they discovered that some people in the area were interested in the seashells to feed their poultry as well.
From this point, they knew the demand for the seashells was high, prompting the two young men to engage in the practice of collecting seashells for sale.
They started off by selling a kilogram of their new-found potential wealth at sh100 in Nebbi. But the price was range. And as the demand soared, they turned to selling in sacks.
The seashell business is comes with an advantage that there are no off-peak seasons for harvesting the shells unlike other businesses.
In fact, a number of fishermen have abandoned fishing for the sea shell venture.
To Murongo, the Panyimur fishermen are poor, and that they always look to other ways of supporting themselves.
The two young men are finding seashell colleting easier than fishing. PHOTO/Cynthia Aber
The seashells are spread out to dry before they are ground later. PHOTO/Cynthia Aber
The shells are available throughout the year, explains Murongo, who is more experienced in the business than his counterpart. At 22, he is two years Osinge’s senior.
He mentions that between June and July, there is a significant presence of the shells, thanks to north-easterly and south-easterly winds which blow the shells to shore.
They use a machine to grind the shells. But they have to shield themselves from the powdery puffs released from the shells.
Moses Kalenzi, a livestock technician at Abi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute talks of the nutritional benefits of seashells.
He says with a high nutritional value, they are a rich supplement in livestock feeds especially for poultry.
The collectors use their hands to gather the shells of freshwater snails from within the thick water weed. They gather as much as their hands can handle into basins before heaping them on the shore, where the shells are spread on the ground for drying and later for grinding.
Murongo and and Osinge have been harvesting snail shells at the landing site for about five years.
The money from the business has helped cater for their schooling and also for the basic necessities for their families.
They believe they are in the right place, as they find fishing a more expensive venture.
“It [fishing] is expensive because you have to board the ferry to cross to Hoima or you cross to the Congo side to bring fish for sale because there is no fish on our part of the lake,” says Murongo.