Assumpta Uwamariya makes wine out of beetroot and has become a sparkling role model for other Rwandan women.
The beautiful hill country of Rwanda is typically not known for its wine industry, but is reputed for its innovative entrepreneurs. And 30-year-old Assumpta Uwamariya is one such, making red wine from an unconventional source – beetroot.
Based in Rubavu district in western Rwanda, Uwamariya started off farming different types of vegetables, and at first, decided on making juice out of beetroot.
August 2015 marked the beginning of what she describes as a “tough journey”. She had no working space of her own and could only produce 20 liters of juice.
The turning point came in 2016 when she was chosen the best young innovator at the YouthConnekt Africa Awards, bagging $5,000. That enabled her to hire labor, buy new equipment and acquire more knowledge through training.
For a long time, she was making wine from beetroot but later, expanded production to also make wine from fruits such as pineapple and banana. Beetroot wine remains her principal product with the highest demand.
But it was a journey filled with impediments.
“For many, it was too good to be real and their assumption was that I imported [wine] from other countries and just packaged it,” she says.
Even more discouraging to her were comments that a woman had no place in the wine business.
“Money knows no gender. Is it profitable, am I passionate?” That is all that matters, she says.
“I was subjected to mockery from people who consider agriculture an area of the backward and the primitive.”
That didn’t dampen her spirit as she had already had a taste of the industry and knew how profitable it was. She says more young people should be encouraged into the sector.
“We recently went for a field trip to Kenya where a group of 80 young people traveled to visit industries with the government footing the bill.”
Uwamariya sees agriculture as the cornerstone of Rwanda’s economy.
“When you try agriculture, there’s no turning back. I also never thought I would stay in it this long but now I’m proud and determined.”
Her brand, Karisimbi Wines, is also available in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uwamariya’s aspiration is to expand the reach of her products across the globe in the next five years.
Prior to wine-making, she had tried her hand at various businesses. Today, she produces 300 liters of wine every week and has bigger ambitions.
The entrepreneur takes pride in having made money at a young age but her greatest satisfaction lies in showing others what young women are capable of.
“I believe that men and women are equally able and I think it’s high time people started to see that women can be broad-minded, self-reliant and visionary just like our male colleagues,” asserts Uwamariya.
The positive feedback from her consumers motivates and keeps her going in the face of challenges.
When asked what she would have done differently if she could turn the clock back, Uwamariya says she would have entered the agricultural sector even sooner than she did.
But she has invested her time well.
Get the best of Forbes Africa sent straight to your inbox with the latest insights and inspiration from experts across the continent. Sign up here.