Better agricultural practices in Suriname lead to sustainable livelihoods

Better agricultural practices in Suriname lead to sustainable livelihoods

Suriname - 30 June, 2020

In a Saamaka Maroon village on the Upper Suriname River, the owners of a new agricultural cooperative learn that higher agricultural yields are possible with forest-saving agricultural methods. The idea is to scale up this good agricultural practice to more villages in the interior of Suriname.

Pikin Slee is a remote village on the Upper Suriname River, accessible only by boat and about two and a half hours from the closest settlement. The approximately 3,000 inhabitants are Maroons, descendants of slaves who successfully gained their freedom. They farm according to the slash-and-burn method, in which sections of forest are cut down and cleared by burning.

In February 2019, a number of locals set up the agricultural cooperative Hatti Wai in this village, with the support of Tropenbos Suriname, a number of ministries, students at Anton de Kom University, Cooperative Godo Bank, a marketing consultant and Wi! Uma Fu Sranan, an organization that encourages entrepreneurship among women, mainly in rural areas. Last year, the cooperative consisted of around 21 members: 10 men and 11 women. Because of this gender inclusive approach, both men and women have equal access to the supplies necessary to work in the fields.

The main goal of the cooperative is to improve the agricultural system. To this end, it has set up a one-hectare agroforestry demonstration plot, on which fruit-bearing trees have been planted as well as trees suitable for felling (for timber) or for organic material, which is used for mulching the soil. Agricultural crops are planted between and at the foot of the trees. Thanks to this new farming method, productivity has increased significantly.

The resultant surplus, in particular root crops and ginger, is sold at villages along the river and in Paramaribo. In the near future there should be a steady stream of products to sell in the capital. The income generated by the cooperative will be used to finance the sustainable development of the village.

Inland Suriname has about 160 Maroon villages and about 60 Amerindian villages. If good agricultural practices catch on in Pikin Slee, these new farming methods will be ready to find their way to those villages.

A problem that looms for many villages is that the inhabitants still do not have formal land-use rights. As a result, there is a risk that third parties will encroach on the land. For the villages on the Upper Suriname River this risk is palpable, because logging companies have established themselves right next to the territories of the villages. There is a draft law in the Surinamese parliament to give villagers formal land-use rights. 

Published in the Annual Report 2019

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