Christine Murebwayire’s husband died in 2003, before then she was told to quit her job in order to cater after the children and be the home keeper. Little did she know that death is imminent. After his death, Christine finds life so difficult that she hangs around looking for daily bread in Kigali.
With no options left, Christine decided to start farming. She attended a short government agricultural course that encouraged small-scale farmers to form cooperatives. After the course, she started speaking to members of the community about raising cooperative funds for the production of banana wine.
She stated, “Out of that I convinced three men and one woman, and when they asked me how much we needed to get started I told them it was 300,000 Rwandan francs. I didn’t know how to make a business plan… They gave me 160,000 Rwandan francs thinking I was just going to eat the money and do nothing.”
Eventually, Christine started growing bananas from high-yield varieties after which she processed into wine and sold to local bars. The numbers of her investors increased shortly after the commencement of the business. “We made more profits and members of the association became more interested. They found things were really moving quickly and what they did was shift to selling our local banana wine in bottles. Then Rwanda government got interested in us and started inviting us to attend training on banana wine and processing. From there we started aggressive marketing for our banana wine brand” she added.
Christine is now the founder of Co-operative de Production du Vin de Banane (Coproviba) which has grown to 28 members. The co-operative produces 5,000 crates of its Ibanga banana wine brand per week, with a 320ml bottle retailing for 400 Rwandan francs ($0.50) which is supplied to groceries and superstores in Rwanda. She said, “We have now bought new machines, and we want to increase this by around 4,000 crates per week in December.”
The co-operatives have started exporting 20% of the banana wine brand to the east African markets Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Christine next move is to capture the US market.
The co-operative also produces fruit juice and banana fibres, which are used to manufacture textiles. The fibre is currently sold to an organization that produces sanitary pads from the banana fibres.
Christine business has gained recognitions and awards from different parts of the world. She’s currently the chairperson of the agriculture and livestock chamber at the Private Sector Federation in Rwanda. Christine now has a certificate in development studies.
Big Christine affirmed, “The big lesson I learned here is to never give up and secondly to overwork work beyond the hours. When your business starts growing you can slightly reduce your hours, but make sure you still give it your full time.”
“And I am not even shy to say that agriculture can change lives,” she finally added.