Friday, February 11, 2011


On the way to a health center one day, we came across a waragi ‘factory’. Despite the fact that it looks like an Appalachian Mountain illegal still, I was told that it is legal and taxed- though a bit unclear if it is regulated. Waragi is the local brew. It comes from a particular type of banana. Raw bananas are wrapped in banana leaves and after a few days the fluid is extracted to make ‘tonto’, a banana beer. After further fermentation, it’s distilled into a 40% alcohol drink. The copper tubes coil through a stream to cool the vapor and waragi is collected in the yellow jerry cans. Like a factory tour anywhere, we asked questions and found out it takes 7 jerry cans of tonto to make one jerry can of waragi. The waragi is then either sold locally for drinking or sold to distributors in Kampala who re-distilled it, add flavors, and bottle it for sale as ‘Ugandan Waragi’. I have taken the tiniest taste and will not repeat the experience. The upside of this industry is that it’s a good source of income for some and interesting for me to see. The downside is that Uganda has the highest alcohol consumption in the world- and no means for treatment of alcoholism at the village level. In the final picture, the seated man has just taken a straw from the jerry can out of his mouth.


  1. I had no idea that alcohol consumption in Uganda was so high - it's not one of the "usual suspects" that gets mentioned in discussions of international alcoholism rates. Is it recognized as being a serious problem?

  2. Drink that stuff and one probably no longer needs to be vacinated for anything. Looks like an African version of a keg party out in the apple orchard at UMass-Amherst in 1963.