Brian Allen, Brigham Young University
Africa has seen increased alcohol consumption and public health problems and alcohol has been identified as the ÛÏleading contributor to the burden of disease in Sub-Saharan AfricaÛ (Limaye et. al. 2014). Malawi, a small, landlocked country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is at a pivotal moment with potential for progress as it just passed a National Alcohol Policy through Parliament this March 2017 (Malawi 2017). Much of the alcohol produced and purchased in Malawi is done through the informal economy, with women typically brewing alcohol as a means of economic sustainment. The Malawian policy document admits that ÛÏthe informal production of alcohol offers huge health risks as it is hardly monitored to assure quality control in terms of alcohol volume and amount of impurities (Malawi 2017). Informal alcohol is often difficult to track, and the World Health Organization has little information on the production and usage of informal alcohol. The WHO stresses the importance of further study to understand both the composition and production of informal alcohol, along with its regulation, both legally and culturally, in low-income countries (Limaye et al. 2014 & WHO). As little research has been done with traditional brewers as the target population, I conducted interviews the summer of 2017 in Dowa District, Malawi, with 20 traditional brewers. This number constitutes the largest number of brewers interviewed in any research endeavor. I partnered with two local Malawian NGOs, The School of Agriculture for Family Independence and Drug Fight Malawi for local expertise advise and logistical assistance. The interviews included both quantitative and qualitative questions and was focused on understanding the components and brewing process that traditional brewers utilized. Other interview sections included alcohol selling, community alcohol usage, and personal/family alcohol consumption. This research found patterns in both alcohol production and consumption in this area of Malawi, granted understanding about the community position of local brewers, and identified local brewers as a key stakeholder in the attempts to stem the harmful effects of alcohol use.