Perhaps you have seen, in one of the supermarkets or your favourite bar, a big and well-packaged bottle with an image of a pineapple and a glass full of red wine on it and labelled Vinas pineapple wine.
Well, it is made by a group of 25 young graduates from the University of Rwanda through their group known by the French acronym Cooperative Des Promoteurs de Development de Muhanga (Coprodemu).
Made up of 15 girls and ten young men, Coprodemu is based in the Southern Province’s Muhanga District, about 30 miles from Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
Scholastique Nyiramajyambere, the group chairperson said they came up with the idea of brewing wine after spending several months on the streets looking for jobs in vain.
“We conceived the idea out of despair. We had graduated but the jobs were not forthcoming. We then thought of coming up with a business idea. Wine brewing was something we all had in common,” Nyiramajyambere said.
The initiative to produce wine was also partly inspired by the government’s call for self-employment and job creation.
“We knew that most of the locally made wines were of poor quality. We, therefore, decided to have a unique wine product,” Nyiramajyambere said.
She said with Vinas wine, Rwandans can be assured of quality wine because it is made with fewer preservatives.
“There are no chemical products added. We simply ferment pineapples to have this product. That’s why it does not expire. The longer it lives the better it gets,” she said.
Apart from the packaging bottles that Coprodemu imports from neighbouring Kenya, the rest of the ingredients including pineapple, sugar, and fermenting ingredients are locally produced.
Emmanuel Hakizimana, the vice-chairperson of Coprodemu, told The New Times that it takes a month for Vinas wine to ferment and be ready for consumption.
Hakizimana is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Rwanda.
When The New Times caught up with Coprodemu members in the recently concluded Youth Connect national convention, there were a few bottles on display.
Pointing at the bottles, Hakizimana said the packaged wine would be 10 times better in quality and value in the next few years.
Coprodemu’s work was recognised by the Ministry of Youth and ICT among the top 30 innovative income generating activities by the youth in the country during the Youth Connect convention.
Vinas Pineapple wine has been on the market for the last three months following approval from Rwanda Standards Board (RSB).
Hakizimana who is also the main brain behind Vinas pineapple wine said availability of Vinas is still limited to Muhanga town though they are considering opening stores in the capital Kigali and other urban centres across the country.
He says Coprodemu has no external financiers, which is a challenge since members of the group do not have enough funds to purchase equipment to produce larger quantities of wine.
A single bottle of Vinas pineapple wine currently costs Rwf2,500 but the management of Coprodemu says the price would change in the future depending on the cost of production.
Hakizimana says the cooperative was recognised and recommended by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) to have 75 per cent of bank guarantee of up to $100,000 (Rwf68.8m) for expansion of their projects.
Coprodemu produces about 1,500 bottles of wine per month, but its members hope to increase production in the coming years after acquiring modern equipment. They also produce other products such as sweets, biscuits, cakes, and jams.