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Changaa or Chang'aa is a traditional home-brewed spirit, popular in Kenya. It is made by fermentation and distillation from grains like millet, maize and sorghum, and is very potent.

After being illegal in Kenya for many years, the Kenyan government legalised the traditional home-brewed spirit in 2010, in an effort to take business away from establishments where toxic chemicals are added to the brew to make it stronger.[1] Under the new law, changaa must be manufactured, distributed and sold in glass bottles, and retailers must display health warning signs. Sale to individuals under age 18 is still prohibited, as is sale through automatic vending machines. Anyone making or selling adulterated changaa risks penalties of five million shillings, five years in jail, or both.[2] Chang'aa is usually much cheaper and stronger than other alcoholic drinks, making it the beverage of choice for many.

Its production and distribution in urban slums has to some extent continued to be controlled in many cases by criminal gangs like the Mungiki who run protection cartels for illicit brewers. However in the rest of the country production is still under traditional brewers. Illegally brewed changaa could be purchased for around US$0.15[3] to $0.25[4] per glass. The drink is sometimes adulterated by adding substances like jet fuel, embalming fluid or battery acid, which has the effect of giving the beverage more 'kick'.[4][5] Drinkers have suffered blindness or death due to methanol poisoning.[3] The water used to make the drink in illegal breweries is also often below acceptable health standards and sometimes contaminated with sewage.


  1. ^ "Kenya moves to end ban on chang'aa home brew". BBC News. 2010-02-10. 
  2. ^ "Chang'aa now legal but must be bottled". The Standard (Kenya). Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  3. ^ a b Harding, Andrew (2002-09-20). "Life after dark in Nairobi's slum". BBC News. 
  4. ^ a b "African Moonshine: Kill Me Quickly". The Economist. 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  5. ^ "Chang’aa - Jet fuel 'makes brew stronger'". News April 14, 2005. Retrieved 9 November 2014.