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Uji Power: Traditional Drink Gaining Cult Following In Nairobi


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It is not uncommon to find men and women draped in expensive suits patiently slurping this potent drink at 7am on the streets of Nairobi Central Business District (CBD).

A few makeshift joints serving the special porridge somewhere along Ronald Ngala street have become something like a ‘religion’ – with customers stopping every so often to irrigate their throats with this special drink.

The drinking happens in the open – something that adds a traditional feel.

The porridge is served in artificial calabashes, but that does not take away the fact that it’s porridge.

Henry Karanja is a regular partaker of the drinks.

“I have been taking Uji Power since 2022. Once you start, you never stop,” says Karanja who works with a software company.

A well-shaken calabash of Uji Power costs Sh50.

Mama Muthoni who works at a joint that serves the drink says many people are warming up to it.

“Most people who come here have underlying health conditions that would not allow them to drink conventional drinks like sodas that are deemed to have a lot of sugar,” says Muthoni.

It takes a lot of skill and resources to prepare this potent drink.

“There is no one clear formula for making the uji. Different people tend to do it differently, but the ingredients are more of less the same, it’s just the mixing that differs,” says Muthoni.

According to Muthoni, some of the common ingredients used in preparing the uji include arrowroots, groundnuts (or peanut butter), milk, sweet potatoes, cassava, pumpkin seed powder, honey or sugar and milk.

A report by the Nairobi County Smart Survey Report 2020 indicated that persistent drought and food prices inflation during the past have led to increased food insecurity and likelihood of increased malnutrition rate in Nairobi.

Residents like Karanja believe that many working Nairobians have focused on work and forgotten how to eat well.

“Many people who work in these offices skip lunch because they cannot afford bus fare to town, and at the same time buy a meal. Some of them come here to drink Uji,” says Karanja.

Then there are those who carry it to their offices – as a substitute for lunch.

Many who spoke to Wananchi Reporting said that income from economic activities especially for people from informal settlements around Nairobi has decreased over the years – even as the cost of living continue to increase.

The result, according to Nairobi County Smart Survey Report 2020, has been high disease burden, food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition and mortality.

Meanwhile, residents of Nairobi are continuing to enjoy their powerful drink.


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