Endurance and sacrifice: tales of alcohol brewer

Endurance and sacrifice: tales of alcohol brewer
An undated picture of Esther Kadijah’s kitchen, where she prepares her meals and brews alcohol as well (photo credit:Sheila Ponnie/The City Review)

At just her 30th birthday, Esther Kadijah, a mother of two children from Lobonok County, Central Equatoria State, has mastered the art of defying the cultural and legal barriers to eking out a living.

Her story is one of bravery and creativity, but more of that character that will push to the brink of danger to put a meal on the table.

She narrates to The City Review how she sells local liquor as a means of supporting her young family.

Although making local brew is quite intimidating due to running battles with the police officers and area chiefs, Kadijah finds it the fastest way of generating money to support the family.

While recounting her bearing to engaging in the mirky business, Kadijah tells The City Review she used to collect and sell gold in small quantities from Karpeto Boma in Lobonok Payam when the security in the area was normal.

“We used to go to the forest to the places where there is gold, and I sell the gold, then I get the money,” Kadijah said.

But even then, the income did not come cheaply. She recalled how she could walk for three to four hours to collect gold while just 15 years old, and that meant that middlemen exploited her on the selling stage.

To her, it was a process where they could look for the precious commodity and sell it, using the razorblade as a measuring tool.

A wave of insecurity

It all seemed normal and rosy until a fight broke out between the farmers and cattle keepers, and the whole area plunged into another round of insecurity, making the gold business a risky venture.

Having been rendered helpless, Kadijah had to think first and look for an alternative source of income to stay afloat and feed her family.

 “I just started making alcohol this year because I was not doing anything that could generate money. If I were educated, I would have searched for a job, so the only option was to start making the alcohol, ” she explains.

“I do not wish to sell siko, but there is no other kind of job that I can do to make money. Like now, if I manage to sell 3 bottles of siko, I can buy cooking oil, soap, and other vital goods for myself,” she says.

“I use a barrel and a saucepan with minor holes in them. I mix sugar with yeast and water, then leave it to boil for five days. Then it comes out very clear and clean, just like water from the borehole. “

“But the difference is that the water is very bitter,” she explains.

 Kadijah’s plight mirrors the fate of many women in the country who are struggling to sustain their families amidst the challenges that they face.

Just like any other kind of job in the world, Kadijah said she also faces some challenges while making the alcohol.

She laments: “The buyers normally come and buy the alcohol from home, so some of them drink at my home, but others take away. However, some of them start fighting each other after they get drunk.”

“When you realise that the person is getting drunk, you stop selling to him, and if he starts fighting, you chase him away, although it is not easy,’’ she narrates, adding that ”it is a perilous venture.”

 “But I am okay with it because I have not been working for some time and now I can make some money. Although I know it is not good, what can I do? I don’t have a choice, ” Kadijah narrates.

In a day, Kadijah sells a small bottle of 600 millilitres of the local liquor at SSP 300, and in a week she sells more than 5.

In August, the Eastern Equatoria state government banned the sale of alcohol, and the Juba County Council has also raised concern about the rampant consumption of local liquor. The authorities threatened to ban the sale of alcohol as a measure to reduce mental illness and death-related cases in the city.

Kadijah said that in the event the order is issued in her county, she has no choice but to stop selling the alcohol because it is an order.

“I would stop selling alcohol because the truth is that alcohol is not good and causes harm to a human body. The truth is I would not sell it, but I am doing it because of poverty. Otherwise, it is not good.”