By Alex Ashaba
Whenever there is a bumper harvest, the price of matooke reduces to as low as Shs1,000. During such seasons, farmers reap too little from huge banana plantations that require labour and some good money to set up.
It is this frustration that drove Devota Byaruhanga, 46, a resident of Bulyanyenje village, Central Division Fort Portal City to venture into making wine.
In 2017, she decided to stop selling her bunches of matooke cheaply and started adding value to them by making wine.
But as a novice, she needed to learn the process of making wine.
“When my uncle came and visited us, he came with wine and it was sweet. I asked him more about how wine is prepared and he told me it was made out of matooke,” Byaruhanga recounts.
She says she started marketing her uncle’s wine in her village, especially at parties and her uncle became a big supplier of wine.
Armed with a budding passion, Byaruhanga spent time at her uncle’s homelearning how to make wine. Byaruhanga says she was given a document on the whole process and her husband gave her startup capital of Shs1m, which she used to buy materials.
Her first trial of making wine, she says she made a loss of about Shs 1 million where about 5o jerricans of wine she had prepared failed to turn into wine because she did not follow the process. “My first trial of making wine was unsuccessful, about 50 Jericans of wine which I had prepared failed to turn into wine because I missed one step in the process. I had to empty all Jericans. I tried again,” Byaruhanga says.
To overcome that, in 2018 she decided to visit another wine producer in Mbarara for more knowledge and when she came back she had mastered all the processes.
She has now turned one of the rooms in the home into a store where she now has more than 30 jerricans ready for sale.
She says for one to venture into this business, jerricans, matooke, citric acid, sodium, sugar and bottles for packing are required.
But she is quick to note that even with all these materials, one requires patience and hardwork to thrive in this business because the process sometimes takes about 12 months.
She says from a bunch of matooke, one can get two jerricans of wine depending on its size and during lockdown she managed to make 30 jerricans of wine that are ready for sale.
Byaruhanga says she uses rudimentary means of making wine which makes the process longer and tedious.
“I use my hands and also getting daily customers is still challenge, before covid-19 I had picked market because many people had started making orders. Today, the sales are low,” says Byaruhanga
Her customers are people who organise weddings, introduction ceremonies and people within her community.
Byaruhanga says she sells each bottle of wine at Shs10,000 while a 20- litre jerrican is sold at Shs150,000. Before Covid-19 hit, when parties were many, she used to sell two jerricans every fortnight.
She has joined many saving groups and together with her husband, they have constructed rental houses from the wine business, started a piggery project, bought cows and paid fees for children.
Although the sales are currently low, Byaruhanga says she cannot fail to sell a bottle of wine a day.
She plans to expand her business by procuring machines to produce more wine and supply to shops and supermarkets in Fort Portal City. She also wants to build a wine factory.
Just like other wines, the more the banana wine ages, the better it gets. Once it ages well, you get a crystal clear, golden liquid with all finesse. Byaruhanga advises that it is better to keep wine in a dark place as it ages.