Feature: Traditional beer brewing shields Namibian women from poverty

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-21 19:33:51|Editor: xuxin
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WINDHOEK, May 21 (Xinhua) -- In the informal settlements of Namibia's capital Windhoek, traditional beer brewing is gaining momentum with women getting involved in the trade in order to feed their families.

The traditional home brewed beer called Tombo has become a life line for dozens of unemployed Namibian women who are selling Tombo for a living. Most of the women selling Tombo says this is their means for survival.

Alina Shivute is among those brewing and selling Tombo, a business she has been engaged in for over 12 years.

Tombo which is a mixture of water, brown sugar, sorghum and yeast is normally prepared at night for consumption in the morning.

Tombo is the preferred alcohol beverage for poor communities in Namibia.

A glass of Tombo (750ml) costs 6 Namibian dollars (less than 0.5 U.S. dollar), this is the same volume as beer but five times cheaper.

Many of Shivute's customers are people from her neighbourhood and those from nearby locations.

Her customers are mostly unemployed locals who come to her house where she has built a shed in front of a corrugated iron shack for her customers to sit and enjoy her brew.

"I have been feeding my family off of Tombo for years. I don't make a lot but what I make is enough to buy groceries and pay rent," she said.

Shivute learned how to brew Tombo from her grandmother growing up, something she says is part of the training that young girls from her culture receive at a young age.

She has over the years grown her business where she makes over 300 Namibian dollars (about 20 U.S. dollars) a day. During weekends, the mother of four makes even more especially if it is month end.

"My husband passed away years ago and left me with four children to raise. I didn't have any education but I knew how to use my hands. A friend advised me to start brewing Tombo and I did.

"I have put my children through school with the little that I get. I know how to save so that has helped me," Shivute said.

On months that she does very well, the widow sends money to her ailing mother who lives in the rural areas.

"I am grateful for my customers, without them I don't know where I would be," Shivute said.

Another Tombo brewer who has been in the trade for eight years is Liina Sheehama.

Sheehama is from the same location as Shivute but they live in different streets thus there is no conflict over customers.

"Tombo is made and sold at every corner nowadays so you just have to make sure you make the best Tombo for people to choose you over others," Sheehama said.

The mother of one says that recently business has been good even though they always have to be alert not to get in trouble since selling Tombo is not allowed.

The law only allows the brewing of Tombo for own consumption and not for sale.

"You always have to be on the look out and make sure you do not get in trouble. We usually tip each other off when authorities start making the rounds," Sheehama said.