In the searing heat that hits around 32 degrees Celsius along the lakeshore district of Karonga, a young man staggers home after gulping some locally fermented wine.
On his drunken way, he promises to come back for more at a joint selling the product. He sure does come back within 20 minutes.
“I am not yet done,” he said. “The wine here is so tasty; it is good wine.”
In Mlare Village, Karonga, a group of women and men is producing wine that is attracting praise from locals and foreigners in the district.
“We have many customers who visit here, some are nationals from Tanzania and Zimbabwe,” said Jackson Chilongo, chairperson of Twitule Wine Production Cooperative.
Established on 12 June 2012, the grouping has made significant strides in evolving from a mere community savings gathering into an enterprising entity whose products are now penetrating into other districts in the country.
Twitule produces wine from different fruits like banana, tamarind (Bwemba), mango, pawpaw, guava and baobab, among others.
Their production plant is a small room adorned with several plastic buckets with varied carrying capacity ranging from 20 to 40 litres.
The buckets save as both mixing and storage pots. The wine making process is not as simple as one would imagine.
Take the banana wine for instance. The first stage involves mixing water and sugar before addition of the banana fruit in the second stage, that is according to Benson Vyanitonda Kasimba, production manager for the cooperative.
After two days, there is addition of lemon for flavor and the mixture is left covered for fermentation process to take place.
“The length of the fermentation process varies. Some fruits take 14 days while others take 21 days depending on their acidity levels,” Kasimba said.
After the fermentation process, which is usually 14 days for most fruits, the mixture is sieved to remove sediments and get clear wine.
For Twitule, the lowest level of production between 14 and 21 days is 200 litres while the highest reach 400 litres within the same period.
The 200 litres is equivalent to 240 bottles of 750 mls and with each bottle goes at K1,500 as the factory selling price. The group makes a gross income of K300, 000 from that lowest level of production.
This wine is classified as special and can be bottled after six months of maturity without any expiry date before use.
The special wine is sold to those with the financial power to afford it and big customers include some bottle stores in Karonga, Mzuzu and other districts in the region, according to Elinesi Nyankhonde, marketing treasurer for the cooperative.
“Our wine has been to most locally organized national and international trade fairs where it has received a lot of praise,” Nyankhonde said.
The only problem is that their product cannot break international boundaries because it is yet to be certified by the Malawi Bureau of Standards.
Apart from production of the special and classic wine, the cooperative also produces local wine to meet the needs of locals with thin pockets.
The process of making this wine is the same; the only difference is that it has fewer ingredients compared to the special wine.
Perhaps it is the sale of this local wine that brings a constant flow of cash to the cooperative through a bar it runs at its premises.
“The local wine is sold at retail; 200 mls is K100 and on a single day the sales range between K15, 000 to K30,000,” said Nyankhonde.
The cooperative is thriving with wine production because of the comparative advantage in raw materials and location.
“The materials for making wine like most fruits are locally available,” said Nyankhonde adding that people in the district enjoy the wine because of its different flavors and varying prices.
“It is always hot here and most people would like to relax under a cool shade with a drink.”
Santiele Mwambero, 54, is a regular patron at Twitule Cooperative bar. He is one of the privileged customers that the cooperative turns to for wine tasting.
“They trust me, I give an honest assessment of the product. I taste most of the flavours but I love banana wine, it’s the best for me,” said Mwambero, a resident of Mchenjere Village in Traditional Authority Kyungu in Karonga.
For 44-year-old Phillip Chilongo from the same area, Twitule’s wine is so dear to him for a health reason.
“They produce good wine that when I drink, I wake up a very strong person the following day,” Chilongo said. “Wine is good for health.”
Under the inspiration of Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP), Twitule Wine Production Cooperative is now a grouping on strong financial footing.
As of December 2017, it had capital assets worth K10.5 million in shares, savings and loans. It has five shares at COMSIP Cooperative Union as its shareholding capital to the national body.
The wine making venture is helping in improving the cash flow for its 40 members who take turns in selling the product at the bar.
But for all its progress in wine making, the cooperative still faces some challenges.Packaging and labelling is one of the problems that is limiting the expansion of its market.
The cooperative is, however, addressing such a challenge by seeking certification from Malawi Bureau of Standards.
Absence of connection to electricity to power refrigerators for cool storage of the wine is also another problem.
But to most local clients in the area, such challenges count for nothing when a sip of classic wine hits one’s throat with a liberating taste.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :