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From the toilet to your throat: Photos of Mathare's changaa 'sewage breweries'

By Denish Ochieng | May 22nd 2021

What are you drinking? Is a famous line among those who imbibe alcohol.

Many Nairobians who reside in the environs of Mathare slums in Nairobi County consume changaa, a name given to local brew  which has extremely high alcoholic volume. On May 06, 2021, The Nairobian took a tour around the 'breweries and this is what they discovered.

Biko is the cheaper drink. The more refined version is supplied to Nairobi City and beyond.

Tens of drums were in the open gathering heat from fierce fires, passing steam through the pipes into a nearby sewage outlet into a river.

The brew made here is classified as 'Biko', the cheap drink sold to slum addicts. The second type, a more refined version of Biko is supplied in Nairobi and beyond.

Security is tight courtesy of roaming street boys who keep an eye on visitors.


Illicit brew is a source of income in informal settlements, however the effects on health and livelihood are far-reaching. In November 2000, the biggest illicit brew disaster was witnessed in the Mukuru Kaiyaba slums in Nairobi where more than 140 lives were lost and more than 80 people struck with blindness after taking the infamous kumi kumi (ten, ten) illicit brew.

In November 2000 more than 140 lives were lost and more than 80 people struck with blindness.



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