Friday, April 19, 2024
Home Change Makers How Nakabaale Brews Money From Gray Juice Bananas

How Nakabaale Brews Money From Gray Juice Bananas

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Umar Nsubuga

 When Livingstone Nakabaale talks about growing kayinja (gray juice bananas), one is inspired to invest in growing the crop. Commonly known by his pet name, ‘Omusajja wakayinja (man of juice bananas), he has added value to its growing, at Nakabale’s farm located in Kalagala, Nakaseke district.

On average, Nakabaale harvests two Elf trucks of kayinja every six weeks. However, the number of bunches increases depending on the season. A truck carries about 600 bunches per trip.

The juice can also be distilled to produce different spirits such as tonto, waragi, kasese or mandule, depending on the distillation technique and alcohol content of the final product.

Nakabaale and his workers peel the bananas and drop them in a wooden container that resembles a dugout canoe. He then cuts spear grass and adds it to the dug-out canoe’ bananas.

Nakabaale harvests two Elf trucks of kayinja every six weeks. Photos by Umar Nsubuga

He washes his feet and steps into the container full of soft bananas to start the process of squeezing the juice out of them.

Every step he directs at the mass under him merges the bananas with the grass. An hour later, the bananas look nauseating but Nakabaale’s friend says this is a good sign. 

“Somewhere below the ugly surface, every footstep is yielding juice,” he says.

All you see though is just small white bubbles foaming on the surface. Also, Nakabaale is sweating profusely.

Meanwhile, two things are happening on the side. In a nearby kitchen, someone is grinding roasted sorghum on a stone. On the other side of the village, somewhere in a valley, some young boys and girls are drawing water from a well.

Nakabaale later pays them with ample amounts of banana juice and they seem to think it is worth their labour. The creamy juice is soon fetched out of the container.

It is at this point that the water is added in the canoe. Squeezing continues after this until the water has fully washed out the sweetness from the grass-banana mixture.

Nakabaale then goes about mixing the watery juice with the creamy one in pots and source pans.

After the squeezing process, the canoe is placed in another oblong pit lined with the residue of the grass and banana mixture. Nakabaale, his workers and friends pour the juice into the canoe mixed with sorghum and cover it (canoe).

Peelings of banana stems are used to cover the mouth of the canoe. The banana residue is added on top and the sides for fermentation to take place.

The following day, around 20 hours later, the contents have transformed into a highly intoxicating drink called tonto, hours before the tonto is harvested, buyers begin to arrive from nearby bars with their containers.

How waragi is brewed

Waragi making involves a crude form of the fractional distillation procedure encountered in chemistry laboratories. After fermentation, the alcohol with a significant water content in the metallic container is heated, and condensed by cooling, to give a clear distillate (waragi) tapped into jerry cans.

“Three basins of molasses are added to three jerrycans of salaala plus three-and-a-half jerrycans of water, which are then mixed and left for three days.

After that four jerrycans of water are added for the distillation process, releasing about 10 litres of enguli. With dilute molasses, fewer litres of booze are obtained,” Nakabaale explains.

He says the brewer can tell that the waragi is ready when the metallic container starts releasing vapour on heating up.

“Each jerrycan costs sh150,000,” he says. 

If he processes juice, one bunch can produce at least three litres of juice. In Kampala, a litre of banana juice costs between sh3,000 to sh4,000.


“My greatest achievement is saving on food. I do not buy any food for my employees and family. I am also able to cater for other needs of my family and staff without struggling,” he says. 

The kayinja project is Nakabaale’s other achievement. “My years of hard work and research have not been in vain. I hope to empower more farmers in the same industry,” he adds

Nakabaale employs five permanent employees and 10 casual labourers. He spends around sh1m to pay their salaries every month. He is acquiring more land to expand his project. 

Nakabaale has two wives and all his children go to school. “I constructed two homes and rentals. My children are in good schools and some have graduated.


Nakabaale says there is still room for improvement. He explains that if more farmers take up growing kayinja commercially, then they can consider setting up a juice processing unit in the area. 

“Whatever I process using my crude ways is taken immediately. However, if we had larger numbers growing it, we would produce much more and even add value to the product,” he says.

Nakabaale is challenged by the fact that he did not attain formal education. When his children are not home, he cannot communicate in English with customers who do not understand his local language — Luganda.

How to grow ‘kayinja

Controlling weeds in the first year of planting is important. Once the plants get enough leaves to completely shade the ground, weeds become less of a problem and mulching can further control the weeds.

Weeds can be pulled by hand or weeded with a hoe. Hand or hoe, weeding can either be carried out independently or combined with chemical weed control. For example, ring or row weeding of the banana plants can be followed by a herbicide application on the remaining weeds.

Chemical weed control is less labour-intensive, provides longer control and is faster than hand or hoe-weeding. Chemical weed-killers are applied using a knapsack sprayer.

If a contact herbicide is used, precautions must be taken to avoid it drifting onto the bananas. Spraying should be done on a day without or with slight wind.

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