It may be one of those less-fancied non-alcoholic drinks in the world, but to Jane Josamu of Ntandire in Lilongwe, locally brewed thobwa will remain a gold mine. It has earned her both a livelihood and reputation in the recent past.
Josamu, who comes from Mulanje, moved to Lilongwe five years ago.
She switched from mandasi to thobwa after she seeing other women making a killing with the brew.
“My husband is working in Blantyre, but having seen that any business can flourish in Lilongwe, we agreed that I stay behind. Now, we have managed to acquire a few household items, including a bicycle,” said Josamu.
She learnt how to prepare thobwa from her mother, but she never thought it would be the kind of business that would change her life.
“The way I prepare thobwa is very simple because I mix maize flour porridge with sorghum flour and boil the mixture for several hours. After the mixture has cooled that is when I put it in plastic bottles ready for the market,” said Josamu.
On a good day, she packs 50 bottles and sells each at K50.
“These days I also sell water in plastic bottles, but since the start of the rainy season, not many people buy water but thobwa because it is an all season commodity,” said Josamu.
She boasts that selling thobwa is more lucrative than soft drinks because people are now conscious of their health.
“Thobwa is a wholesome drink. When you drink it, it’s like you have taken porridge and you don’t easily feel hungry,” said Josamu.
She adds: “Most of my customers are low and middle class citizens but sometimes people in posh cars stop to buy. This shows that people know the importance of this drink.”
Her main challenge, though, is lack of enough capital which could enable her to stock maize bags for the lean season of January, February and March.
Going forward, she plans to buy a plot where she can build a house for the family.
“These small businesses might not look attractive, but they are lucrative. What I do is much better than going out drinking and sleeping with other men for money. I encourage other women to venture into small-scale businesses because they will be empowered,” advises Josamu.