Ethno Lab

Dipo Nazzigala (I Closed the Depot): Addiction and Recovery in Kampala

China Scherz, George Mpanga, and Sarah Namirembe

in collaboration with CBS Radio Buganda 89.2FM, Kampala, Uganda 

About the project

Dipo Nazzigala (I Closed the Depot): Addiction and Recovery in Kampala is a twelve-part Luganda language radio program about addiction and recovery produced in collaboration with CBS Radio Buganda 89.2FM in Kampala, Uganda.  The stories told in this radio series were drawn from a four-year collaborative research study of alcohol related problems in Uganda.  The study was carried out by China Scherz, George Mpanga, and Sarah Namirembe and was funded by the University of Virginia, the National Science Foundation in the United States (BCS-1758472) and approved by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology. The study focused on the techniques Ugandans living in the suburbs of Kampala use to respond to cases of problem drinking. 

Image of a poster with a liquor bottle and the text "Trapped? There is a way out. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous"

            While approximately 58 percent of Ugandans claim that they abstain from alcohol entirely, the WHO estimates that those who do drink have an exceptionally high estimated per capita consumption rate of 23.7 liters of pure alcohol per year.  Over the course of four years (2015-2019) Scherz, Mpanga, and Namirembe sought to learn about alcohol use and the ways that people attempt to resolve situations of problem drinking.  Some of these people sought help in formal drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and Alcoholics Anonymous support groups.  Given the relatively recent introduction of Western ideas of alcoholism and addiction in Uganda, most people sought help for their problems outside of the formal medical system.  They visited herbalists to buy herbal emetic therapies.  They made offerings to the lubaale spirits in the shrines of basamize. They prayed for deliverance in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. 

            In addition to more traditional academic writing, the team has worked with CBS Radio Buganda 89.2FM, to produce a 12-part radio program in Luganda to share the study’s findings with Ugandans who may be struggling with alcohol related issues in their lives, families, and communities.  Central Broadcasting Service [CBS] radio is owned by the Kingdom of Buganda and is the biggest Luganda language broadcaster in the world. Dipo Nazzigala (I Closed the Depot): Addiction and Recovery in Kampala will be aired on its youth oriented station 89.2 FM.  The program will be presented by the musician and activist, Titi Tabel, during her popular weekly call in advice program.

Photograph showing a collection of clay bottles standing upright underneath a canopy of wires and lightbulbs

            By telling the stories of twelve of our study participants in this format, they hope to 1) offer a sense of possibility to Ugandans who may want to change their relationship to alcohol, 2) expand awareness of and respect for the possibilities for help that already exist within Ugandan therapeutic repertoires, and 3) affirm the importance of social support in processes of change.  The radio program will consist of twelve 15-20-minute episodes in Luganda.  Each of the episodes will feature an anonymized first-person narrative and will also include time for an audience call-in segment.  CBS Radio Buganda has agreed to provide us with recordings of the episodes, and these will be archived, both in Luganda and with an English language voice over, on the website to be built by Nomi Dave.    

China Scherz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. She specializes in medical anthropology, the anthropology of ethics, and the anthropology of religion.

George Mpanga is an independent researcher living in Kampala.  He has a BA in Social Work and Social Administration from Kampala International University and has collaborated on several other anthropological and historical research projects.  

Sarah Namirembe is an independent researcher living in Kampala. She has a BA in Community Psychology from Makerere University and is one of the founding members of Recovery Uganda.