A teacher more known for making wine from pineapples

In his Kasaayi village in Mukono District, Mathias Ssekindi, a primary school teacher at Wabirongo COU Primary school in Kayunga District, he has been nicknamed “Kasaayi wine”.

According to Ssekindi, he got this nickname from the pineapple wine, which he makes. “It is because of that name, that I am better known here as a wine maker than a teacher,” he explains. But Ssekindi, who has been a teacher for more than a decade, says the hardships as a teacher forced him to find ways of supplementing his salary.

“I was earning a salary of Shs72,000 in 2001 every month. From this money I rented a small room in Kangulumira trading centre, where I lived with my family,” he recounts, adding “Every morning I rode a bicycle to my work station about six kilometres away.”

Start saving
Since he was spending his salary on rent, food, medical care and school fees for his child, he was not making any savings at the end of every month. This, he says, compelled him to join the MukonoKayunga Sacco so that he could begin saving with a hope of starting a farming project. The Sacco was formed by teachers in the district to pool their resources together so that members can borrow it to invest in income -generating activities.

In 2002, the 38-year-old teacher joined after being told about the benefits he would get. When he joined, he started saving and five months later, he applied for a loan of Shs250,000. Compared to his salary of Shs72,000, this money was good enough to start. He says he wanted to use the loan to buy coffee husks to put in his half-an-acre pineapple plantation on the land he was renting in Kangulumira Sub-county.

Initial investment
The plantation had about 7,000 pineapple plants, which were not growing well due to the limited soil fertility. Because of this, he says he had to apply coffee husks to boost the fertility.
His decision to grow pineapples was after he discovered that they not only grew well but also had a ready market. The husks boosted the growth of the pineapples from which he got good yields after two years.
“Traders from Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania and Kampala had set up pineapple buying centres in the area where I and other farmers sold our fruits and got paid in cash,” he says.

From this, Ssekindi earned Shs5m and used part of the money to service the loan and pay for labour.
Since he wanted to expand on the acreage, he got another loan of Shs1.3m which he used to rent one and a half acres. He used some of the proceeds on coffee husks and used the rest plus the savings he had made with the Sacco to buy land in Kasaayi village, where he later constructed a home.

Unfortunately, by the time his pineapples were ripening, the price had gone down since many farmers had started growing pineapples. For instance, a big pineapple which was initially going for Shs800 was at Shs400. The drop in price frustrated him and he almost abandoned the enterprise since he was making losses.

But he had heard, through the church, about how Caritas was equipping people in Lugazi Diocese with modern farming methods including how to add value to their agricultural produce. Through the training, he discovered that from five pineapples he would earn Shs100,000 when he made wine out of them compared to Shs2,500 by selling them as fruits.

Better with time
After the training, he put into practice what he had been taught. “Since I spend all week days at school, I decided to carry this out during weekends and holidays, when I am free,” he says.

Since Ssekindi had no money to buy the equipment used in wine making, he resorted to using locally available materials such as plastic jerrycans and a mortar. He uses the mortar to crush the pineapples to extract the juice. He also bought yeast, which helps in fermentation as well as sugar and citric acid, which helps in preservation of wine.

“I do all the work of making wine with my wife and I have turned one of the rooms in my house into a store for the wine,” he says adding, “But with time as I get more resources, I plan to construct a house, which will house the processing plant as well as the store,”

Given the three years he has been doing this, his product is getting better with time. He explains that wine is ready for sale from one month to a year or more but says most of his customers prefer wine which is between one to three months old.
He sells a 20-litre jerrycan of wine at Shs100,000 and a half a litre at Shs2,000. In a week, he says he makes 15 jerry cans of wine depending on the availability of pineapples and other additives.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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