Thursday, July 25, 2024

Don’t Demonize Kachasu—Let’s Invest in Research and Development to Make It a Safer Option

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Kachasu, the traditional homemade spirit, has long been a part of Zambian culture. It is available in various forms, from the refined tijilijili to the raw and unfiltered kachasu presented as Number 1,number 2 , 3 and so on. The recent statements by Local Government and Rural Development Minister Gary Nkombo have sparked a heated debate about its future. While the health risks associated with kachasu are real, demonizing it and imposing outright bans is not the solution. Instead, we need to invest in research and development to make kachasu safer, a challenge that the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) should spearhead.

Understanding the Popularity of Kachasu

Economic hardships and high unemployment rates have led many to turn to kachasu as an affordable source of alcohol and a means of livelihood. The proliferation of kachasu dens in areas like Kaunda Square, Kamanga, and the central business district is a testament to its growing popularity. It is important to acknowledge that kachasu is not just a drink; it is a significant part of many lives, providing both economic support and social cohesion.

As a forester, I have often found kachasu to be the only available beverage in remote areas. Its presence in almost every corner of our communities indicates its deep-rooted place in our society. Kachasu has been here for a long time, and it will continue to be here. It addresses underlying social and economic challenges, offering a means of survival for many.

Health Risks and the Need for Regulation

Honourable Minister Gary Nkombo highlighted the dangers of unregulated kachasu production, referencing the tragic deaths in Southern Province due to the consumption of homemade illicit alcohol known as “chiyabi.” These incidents underscore the need for immediate action to make kachasu safer for consumption.

However, banning kachasu outright could drive its production underground, making it even more dangerous. Instead, we should focus on regulating and improving the production process. This is where the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) comes in. By investing in research and development, NISIR can help create safer brewing techniques and establish standards for kachasu production.

Investing in Safer Production

NISIR should undertake comprehensive research to identify harmful contaminants commonly found in kachasu and develop methods to eliminate these toxins. Training programs for local brewers on safer production practices can also be implemented. This approach can help mitigate the adverse health effects while preserving the cultural and economic benefits that kachasu provides.

Economic and Social Benefits of kachasu

Kachasu is more than just a drink; it is a means of economic survival for many families. There are numerous stories of families that have educated their children through the income earned from kachasu sales. Young men often dilute and resell kachasu to make a living, highlighting its role in the informal economy. For many, kachasu is a way to manage their drinking habits economically, often combining it with lager from conventional bars.

The economic benefits of kachasu cannot be ignored. Banning it without providing alternative livelihoods could plunge many families into deeper poverty. Instead, we should look at ways to regulate and improve the safety of kachasu while supporting those who depend on it for their livelihood.

A Call for Balanced Action

The prevalence of kachasu shabeens in our compounds indicates a larger societal challenge of alcohol abuse in Zambia. Addressing this issue requires a balanced approach that includes economic empowerment, education, and support for local businesses. By improving the safety of kachasu production, we can preserve its cultural and economic value while safeguarding public health.

In all respects, kachasu should not be demonized. Instead, we should invest in research and development to make it safer. The National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) has a critical role to play in this endeavor. By focusing on safer production methods and supporting the livelihoods of those who depend on kachasu, we can address the health risks without losing the socio-economic benefits. As someone who has experienced the reality of kachasu firsthand, I urge our leaders to consider a balanced approach that acknowledges and addresses the deeper issues at play.

If it wasn’t for BEER and God, I would have committed suicide. Kachasu at some point saved my life. I drank it with Combonians in Kamanga, Chelstone, and Kaunda Square. Today, I am not ashamed to add my voice. The challenge is real and depicts a bigger challenge of alcohol abuse in Zambia.

By Chaliafya Katungula
F(A+C+T+A+R)

15 COMMENTS

  1. The problem is not whether it’s safe or not but it’s who is the brewer and why he’s doing it…. this is done by very poor people who have to feed their families. And due to the stiff competition among the brewers, all sorts of concoctions are added to the stuff to make it more portent than the other brewer. Most important, we don’t have the capacity to monitor each and every brewer.

    • Why not increase the capacity to monitor? We are just used to firefighting, were the authority comes in after people are blinded and have died like what happened in southern province. What is the role of ZEMA, consumer protective association, health inspectors to mention just a few.We have useless laws in this country like hate speech that are meant only to protect a minority group. We have Zambia police camping at churches, opposition rallies, Miles Sampa’s and opposition party member homes. What capacity are you talking about. What we have are misplaced priorities and Gary Nkombo going free after forcing a minor to drink Kashasu.

    • @KC the fact is the offenders are usually tipped off by the same people who are going to do the inspections. One example, there’s a place where narcotics are sold. People report this but when the police go there, there’s not even a small sign of the trade.

    • Ba Chaliafya there’s nothing to research about Kachasu. Anyone who has done basic general science will explain its process . Because of its simplicity it is easy for anyone to venture in its production. So thats why it is popular among the poor. Basically it is just the distilling of fermented waste with varying toxic unregulated “ingredients”.
      These ingredients include battery acid, Insecticide, paraffin, and any other poisons. Kachasu thrives mainly because the drinker is never worried about the ingredients and their effect on him. So the solution lies in educating the potential market.

    • Educating anyone, especially in Health, is a tedious and expensive venture so governments have preferred to let sleeping Kachasu drunks lie. What with a Police force that doesnt want to work unleass there’s a bribe at the end of the project? So the problem will be with us as long as poverty and poor education are with us.

  2. Chaliafya Katungula, next time you want to insult our intelligence send this kind of crap directly to Gary Nkombo and not bore with what we already know.

  3. Letthe government buy all the kachasu and repackage it in quality bottles and sale it or even export it.

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  4. You graduate Chemists and Nutritionists every year and yet cannot contend with a simple situation. In most European cities (not even countries) they brew local alcohol that is well researched and techniques shared. Teach the traditional brewers to notice the different layers of alcohol (methanol, ethanol, etc.) and show them what it means to brew. You want the white man with $20,000 donation to come and tell you what I am telling you right now?

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  5. Councils to build distillation small Plants across the country Zambia. And this tusk is given to the Engineering Association of Zambia to come up with a design so that this year or next year AM should be exciting. It can be could as a Short Path To Alcohol Distillation Unit-SPADU or any name you might choose.

    • @Collins Teembo, it is not the distillation that is the problem. The problem is the increments. Normally you just us maize, cassava millet etc, but due to poverty and an competition, other things like fertilizer, shoe polish, paraffin are added to try and “out smart” other brewers and use less maize.

  6. “However, banning kachasu outright could drive its production underground, making it even more dangerous.” Could????
    Kachasu is banned! OUTRIGHT! Its illegal!!
    Ask Musamba and Gary Nkombo

  7. Not to criticize anyone, but cutting back could improve health, finances, relationships, etc. there are healthier ways to cope with stress or to unwind.
    I would recommend activities like exercise classes, hobbies, or social outings that don’t center on drinking Alcohol. Programs and support Systems, Increasing access to treatment programs and support groups for those struggling with addiction and even reducing availability. Alcoholics Anonymous is a great beneficial program. The focus should be on harm reduction and providing a path to healthier habits and improved quality of life and not reckless behavior.

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