The poster read: â€œStrictly no hawkers allowed in here.â€ This is at a doorway to a giant mobile phone company outlet, Simba Telecom, on Kampala Road
A sweaty hawker dressed in a dark blue apron with the inscriptions KCC, carries a black polythene bag over his shoulder. The man ambles past the warning sign, and I follow him.
He is given a tumultuous welcome. A crowd of beaming male workers forms around him. He rests his kaveera and stands with arms akimbo. Unlike other hawkers, he doesnâ€™t bother to advertise his wares.â€œMutembeyi, mpa yo charger.â€ (Hawker, sell me a charger) How can a person in a phone shop buy a charger from a hawker? I wonder. Curiosity keeps me eavesdropping and I listen intently to their conversation.
Shortly, the hawker pulls out a bundle of freshly dug up roots and and another item wrapped up in dry banana fibre. He hands the items to the men, who look not more than 30 years old. They pay and start nibbling at the roots, while others go for the contents in the fibres, which turn out to be roasted coffee beans. The women in the shop giggle, but the men ignore them.
I am later to learn that the items the men are chewing are local aphrodisiacs, which are believed to be the secret behind sexual prowess.
The search for that little â€˜love boostâ€™; dates further back in ancient times, according to mzee John Nsiyaleta, a 70 year-old man of Kimwanyi zone in Wandegeya.
He says that long ago, the coffee beans (emmwanyi empokota) were dried over the chimney fires and used in knoting blood relationships among the Baganda. They beans found their place in drinking places where elderly Baganda men savoured the beans. It is through tales from these men, that coffee beans came to be known as a cure for impotence.
The beans are not just found in backstreet shops, but are peddled along Kampalaâ€™s streets by vendors. They catch a number of customers in the traffic jam.
At your place of work, that vendor with these aphrodisiacs will be the first visitor in sight. Take a step out of church or the mosque, and you will see the same vendor selling his wares.
Why is there a sudden craving for local aphrodisiacs among the affluent youth in the urban areas? Do these things really work or it is just a fad in town where everyone doesnâ€™t want to be left behind?
Charles Nyombi, 27, a cashier with Cairo International Bank believes that aphrodisiacs perform miracles. He says that a mixture of roast coffee beans and omulondo is the only solution for â€˜one-minute menâ€™ (those who cannot sustain erections), a category he says he once belonged to.
â€œI have no regrets for using the local aphrodisiacs. Ever since that day I listened to Super ssenga, a programmes on Super FM, presented by Nalongo Katana, which discusses issues on sex and marriage,â€ he says.
â€œEvery morning I make sure I buy fresh roots which I take to work and chew while I work,â€ he says.
â€œIt performs wonders because I feel invigorated during sexual encounters, something that has made me a darling of the ladies,â€ he boasts. Adding that he has since passed on his secret to close pals who have seriously embarked on chewing the aphrodisiacs.
James Kirenda, 24, a second year Makerere University student of Botany and Zoology, chewed the omulondo root daily, before he enrolled at Makerere.
He was lured into the habit at 16, while at Busoga High, Kamuli and chewed the root because friends convinced him that he would amass a sex drive, which could turn him into a Don Juan of sorts.
â€œIt is true I have always eaten the omulondo root. However, if I am to be honest with you, I will tell you that I have never felt anything or experienced an increased sexual urge after eating the root.
Besides, studies on wild plants teach us that such aphrodisiacs are not suitable for certain people especially those with high blood pressureâ€ he explains.
What took you so long to abandon the root? I ask he replies instantly.
â€œLike cigarettes, these roots are addictive. You canâ€™t abandon them overnight. Besides the sexual hype, the root and the coffee beans exude a good aroma and are tasty. It is just like chewing popcorn, but I had to leave,â€ he says.
Ssenga Grace Kulabako, the leader of Ba Ssenga buladde, Herbal Research centre, said half of the male population in Kampala is soon becoming impotent and women need it too! Only ardent dedication to use of aphrodisiacs can help to revive sexual power, according to Kulabako.
â€œI am not surprised that many youth are obsessed with aphrodisiacs. Half the male population in the city is on its way to becoming impotent because they feed on junk food daily.
â€œBurgers and fries, oily chicken and chips create erectile dysfunction but many donâ€™t know. It explains why young men are visiting us daily for treatment.â€
She affirms that roasted coffee beans, taken alone or with a drink perform wonders for the men, and omulondo works for both sexes.
â€œCoffee beans boost blood flow and sustain an erection. The root taken with a mixture of other herbs helps to lubricate women who experience pain during sexual intercourse. They should, however, consult for prescription, she explains.
Whether or not it is a marketing gimmick by Kulabako and those in her trade to lure women to the herb, well a forester in the thickets of Botany, Maud Kamatensi Mugisha of the Department of Botany at Makerere University has more.
In a paper entitled: Women and Sexuality, which she presented at the Womenâ€™s Worlds congress 2002, after a research she conducted about sexuality among the women of Western Uganda, Mugisha highlighted a number of issues.
She claims herbs are a solution to womenâ€™s sexual performance and improving their libido, vigour and vitality.
She stated that the herb omulondo if combined with other herbs like prectanthus prostratus guerke commonly called Namubiru in Luganda and spathodea campanulata called Kifabakazi in Luganda helps women to reach orgasm easily. They also increase stimulation and vaginal fluids.
Mugisha, however, insists that herbs should be administered with great care or they could backfire on the users.
George Nsole Kasozi, a trained psychologist and avid Christian rubbishes the idea.
â€œThe mind is the most potent aphrodisiac,â€ he says.
â€œIt is very difficult to evaluate something one is taking because if you tell them that it is an aphrodisiac, the hope of a certain response might actually lead to an additional sexual reaction,â€ he adds.
He is, however, quick to add that a good diet, a good mental state plus regular exercises are far more dependable than using aphrodisiacs.
What do the vendors think about the aphrodisiacs? Enoch Kirimuttu, based in Wandegeya has the answer.
â€œTrading in aphrodisiacs is a gold mine. One is assured of a 100% profit mainly because of the high demand among the â€˜caposâ€™ (rich men)â€
â€œWe used to sell in slums at sh100 and sh200, for a pack of roasted coffee beans and omulondo respectively, but we have been forced to increase to over sh500 in some areas due to increased demand.
â€œI buy omulondo and Coffee beans of sh10,000 daily from Jubiliee Park and at the end of the day, I am assured of at least sh 25,000. Sometimes I earn sh30,000,â€ he says. The items are mainly brought in from Masaka and Mukono districts.
Satisfied couples and herbalist swear by aphrodisiacs. Cynics say that aphrodisiac are agents of poison and not passion.
Need a charger?