Ebesowàna Natural Foods: Andrew Campbell’s way of transforming the local food landscape

Andrew Campbell

By Lakhram Bhagirat

It is a fact that every fruit season we have tonnes and tonnes of fruits going to waste because of under consumption. In the Rupununi we have mangoes galore and every mango season we see pictures with hundreds of them just lying there, rotting.

On the coast, we have watermelons going bad because they do not sell as fast. We have pineapples becoming spoiled and banana just sitting there and getting black. It is not a case where we hoard these fruits rather a case where the demand for them in their raw form just does not coincide with the supply.

Birthed out of experimenting with dehydrating ginger, Ebesowàna Natural Foods has found a unique way to utilise those fruits that would otherwise go bad.

You must have heard about or seen some of the products from Ebesowàna Natural Foods whether it is pepper powder, the best ginger powder in the country or expertly dried fruits. Those along with rich dark chocolate are some of the products coming out of Ebesowàna Natural Foods and its mastermind Andrew Campbell.

Before we get into Ebesowàna and their products, let us learn about the man behind the idea.

Andrew was born in Santa Rosa located in the Moruca Sub-Region of Region One (Barima-Waini). He lived there with his grandparents up until he was seven years old and according to him, it was a great experience. He spent those initial years fishing in the savannah, roaming his community and having the best experiences.

“It was just like the total freedom, you know. We grew up probably just listening to radio. The first time I saw a movie was a school fair and the first movie I saw was Jungle Book. And, you know, that like really scary for me because you’re hearing well, in our community, the elders will talk about tigers, which is the Jaguars and the period that they would roam. My grandparents would talk about having everybody indoor early during that period. So, my experience seeing that and having to walk through like the jungle pathway to get home, that was a bit scary,” he recounted.

He remembered being a rather mischievous child always getting into trouble at school and home. His days entailed his grandmother running behind him in the savannah to discipline him for whatever trouble he got into.

He later moved from Santa Rosa to Timehri, East Bank Demerara (EBD), where his grandfather got a job on a chicken farm. There he was not only introduced to poultry rearing but also all forms of agriculture. Back in Moruca everyone had a farm, so Andrew knew a little about farming prior to moving to Timehri.

The then young Andrew would move again, this time to the city to live with his mother. They eventually constructed a home at the squatting settlement in Sophia, Greater Georgetown.

“We moved in there (at Sophia) that was like in December 2000. I can always remember that because it wasn’t a nice experience for me then because it was the first time I walked in like a real muddy place and falling down. I was wondering where my mom was taking me but, yeah, eventually that became my home until 2010,” he said.

After completing his secondary education at St John’s College, Andrew moved on to the University of Guyana where he read for a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in History with minor studies in Tourism. He graduated from the University in 2010 and then took up a teaching post at North West Secondary School, teaching History and Geography.

However, his impact went beyond the classrooms he taught in. Andrew got his students actively involved in sports and in the seven years he spent there, he mentored over 300 youths in the arena of football and hundreds more when it came to other sports. He was able to secure the necessary gears through funding and donation from his various networks.

“I saw my athletes representing Guyana at the Under 20 South American Games…I got whatever the schools need I ensure that they got the equipment. My mom she worked with various ambassadors and through her you know she provided linkages where I can seek assistance to get gears for schools,” he said.

Andrew, through the years, has also been involved in a number of archaeological expeditions in and out of Guyana. He worked on the archaeological and anthropological survey in Paramakatoi, the Siparuni Trail or the Old Indian Trail that was used for hundreds of years by Indigenous people. He worked on the Red House Restoration Project in Trinidad as well.

Ebesowàna Natural Foods

When he first moved to Region One for teaching, Andrew had to wait months before he could have accessed his salary so he needed to find alternative means of generating an income. Realising that there is a constant demand for ginger and the North West producing, hands down, the best ginger in the country, Andrew looked in that direction.

He began liaising with farmers there and ventured into the realm of supplying ginger to the city markets. However, that was not as profitable since there were issues with payment from vendors and other differences.

Eventually, he also acquired some lands in Region One where he farms as well.

In 2018, he was doing some voluntary work in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) when he got wind of a grant by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) so he applied. The grant was initially for US$3000 but the amount was reduced to include more beneficiaries. In July 2018, Andrew received the US$2000 grant and began experimentation.

He purchased a dehydrator, grinder and some packages to begin experimentation with dehydrating and grinding ginger. The equipment arrived in Guyana in September 2018 and the experimentation began.

After a few trial and error sessions, he got the hang of things.

“I find that I get the better grasp of things if I go into the practical mode first and then do the theoretical just reinforce everything. Yeah, you’ll make a few mistakes and stuff like that but it gives you like a form of understanding of the whole concept of the dehydrating. So, I read, I experimented and learned from errors and after two or three trials I got the best temperature to dry at, the period, how to stack the tray etc and the ginger was really good,” Andrew explained.

Soon, Andrew realised that he could dehydrate almost anything so he started the experimentation again. He ventured into dehydrating watermelons, pineapple and bananas and they were all big hits with his roommates and friends.

He researched every fruit and the best method to dehydrate them while retaining their nutritive value.

“You have to understand which is the best temperature to dry it because if you apply too much heat you would kill off all the nutritive value, the vitamins, everything that is nutritive that that particular fruit or food. If you try at a too low temperature, it may lead fungus developing so you have to know the technique which is best.”

It was not until February 2019 that he came up with a name for his business venture.
“Ebesowàna is a Lokono family name. It means to change and transform and the idea behind that name is to change the way we utilise healthy and organic foods in Guyana and to prevent the high level of wastage.”

Under the Ebesowàna brand, Andrew dehydrates watermelon, pineapple, mangoes and bananas which he packages and sells. He also processes ginger into power as well as a variety of peppers (scorpion, wiri wiri) into powder and flakes infused with citrus.

He has the capacity to process up to 4000 pounds of fruits and spices and is continuously growing his operation. Andrew sees his products as adding value and shelf life to quickly perishable goods while also transforming the way we look at the foods.

Chocolate making

In 2019 Andrew was in Trinidad when he met up with chocolatier Jill Lian Goddard who convinced him to get into the business. Goddard operates Sun Eaters Chocolate and is also a member of the Alliance of Rural Communities of Trinidad and Tobago (ARCTT) where communities engaged in chocolate making or agro-processing have self-control of whatever product they produce with 95 per cent of the generated income going back to the communities.

She encouraged Andrew to get into chocolate making using the same model as ARCTT. He was convinced at the end of their meeting and upon his return home ARCTT gifted him a concher while Goddard gave him a juicer to commence the process. He along with friends raised some funds and bought a tempering machine and some moulds.

He made his first batch of chocolate in July 2019 and it was “terrible”. It was a 50 per cent dark drinking chocolate, which was made to test the bean and sugar quality. He realised that the quality of sugar available in the supermarkets were not refined enough so he went to the source – GuySuCo and bought export quality sugar.

Andrew then started experimenting again and this time the quality was to his liking. At first, he had problems accessing beans but now the supply is constant.

The chocolate making process commences with the fermentation of the beans which takes a minimum of six days. After fermentation it moves into drying the beans and that can run up to two weeks depending on the weather. The next stage is roasting and that is critical to the taste of your end product. Over-roasting creates a bitter chocolate and under-roasting does not allow the cocoa fat – a critical component in chocolate making – to be released.

The cracking and winnowing process comes next where the cocoa nibs are released from their shells. The nibs are then conched for at least 24 hours to make the chocolate. After conching comes tempering and that gives the chocolate its sheen as well as stabilises the solids to it takes longer to melt.

Chocolate is expensive, time-consuming and laborious so Andrew’s main challenge is the cost of power as well the unreliability of GPL. He explained that if he is tempering chocolate – which is about 6 hours – and blackout comes he has to start all over which makes him incur additional expenses.

Andrew is also working with local farmers and providing them with cocoa seedlings so they can be able to supply him in the future. He is also working with communities to get them interested in the chocolate-making business.

Overall, Andrew is dabbling in every aspect of agro-business and sharing his knowledge for the betterment of communities. With a background is history, Andrew can talk for hours about the history of every ingredient in his products.

To contact Andrew, you can visit Ebesowàna Natural Foods Facebook page or call +592 665-8306.