Palm wine, an African beverage with a thousand virtues highly prized by Guineans

#Guinea : In Guinea too, palm wine, commonly called bandji, is very successful. In Dubréka, a town located just under 50 km from Conakry, there is a place that has the reputation of producing the best palm wine in the country.

In this locality of less than 200,000 souls, there are many bars dedicated exclusively to the consumption of this wine. On site, we meet Fodé Amadou Soumah, who says he takes the bandji “every morning”, “because it is very important for health”. Among other virtues that it lends to this beverage produced in the majority of countries south of the Sahara, there is in particular its orexigenic character, that is to say an appetite stimulator. It would also make it possible to “get rid of certain affections of the stomach and the digestive system”. But above all, the bandji would solve, in those who know how to take it in moderation, the problems of sexual impotence. In any case, this is what his followers support.

This alcoholic beverage, obtained by natural fermentation of oil palm or coconut tree sap, is now part of the cultural habits of several Guinean ethnic groups, informs Richard Léno, producer and seller of palm wine. “It’s our own custom, since our grandparents, the Bagas, the Lélés, the Kissis (ethnic groups from Guinea, editor’s note), we are all concerned with the bandji. It’s really sad to see young people indulging in alcohol and other narcotics. Otherwise the bandji is natural, you can eat it without constipation.

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When he talks about alcohol, Leno implicitly excludes bandji and only refers to beer or liquors imported from other continents. For him, as for so many others, bandji is not alcohol. However, this is indeed the case, because this drink contains an average of 5% alcohol, which is identical to that of beer and less than that of grape wine, which is 12%. This is why, with all due respect to beverage lovers, we must emphasize the danger of over-consuming it.

The danger is also for those who collect the sap intended to be transformed. Climbing these coconut trees several meters high entails risks, but Léno has learned to control them, despite the violent memories: “In these palm trees, it was God who saved me, because I fell from the tree at four times, but fortunately without fracture. Still, I did very well.”

Today for the operator and retailer of palm wine, also called white wine in Guinea, this activity brings in enough money. “When I started to harvest, the 20 liters were sold at 75 sily, it was at the time of Sekou Touré. Then in the time of Lansana Conté, the can rose to 2,500 Guinean francs. Currently, wholesale prices are 25,000 Guinean francs, for details 60,000 Guinean francs,” he explains.

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