The name derives from Genkem, a brand of glue which had become the generic name for all the glues used by glue-sniffing children in Africa before the manufacturer replaced n-hexane in its ingredients in 2000.
In the book Children of AIDS: Africa's Orphan Crisis by Emma Guest, the making of jenkem is described: "fermented human sewage, scraped from pipes and stored in plastic bags for a week or so, until it gives off numbing, intoxicating fumes."
The process is similarly described in a 1995 IPS report: "Human excreta is scooped up from the edges of the sewer ponds in old cans and containers which are covered with a polyethylene bag and left to stew or ferment for a week."
A 1999 BBC article refers to "the dark brown sludge, gathering up fistfuls and stuffing it into small plastic bottles. They tap the bottles on the ground, taking care to leave enough room for methane to form at the top."
The effects of jenkem inhalation last for around an hour and consist of auditory and visual hallucinations for some users. In 1995, one user told a reporter it is "more potent than cannabis." A 1999 report interviewed a user, who said, "With glue, I just hear voices in my head. But with jenkem, I see visions. I see my mother who is dead and I forget about the problems in my life."