Eric Kubo, 74, and his wife Margaret, would still be earning less than Shs5,000 for a bunch of matooke had they not been introduced to wine making. The couple, both farmers in Katojo parish, Bubaare Sub-county, Mbarara District got an opportunity to learn how make wine in 2005.
They were selling 50 bunches of matooke from their seven-acre banana plantation monthly at between Shs2,000 and Shs3,000 each. Given the labour input, they were making enough profit.
But they were to get lucky while attending a campaign meeting at the sub-county headquarters when Margaret got an opportunity to know about wine making.
“The candidate for (Kashari) MP seat then, decided to link voters with experts in wine making, mushroom growing and apiary. We choose wine because we had a lot of bananas and were linked to trainer from Bushenyi,” she says.
The trainer would travel to the couple’s home located six miles on Mbarara-Bushenyi road until they had mastered the art of making wine. “In 2006 we started making wine. We would get wine worth Shs160, 000 from a bunch of bananas that we used to sell at Shs2,000,” says Kubo.
To meet the right standards, they involved National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to monitor and guide them so that their product is accepted on the market. They await a final certificate allowing them make wine when they complete the winery. They have already set apart Shs20 million for setting up the winery expected to cost Shs50 million.
Getting it done
Currently, they are using saucepans, plastic drums and jerrycans in making and storing the wine.
Kubo says that for each production they use 20 bunches of matooke. They put each in a sack and place them on a rack above the fire place. After four to five days the matooke ripens. The jackets are removed and the bananas are weighed before they are put in a saucepan. The weight guides on the volume of water to use in boiling.
The bananas are boiled until they turn into juice. The juice is then sieved before it is put into containers and other ingredients such as yeast added.
It is stored into plastic containers to ferment until it turns in wine. “You have to exercise high level of cleanliness. You have to sieve that juice very many times to make sure there are no particles. UNBS emphasises high level cleanliness of the materials you use. Your product cannot be allowed on the market if you are not clean,” says Kubo.
Top banana handling tips
• Bananas ripen best if they are picked when green.
•To ripen faster, put them in a sealed container—ideally a brown paper bag. Adding another fruit to the container (such as an apple or even a tomato) will further speed the ripening.
• If you put a banana in the refrigerator, the peel will turn dark brown or black, but it won’t affect the fruit inside.
Reaping from his sweat
Their product Kaka Sweet Organic Wine is packed in 750ml bottles and supplied to supermarkets and shops in the western region. Individuals flock the home to buy. Those who have parties also buy in 20 litre jerrycan. The 750 ml bottle is sold at Shs10,000 while the 20 litre jerrycan at Shs200,000.
“Once you put the wine in bottles, you have to wait for eight months before selling it. The longer it is kept the better it becomes,” says Kubo.
The couple has a machine for sealing the bottles. They buy labels and empty bottles from Kampala at Shs1,000 each. They employ five people to squeeze juice out of bananas.
“Making wine is tasking but you earn more money than someone who has sold bananas. The businessmen make more money from the bananas than the farmers,” says Kubo.
Kubo who is a retired government driver started with one acre of banana planation but currently has seven. He is also a dairy farmer with both exotic and local breeds. He currently sells 60 litres of milk daily. He has more than 80 goats, gardens of passion fruits, tomatoes and guavas.
How to make banana wine
Step 1. Ripe bananas are peeled and put in plastic barrels filled with water.
Step 2.The barrel contents are then pressed (mashed) and banana mash transferred to large metal pots and boiled for several hours, forming a base of juice and pulp.
Step 3.The boiled banana mash is strained and sugar added to the left over juice and boiled again.
Step 4.The boiled juice is left to cool.
Step 5.Wine yeast is added to cooled, sweetened banana juice and placed in plastic fermentation tanks for 15 to 20 days, depending on product.
Step 6.The fermented liquid is diluted with sterilised water, bottled and then packed for distribution.
Did you know?
Banana wine has a long history and a rich cultural significance in East Africa, Central America, South India and the Philippines. The distinctive sweetness and tropical notes of the wine give even the most seasoned wine expert a completely new tasting experience.