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Should we drink home brews?

Chang'aa (Kenyan home brew) being made in drums in a river
Do you make local brews?

This week Africa Live is discussing whether home-brewed alcohol has a place in modern Africa.

Every country in Africa has a home brew, like Ogogoro in Nigeria, Umkomboti in South Africa, Ghana's Nsafufuo or Muratina and Chang'aa in Kenya.

Local brews can provide much-needed money for poor families. They are also used during traditional ceremonies such as pouring libation, weddings and funerals.

But if not brewed properly, they can be dangerous and each year hundreds of people die after drinking these spirits.

What is your experience with home brew? Do you think it has a place in modern Africa? Or does it encourage alcoholism and laziness? Send us your comments and experiences.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Man holding a glass of Chang'aa (Kenyan home brew)

In Nigeria among the lower classes, local brew has become an integral part of their every day diet. As early as 0700 in the morning you find people at the bus park taking their usual "shot" as they call it. The most painful part of it all is that the bus drivers also "mark register" with the sellers. Hence I am of the opinion that it does more harm than good to the society, as these drinks cause more health problem to these folks.
Owolabi Kayode, Nigeria

I don't think it is fair to criticise home made brews because if it isn't abused it is just like any other commercial alcohol. What's the difference between popular Irish whisky, traditional Japanese sake with any other brew? Traditional brew is a cornerstone to our cultural society.

In Zimbabwe we have traditional ceremonies such as "Kurova guva" and you can never do that without traditional "Ndari" brew prepared by old women. Traditional brews need to be integrated into modern society by ensuring proper hygiene and discouraging abuse. Traditional brews are a cornerstone of communities in Zimbabwe.
Elias Matinde, Japan

Anyone working for seven or more hours a day will have difficulties balancing their working and drinking life
Jean-Paul Muana, DRC/UK

I believe the main reasons why people get involved with home-brewed alcohol is poverty and the speed at which this brew can make you drunk. You only need less than half a pint and you are in a different world. This is compared to the European whisky and beers that are slow in response. Trying to control the home brewing will not solve any related problems, however, it will make it worse and the brew will be in high demand.

We need to educate people and make them understand the consequences of drinking any home-brewed alcohol. Also jobs must be provided to keep them busy as anyone working for seven or more hours a day will have difficulties balancing their working and drinking life.
Jean-Paul Muana, DR Congo/UK

It's been over a decade since I stopped drinking African home brews. I simply think that all home made brews pose health risks. Try inspecting it from start to finish and then tell me if you won't quit drinking it.
Daniel Deng, Dallas and Denver, USA

These drinks carry an alcohol percentage that's high enough to darken a piece of meat
Chibale, Zambia

I don't think home brew production should be stopped altogether but distinctions need to be made. Drinking "Chibuku", "Shake Shake" and various types of grain beers is about as harmful as drinking any other bottled alcoholic beverage, it's all in the moderation.

But drinking home brewed spirits like "Katata" and "Lutuku" is dangerous and highly addictive. These drinks carry an alcohol percentage that's high enough to darken a piece of meat. This is dangerous. Some way of limiting the alcohol content in these spirits should be agreed on and made enforceable.
Chibale, Zambia

Yes we should drink home brews because such beverages are a part of our culture. With these we feel we are contributing to sustaining our culture. This is however not to say that care should not be taken in the preparation of such brews to avoid unnecessary death.
Emmanuel S Koroma, Sierra Leone

Well, as a child whose father is an orphan and who never went to school; it was the local brew called Chang'aa that gave me a chance to learn how to write my name. My mother who never drinks made the brew and bought me school uniforms, books and pencils. That was in western Kenya after independence when the schools were free.

Yes, I think it has a place in modern Africa because there is no difference between whisky, wine, beer and many other drinks that the Europeans stock in their department stores and the African brews.
Victoria, Luxembourg

There should no place for local brews like Ogogoro, Chang'aa etc. in Africa. Apart from the fact that they promote laziness as experience shows in both Nigeria and Kenya, it is hazardous to people's health. In fact it is the Highway Code to the grave. It is true that income from local brew supports some poor families but at the same time, those spots are breeding place for criminals.
Aleke Patrick, Nigerian in Brazil

This home brew is pulling us backwards
Lajul Faith, Uganda

Recently Uganda topped the list as one of the countries that has the most citizens drunk, almost all the time. I think this home brew is pulling us backwards - how will we develop with people whose minds are always clogged up with alcohol?
Lajul Faith, Uganda

Local brew is not just economically feasible to make but it gives women in African society a chance to earn their livelihood. It also gives them pride because they are following a long tradition. It becomes a problem when western chemistry meets an uninformed mind.
M Wuoi, Kenya

Whether home brewed or factory brewed, alcohol is bad and people should be discouraged from drinking alcohol! The Bible says: "A country whose leader dines and wines till late is in trouble." In my country Uganda, all the problems were a result of the drunkard president, Milton Obote! Even Id Amin used to drink whisky secretly! We are lucky now that Museveni only drinks Pepsicola!
Balaam Bamwenda, Kampala, Uganda

Today all this is abused under commercialisation, with even children having access to the brews
Peter Ndichu Karanja, Cape Town

Home brews are being abused in Africa. They are an offshoot of the traditional African beer, which was part of our culture. Then, the beer was prepared and consumed under strict cultural rules and conditions that made sure that it did not disrupt the societal norms and harmony. There were rules as to when it should be drunk and by whom.

Normally only adult married men were allowed to drink. Today all this is abused under commercialisation, with even children having access to the brews. The brews are a source of death to the body and societal norms. They are prepared under very poor conditions! Away with these killer brews!
Peter Ndichu Karanja, Cape Town, South Africa

Just to add another country to your list. Ethiopia. They have a homemade alcohol; it is called "Katikala". It is a very strong cultural beverage and has almost 100% alcohol per volume. Sometimes they drink this beverage while eating raw meat. I have never done it but I see many people using it especially in the rural areas. The other advantage to consuming this product is that it is affordable.
Leul, US

I think drinking is part of man and cannot be separated from our day to day activities. This brewing provides jobs to about 40% of the farming populace. Hence I think what we as Africans have to do is to research and improve the quality of these drinks and educate our folks on the quantities to be consumed to avoid health related problems, which could affect the continent's productivity and dive into our meagre donor funds.
Okine, Richmond, Ghana

Homemade brews are part of our heritage as Africans. Before the days of colonisation a lot of our socialising and activities were in one way or another connected to our brews. So let's just improve on the quality and set standards so that we can maintain our identity and celebrate Africa with Africa's own. Alcohol can cause harm to us irrespective of what type it is so if you must drink why not let it be something local.
Flora Aduk, Uganda

It is a major source of income for the rural folks
Reagan Fianko, Kumasi

No-one can stop local brews in Africa, simply because it is a major source of income for the rural folks. The local alcohol can be used for other medicinal purposes. But the only bad aspect of it is, it can be dangerous when intake is too much. One needs to be careful when dealing with it.
Reagan Fianko, Kumasi, Ghana

Love it or hate it, home brews are just like commercially produced alcohol. Difference is though that they are not lab tested for percentages, potency, shelf life etc. Some western country homes also make their own concoctions out of various fermented products. If hygienic conditions and nutritional values can be maintained it is alright. Alcohol is alcohol and will cause some harm if drunk in real excess! A shot of fresh made "munkoyo" once in while brings a smile to my face.
Gabriel, Lusaka, Zambia

I think home brew encourages alcoholism and laziness. And because people get so drunk they then have sex, which leads to HIV. The governments of different countries should not encourage this foolish and stupid business. See for yourself what HIV has done in our society. 80 percent of HIV infected persons get it from sex. and what causes this? For me it's alcohol. I encourage people to stop drinking alcohol and if they do they will be happy and see that they have a good and healthy life. Even though it's difficult, turn to the almighty God for help.
Awanto Augustine Anye, Bamenda, Cameroon

Home made beer comes in two categories just like the factory brewed alcohol. There is a brew that is generally good to drink whose percentage is within the permissible range of which it is the one that we are discussing here. Then there is pure spirit dubbed "tototo" in my country Zimbabwe. This type of home brew can burn your liver and knock you out within minutes. It has claimed a number of lives in and around Zimbabwe and the Mozambique area. People love this beer because it is cheap and is a food supplement for them. However because of poor yields not so many people are brewing the beer anymore - people are more worried about getting a decent meal.
Bingepinge Chengetayi, Canada

A big yes because communities must patronize their locally produced products. Africa in particular must urgently consume African made products. However, there is the need to improve the quality of our products to avoid poisoning ourselves, as has been the case in some areas regarding local drinks.
Francis Owusu-Ansah, Ghana

You can easily alter conditions to suit your particular taste buds
Pascal Chinhamo, Zimbabwe

I believe our home brews are as good if not better than the factory ones. As you make your own beer you can easily alter conditions to suit your particular taste buds rather than the universal choice. Claims of brews causing laziness are unfounded especially here in Zimbabwe. There are some brews, like the yeast-laden "Chihwani dheyizi", which are not original and have been known to become hazardous. As long as ingredients are well picked and brewing utensils are clean and of acceptable standards, there is no problem with these brews.
Pascal Chinhamo, Zimbabwe

Some of local brews being produced in our African society are dangerous to our health. Like chang'aa in Kenya and Tanzania, the material used is not suitable for people's health. Some use farm processed fertilizer like nitrogen which is harmful. Soft brews like "mbege" or "chibuku" can cause typhoid if boiled water is not used.
Alex, Mwanza, Tanzania

I don't drink the factory-made alcohol anymore!
Willie Iga, Canada

What's the difference between home made and factory brewed alcohol? Home made alcohol is healthier and one of the cheapest alcohols ever sold on this planet. I have been doing research on alcohol for the last three years; so far I have found only the home-made alcohol is the best. I don't drink the factory-made alcohol anymore!
Willie Iga, Canada

Much or if not all of what is today considered home made brew has a very negative effects on our African communities today. Can you imagine elderly people of our villages spending their whole day drinking the local palm wine, popularly known here as "mbu", and doing nothing except playing draft while their wives labour in the farms? These take place in Yaounde and in Bafut, my home village, here in Cameroon. I think African liquor is doing away with our labour force. Period.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Cameroon

I don't think home brew production should be stopped altogether but distinctions need to be made. Drinking ''chibuku'', ''shake shake'' and various types of grain beers is about as harmful as drinking any other bottled alcoholic beverage, its all in the moderation. But some of the home brewed spirits here in Zambia like ''katata'' and ''kutuku'' are dangerous and highly addictive. Their high alcohol percentage is enough to darken a piece of meat. This is dangerous!
Chibale, Zambia

It's always good no matter what time of the day you're drinking it
Rory, Botswana

I love home brew. A little bit of "Shake-Shake" in the shade is not only good for the soul but beneficial for society as a whole. It's always good no matter what time of the day you're drinking it - breakfast, lunch and supper. Plus the cartons this wonder drink comes in are really colourful and very attractive - you almost don't feel guilty when you litter as it spruces up the environment a little. Just thinking about the wonders of Chibuku is making me thirsty. "Shake-Shake" for ever!
Rory, Botswana

Though I don't take beer, I do believe that home brew has nothing to do with what can be called a modern Africa or alcoholism and laziness. Despite the transformation of the world, we have to stick to our culture in one way or another and home brew is one of them.

Don't also forget that the beer from industry is not affordable to everyone and so home brew is a substitute. Give employment to Africans and you'll be disillusioned when you realize that Africans are not lazy people. They are only forced into it.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

Many single mothers in African slums have raised their kids with money they get from local brews. Also, the local brews in southern Sudan called Kong encourage people to work a lot instead of making them lazy. For example, my father has a big farm near our small village on the bank of Sobat River. My mother visits him when he's working, bringing Kong.

He can spend the whole day working overtime. To me Kong is a useful traditionally made brew and has nothing to do with death or laziness. I remembered long ago the Sudanese government banned people from making it. They never succeeded though because 90% of the population love it and depend on it.
Pal Gatkuoth Deng, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA



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