Under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP), three million dollars have been set aside to deal with the eradication of the giant African snail (GAS) and other pests.
From Monday to February 2, farmers, community groups and others can collect the GAS and get a reward of $5 per kilogramme (2.2 pounds) from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.
People can drop off the invasive species at two sites— County Caroni office at Southern Main Road, Chase Village in Chaguanas or County St George West office at Farm Road, Curepe.
There are no limits to the number of snails people can drop off on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8.30 am to 12 pm.
The ministry urges the public to use gloves or plastic bags, not their bare hands when collecting the snails. The ministry also wants the snails in be plastic bags, preferably transparent, and not feed bags.
"This pilot programme forms part of a multi-pronged approach to decrease the population of this pest," a statement from line minister Kazim Hosein said over the weekend.
"After this phase, we will continue to reassess the problem and adapt solutions to ensure we achieve the results we envision. The education and sensitisation will continue while the other phases are being rolled out."
The ministry received funding under the vote for "Surveillance and Control of Pernicious Pests and Diseases" to effectively manage pests such as the GAS, tuta absoluta (tomato leafminer), sweet potato weevil and locust.
The minister said the GAS is known to feed on over 500 different species of plants. It can be a tremendous nuisance and pose significant health, economic and food security (agricultural) risks to the country if left unabated.
"The Giant African Snail threatens our plants, our homes and our health and the food security of our nation," he said.
"If fruits and vegetables are not available, the snails will eat a wide variety of ornamental plants and tree bark and cause damage to paint on houses. This notifiable pest can also carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans."
President of the Agricultural Society of TT (ASTT) Daryl Rampersad commended the Government for "the effort."
"Manual removal is one way trying to eradicate the snails and they are giving the incentive to remove them. On the other hand, we have the health issues that must be taken into consideration," Rampersad told Newsday.
"If people are not educated on how to handle them, it could end in people getting sick. The Government should make the public aware of the health issues when dealing with snails."
People can visit the ministry's website at www.agriculture.gov.tt for more information on how to handle GAS.
Rampersad added, "Natural predators like certain birds are something we need to look at and increase that population. They feed heavily on the GAS, which can lower the risk of human contamination."
He said Orange Grove, Aranguez and parts of Chaguaramas are bugged with the invasive species.
ASTT's outgoing outreach programme started in November to help eradicate the pests.
"So far, we have given baits to about 220 farmers in Orange Grove, Aranguez and parts of Chaguaramas. The baits kill the snails."
The US Department of Agriculture website says the GAS reproduces quickly, producing about 1,200 eggs in a year.