The Gyimah Institute of Viticulture & Enology Research (G.I.V.E.R.), Ghana, is a privately owned organization operating in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, specializing in viticulture and enology. Founded in 2014, G.I.V.E.R. is, in its founders’ words, the “catalyst of the pan-African vine and wine industry movement.”
Paul Ekow Gyimah and Sedinam Moyowasifza-Curry, G.I.V.E.R.’s co-founders, aim to establish a world-class educational, scientific research, and policy institute for the commercial cultivation of indigenous grapes and berries, foreign grapes, and hybrid organic juice and wine in Ghana and broader Africa.
According to the organization, its activities align with the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, “Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.”
In a recent interview with Oral Ofori, Founder and Editor at TheAfricanDream.net, G.I.V.E.R.’s co-founders discussed G.I.V.E.R.’s journey from establishment through leading the pan-African vine and wine industry movement.
Oral Ofori: How and when did you decide to start G.I.V.E.R. and the pan-African vine and wine industry movement?
Paul: G.I.V.E.R.’s inception occurred on New Year’s Eve of 2013 when Sedinam and I participated in a more than 100-year-old Moor-inspired Spanish New Year tradition by eating twelve grapes in twelve seconds, marking each New Year’s clock chime. Then, during Sedinam’s birthday breakfast celebration the next day, we talked over a bottle of organic grape juice in Torrance, California, about the grapes eaten at midnight.
The conversation turned to Ghanaian and broader African indigenous grapes and berries, vineyards, grape and berry based products, winemaking, and modern architecture. Sedinam recalled how a dear friend of her mother (Mrs. Annie Maude Curry-Locke) and superintendent of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday school, Mrs. B. Hayward, taught Sedinam how to grow organic grapes to make grape juice and wine for Communion when Sedinam was seven years old.
Sedinam shared with me a vision about having a retirement vineyard estate and winery business in Ghana that could provide a model for an industry of other African and African Diaspora-owned vineyards and wineries that use organic grapes.
Being an architectural designer, I asked Sedinam if I could design her Ghanaian vineyard estate and winery in a modern style; she agreed and suggested that I also build a retirement vineyard estate home for myself and my family in Ghana’s Volta Region. She offered me a position as Head of Architecture for Vineyard Estates for her business and industry vision, and I accepted. Sedinam agreed to start as Project Manager.
In 2014, we began a journey of investigation and discovery, which included attending vine and wine seminars and training; talking with vine and wine professionals within the value chain and other relevant businesspeople; exploring different aspects of vine and wine cultivation and production; meeting with friends, family, African and Caribbean government officials, and pan-African vine and wine industry movement supporters; taking several road trips to Mexico to visit vineyards, wineries, and wine bars; conducting regional soil testing in Ghana; starting to build our headquarters in Aspire, Kumasi; tasting wine from Black-owned vineyards and wineries; continuing research that we had begun on indigenous African grapes and berries; and conducting trials of growing hybrid grapes.
In this process, we found a lack of intellectual and organizational infrastructure for what we envisioned could become a pan-African vine and wine industry. As there was no organization with a mandate for the protection of indigenous African grape and berry varieties, the shaping of environmental and land use policies for African viticulture, as well as the certification, standards, quality control, research and development, and education and training for African vine and wine, we saw a need for such an organization.
We were also conscious of how the unification of the Wine Producers Association and the former Grape Growers League of California into a California educational and policy organization called the Wine Institute in 1934 helped catalyze the now world-renowned California vine and wine industry.
By the end of our first year, we made a strategic decision to start a similar organization before launching a Ghanaian vineyard estate and winery, as we felt that kindling the pan-African vine and wine industry would be to the greater long-term benefit of Africa and her Diaspora.
Oral Ofori: What are some highlights of what you have done so far?
Sedinam: We have had some incredible experiences over the past nine years. On November 28, 2015, Togbe Afede XIV texted me the name and mobile number of Osei Adza Tekpor VII, Paramount Chief of Avatime. This single act was the key that opened the door for G.I.V.E.R. to the Avatime Traditional Area.
Our first public event was introducing grape and wine products to the Avatime Traditional Council’s quarterly meetings in 2015-2016. In 2016, we also tested Avatime Traditional Area soils; made grape history by delivering grape stems that became healthy vine seedlings during the 2016 Amu Festival in Avatime; and met with agricultural professionals from Ghana’s three neighboring countries (Togo, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast) about the cultural relationship between their nations, grapes and berries, and mountain towns and communities, as well as what needed to be in place to set up G.I.V.E.R. in each of their nations.
G.I.V.E.R became duly registered in Accra, Ghana, on December 20, 2016. We launched Ghana’s first commercial vine nursery in the Volta Region in 2017, held a group retreat of our Board of Directors and Advisory Technical Board in 2018, and finished building G.I.V.E.R.’s headquarters in 2019.
In 2020, Paul joined the African American Association of Vintners, and we recalibrated and reevaluated the path for G.I.V.E.R. due to COVID-19, the government of Ghana prohibiting as a result of the epidemic the Soul to Soul 1971@50 large public gathering that we had planned that year, and the unfortunate passing of our executive secretary, Mr. Anthony Gyedu-Adomako.
In April 2021, we opened discussions with the Avatime Cooperative Farmers Association about mountain towns and community development, which led us to begin the Mountain Towns and Communities Design and Development Group. We also began a quarterly online team recruitment campaign and supported the development of the Home Gardening in Ghana Facebook group in 2021.
In 2022, we played a lead role in planning the visit of and hosting the Hon. Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, Ho’s West Constituency Member of Parliament when he visited the U.S. for 14 days, as well as hosting the First Virtual Pan African Vine and Wine (Eno) Industry Movement Summit and G.I.V.E.R. Involvement Forum online.
Paul: Currently, we are working on a historical, policy, and economic book as a guiding document for the keynote speakers, panels, scholarly debates, and workshops in the upcoming first Pan-African Vine and Wine Industry Conference and Investment Forum, which we are hosting online with the theme “Vine and Wine, Power & Culture: Grapes as a Powerful Crop for Africa and Her Diaspora’s Economic Success” from Thursday, December 7 through Saturday, December 9, 2023.
Over the past nine years, we have had the good fortune of working with a wide range of business and industry consultants who share our core values, all of whom we have met through friends and associates. We have also had the honor of being challenged, stretched, and inspired to grow as an organization by over 200 young professionals who have come through our system to receive vine and wine leadership preparation, hands-on administrative capacity building, and a in-depth insight into business and industry development.
We have enjoyed the process so far, are continuing to learn valuable lessons, and are are looking forward to the next phase.
Oral Ofori: Why did G.I.V.E.R. decide to base its start-up operations and launch the pan-African vine and wine industry movement in Ghana?
Paul: First, we both have roots in Ghana. I was born in Ghana, and my family is still there. When I was 14, while living with my grandmother (Maame Esi Gyimah) in Alla-Bar, Kumasi, I dreamt of becoming an architect and designing and building modern homes in Ghana. I’m blessed to have lived in several of Ghana’s regions due to my father’s (Lawrence Kofi Gyimah) work in Ghana’s banking sector, and I finished all my pre-university education in Ghana. Then, I came to the U.S. and attended university for architecture. I’ve designed and built several buildings in Ghana and across the U.S. Though I live in Southern California, I continue to call Ghana home.
Sedinam: Ghana is my second home. I have lived and worked there on and off since 1988 when I came to the country at 26 years old to support the Provisional National Defense Council by volunteering with the Ghana National Commission on Children (G.N.C.C.), where I used my experience as a fourth-generation farmer to support the G.N.C.C.’s work on nutritional enhancement products for infants and children. I have visited all of Ghana’s sixteen regions, and as Paul mentioned earlier, I also plan to retire in Ghana.
Paul: Aside from that, we found that Ghana’s climatic conditions are similar to the U.S. states of Arizona and California, which are top grape-growing regions in the U.S. Climate is arguably the most critical environmental aspect in juice and wine grape cultivation. Grapes can thrive in dry climates, cooler days, and hot nights. We identified potential regions in Ghana suitable for cultivating grapes based on soil testing and geomapping, as well as several grape and berry varieties that are indigenous to Ghana and currently grow there.
We also feel that Ghana’s tourism, business culture, export opportunities, and relative governmental stability make Ghana a natural place for us to base our operations and the perfect hub for what we envision will become the pan-African vine and wine industry.
Oral Ofori: What is your vision for G.I.V.E.R. and the pan-African vine and wine industry movement?
Paul: Our vision is to establish a flagship industry catalyst institute for indigenous, foreign, and hybrid varieties of grapes and berries for juice and wine plus value-added products produced in Africa and her Diaspora. We aim to identify all indigenous African grapes and berries and add them to existing resource maps of the continent. Additionally, we plan a meaningful role in helping create a solid domestic and international market for “Made in Africa and her Diaspora Vine & Wine” products and services.
As strong proponents of sustainability, we are committed to facilitating knowledge that will help emerging African grape and berry growers choose organic growing methods and promote rural, multigenerational, and environmentally sustainable vine and wine cultivation.
We are equally passionate about securing for Mother Africa a global position as the “Center of the World for Vine & Wine (Eno) Tourism,” with the widest variety of indigenous grapes and berries worldwide, including cultural festivals and celebrations that highlight indigenous grapes and berries.
Oral Ofori: Tell us how everything came together for you as co-founders of G.I.V.E.R. and the pan-African vine and wine industry movement.
Paul: In 2002, we met during a monthly volunteer meeting in Los Angeles, California, of the Culture Education Project, a program that Sedinam’s family was instrumental in starting and supporting under the umbrella of Teen Post, Inc., which was one of many “War on Poverty” U.S. Government-funded programs from the 1960s. We helped this program raise funds to support children from South Central Los Angeles and surrounding communities in traveling to their African ancestral lands. We found that we were both Nkrumaists and motivated primarily by human relationships rather than financial gain.
We had both been vegetarians as adults, had worked in vegan food establishments, and had participated in community gardens and the farmers’ markets movement. We also found that we both loved the Soul to Soul concert held in Accra, Ghana on Ghana’s Independence Day March 6th, 1971 and the associated documentary film, and wanted to see the concert reenacted. As you can probably imagine, we soon became friends.
Our friendship has led us to work together in several endeavors since then.
In 2003, we co-founded a Black-focused, non-profit organization in Southern California called California African and African American Heritage Preservation Society, which explored how the African and African American presence impacted the State of California’s cultural and economic development. With this organization we organized regular weekend travel tours, exploring historical and cultural sites in the state, including buildings designed by Black architects and Black-owned vineyards and wineries.
Sedinam: Then, in 2005, we worked together at I.S.A. Architect Incorporated in Gardena, California. From 2007 to 2013, we started and ran a private public affairs and relations business, Star Communications Consultancy Group, in Ghana and the U.S. As you know, in 2014, we started G.I.V.E.R. and the pan-African vine and wine industry movement. Finally, as mentioned earlier, we started the Mountain Towns and Communities Design and Development Group in 2021.
Our shared spiritual, ecological, and sociocultural values, as well as the spirit of our ancestors, invoke us to be aligned, engaged, and committed to being part of the relay thread that gave birth to the founding and shepherding of G.I.V.E.R. and the pan-African vine and wine industry movement.
Oral Ofori: How can interested individuals or organizations join or support your vision?
People interested in working with us can respond to our recruitment announcements on our LinkedIn Business Group Page. They can get a sample of our last recruitment announcement by clicking here.