BANANA WINE is probably not something you’ve ever considered but it happens to be a best-selling product in Rwanda. And it just may be coming to America. Winemaker Christine Murebwayire has turned her fermented banana juice into a national brand, but she has her sights set on expansion beyond the east African nation. Following the death of her husband, and in need of a way to support her four children, Murebwayire started the business back in 2OO4, with just $2OO. Equipped with a family recipe for banana wine a popular drink widely brewed at home in Rwanda “ì she and three business partners launched Coproviba. The wine was made the traditional way, ripening bananas by burying them underground in banana leaves for four days, then squeezing them by hand and fermenting the juice for two days before bottling. These days machines do the squeezing and the wine ferments for two months, but it still has the same brownish, milky appearance and banana taste.
Achieving success has been an uphill climb. Murebwayire says she faced hostility as the first woman in the country to run a banana wine business. But perseverance has paid off as Coproviba produces 29,OOO bottles of Ibanga banana wine a week, sold mainly in Rwanda and to neighboring Tanzania for around 4O cents a bottle. The company has an annual turnover of around $125,OOO which in Rwanda is enough to employ 32 people. Murebwayire says her wine has attracted interest from importers in the United States, where a Florida winery already produces banana wine. But the importers decided the quality of her bottles “ì recycled beer bottles “ì was not good enough so they are working to fix that. Meanwhile, Murebwayire focusing on growing the business closer to home then looking back to the US.