Andrew Mendes is an entrepreneur who brings a welcome change the extractive industries (logging and oil), which are becoming more unpopular due to environmental concerns. He is the Managing Director of Farfan and Mendes Ltd (FML – a family business in Guyana). When he joined it in 1992, it was a small concern, employing less than 20 people and known mainly for selling chainsaws to the timber companies, with an annual turnover of G$78 million. Today, because of his leadership, FML has business interests in not only forestry, but also in the mining, agricultural, and oil and gas sectors, and employs more than 370 people with an annual turnover in excess of G$5 billion.
David Andrew Mendes
FML competes locally, regionally and internationally with the Farfan & Mendes Group now comprising Mines
Services Suriname NV and two new ventures: Jaguar Oilfield Services and Panthera Solutions. Both have been built through smart partnerships with established global companies giving FML a strong foothold in the emerging oil and gas sector. This led to Panthera Solutions Inc. being the first Guyanese company to develop the capacity and work on the newly arrived Liza Destiny FPSO within two years of its incorporation.
The company is also making a name in the world of renewable energy. In 2019 it was awarded a $25 million government contract for the supply, installation and commissioning of solar photovoltaic systems for ICT hubs, installed the first private grid connected solar system at their offices at Providence, the first hybrid solar, generator and lithium ion storage system in the country, and has installed over 5 MW of solar systems countrywide.
The company operates one of the largest drip irrigation farms in the Caribbean as part of a seed nursery to develop new corn and soy bean varieties for the worldwide market in the intermediate savannahs of Guyana, employing140 people from the local communities there, mostly women. FML Group stands out as a benchmark company for the involvement of women in the workforce with over 50% of its managers being women, and have actively looked to widen the roles they play in the business by encouraging them to enter traditionally non- typical roles in the technician and service segments, including the offshore service industry.
As well as making his own family business a success, Mendes is a passionate advocate of corporate responsibility, high-quality customer service and products, and improving standards. He played the lead role in the development of a Code of Practice for Wood Processing in Guyana to improve sawmilling practices in the country, the first such code of practice in the world. He has also led by example, with FML’s forestry arm McVantage Guyana Inc (MVG), a partnership with American timber company McVantage, creating a landmark model of sustainable forestry in the heart of Guyana’s Iwokrama Forest that leads the country in productivity and quality. In 2016, the forest operation was awarded the prestigious and highly sought-after Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation. As an example of innovation, he developed a new bandsaw blade profile and ripping chain in cooperation with Woodmizer and Stihl to suit Guyana’s particularly dense hardwoods, as well as the company being used as a prototype testing facility for both companies’ products based on their proven technical competence and knowledge.
With the support of the Centre of Local business development, 3 out of 4 companies in the group achieved ISO Certification within 20 months of starting and developed a competent workforce of 24 employees certified to work offshore in their respective trades. With a focus on growth through a focus on developing people and partnerships, innovation and a long-term view, the company has built a sustainable growth model that positioned it well to meet the challenges in entering the Oil and Gas sector successfully.
In addition to his business ventures, Mendes is also passionate about education, sharing knowledge and environmental concerns. He has co-authored a book, From Cutting to Order to Cutting for Value – a Handbook for Chainsaw Millers. He has also written several publications for the European Union and the International
Timber Trade Organisation, relating to forest-sector development and enterprise creation. He has led hundreds of seminars and field training sessions to build local capacity in Guyana’s forestry sector – most conducted pro bono. In 2018 he supported the Government’s efforts to lobby the UK Environmental Agency to open their market to all Guyanese suppliers, even though his own company already had access due to FSC Certification.
Mendes has also participated in important research, such as the UK Department for International Development/LTS study on chainsaw milling and the EU’s chainsaw milling program, as well as fieldwork carried out by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Food and Agriculture Organization, GFC, and Iwokrama.
As well as giving back to his industry, Mr Mendes gives back to wider society – supporting various causes related to youth, community and conservation. As director of the Society for Sustainable Operating Strategies, he helped set up seven cottage industries and provided peanut butter snacks for 3,500 school children in Region 9 for over 7 years. He also supports the Caiman House Field Station, which conducts community-led research on the endangered Black Caiman in Guyana’s interior, and the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club Under-15 cricket team since 1992. He is an advocate and active in addressing alcoholism, drug abuse and mental health in the society through active support of groups that focus on these issues.