Both marine and terrestrial species of snails are consumed in most countries worldwide, including Southwest Cameroon where it is an age-old practice among various ethnic groups. Before the introduction of snail farming in the Southwest Region of Cameroon in the 1990s, all the residents who ate snails acquired them through gathering.

There is significant internal variation in the history of land snail consumption among four ethnic groups: the Banyang, Mbo, Balung, and Bakweri. The long history of land snail consumption among the Banyang and Mbo can be attributed to their geographical proximity to the eastern region of Nigeria, where the consumption of land snails has been widespread since ancient times. In contrast, until recently, land snails were perceived by the Bakweri and Balung as filthy pests that crawled and ate dirt, especially excrement, and thus were unhealthy and/or taboo for human consumption. This paper intends to demonstrate how some groups refused to eat land snails in pre-colonial times and during foreign rule in Cameroon (1884-1960), and how due to women’s roles, that changed so that they are currently nutritionally important in their diets due to the snails’ multifarious importance as a source of food, medicine, and income.