Analytical biochemist turns a Hobby to a LivelihoodJun 23, 2017
If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life - Marc Anthony.
This is the saying that Dr. Timothy Ngwira, an analytical biochemist lives by. He turned a wine making hobby into a recognized successful business. Starting in 1978, Dr. Ngwira would make wine to serve his guests at dinners and parties. The product then grew in popularity and receiving a lot of demand from colleagues and friends. However, production ceased in the 1990s when Dr. Ngwira moved to Namibia to take up the position of the first head of Food Science and Technology Department at the University of Namibia where he taught Fermentation Technology. This included wine making. Upon his return to Malawi, he still pursued his hobby and in 2006, he and his wife Margaret Ngwira registered Linga Fine Foods & Winery as a business entity.
Dr. and Mrs Ngwira are now the proud owners of Linga wines, Malawi’s own home to premium wines.
With an interest for exporting their products, the owners of the winery are now seeking certification for ISO 22000, the international standards for food safety management. ISO International Standards help businesses of any size and sector reduce costs, increase productivity and quality, and access new markets. For small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), standards can help to: build customer confidence that products are safe and reliable; reduce costs across all aspects of your business; and gain market access across the world.
Dr. Ngwira initially received preliminary training on the standard. This included basic requirements for companies to operate in environments that are compliant with minimum standards and got acquainted with planning for, operating and maintaining a food safety management system that consistently provides products that are safe for consumption. The facilities were then selected by Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS)for Technical Assistance to be delivered by International Experts under the
“Development of a robust Standardization, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM) Infrastructure” Project.
To improve the winery, Dr. and Mrs. Ngwira have made changes such as having meshed windows to prevent insects from getting in; having lab coats with zips instead of buttons because buttons often fall off and may contaminate the wine; they have introduced specific hygienic chemicals instead of “household chemicals” for the cleaning of hands, equipment and the working environment. They also proactively engaged their suppliers to initiate food safety activities from fruit farming, to the processes required to ensure a safe end product. The facility now has preventative maintenance programmes in place, effective product testing equipment as well as traceability data for the manufacturing of the product.
By September 2017 the company hopes to have implemented the standards requirements checklists and be certified by December. Standards make market access easier for SMEs. They can enhance brand recognition and give customers the guarantee that the products are tested, reliable; and the purchased product is of high quality.
After such improvements, the winery has already received several orders from major outlets in Malawi and the neighbouring countries including Zambia. “Our main market is Malawi but we are now exporting to the UK. Malawians who are living there are buying from us,” said Dr. Ngwira. “We now have an online store and we have received orders mainly from Europe and the United States of America.”
The winery is clearly penetrating new markets that have more stringent requirements and after full certification the ambition is to market the product even more aggressively for increased market shares. The winery boasts 8 different types of wines, all made from local fruits from different parts of the warm heart of Africa. Linga Fine foods and Winery is one of the beneficiary Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) of the SQAM project in Malawi.
The project aims to contribute to a more adequate, effective and sustainable National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) in Malawi in accordance with international and regional principles and practices (e.g. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC)), through supporting the enhancement of the performance of the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) and most importantly supporting the International Accreditation of the MBS. This will have direct implications in terms of benefits for Malawi enterprises through improved business services provided by the National Quality Infrastructure and reduced costs of product certification and indirectly, and in the long term, in terms of improved protection of consumer rights of Malawian citizens.
SQAM is being implemented by MBS with financial and technical support from the European Union (EU), the Government of Malawi, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
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