Our stories ... ...
Suriname - 11 December, 2020
Vanessa van Hetten - Communications officer, Tropenbos Suriname
Taking part in the storytelling training in June 2020 run by RNTC Media Training Centre as part of the GLA programme, inspired us to share research-based information from Tropenbos Suriname projects. This enables us to connect with our audience on a more personal level. We decided on sharing the story of agricultural development in Pikin Slee village, in the Upper Suriname River area, to demonstrate the benefits of agriculture to other villages in the region and promote the involvement of youth. This story also motivates the other villages of the potential benefits for their communities if they adapt new farming techniques.
Villages along the Upper Suriname River have different forms of land use. This area is historically managed by traditional authorities of Saamaka maroons (descendants of Africans in the Americas who formed settlements away from enslavement).
Villagers are engaged in agriculture, hunting, fishing, collecting forest products and medicinal plants, small-scale logging, and tourism. The forest is also important for their traditional culture and rituals. The Saamaka community is spread over more than 60 villages along the river, and Pikin Slee is the second largest of these villages.
To further develop sustainable agricultural development in the village, the Hatti Wai cooperative was formally registered in February 2019, the name meaning ‘being satisfied with what we have in life’. It started with 14 members, mostly male, but many female members joined later.
After the storytelling training, we were eager to get to work on telling the story of Hatti Wai, but Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions delayed our visit. Between June and August, four sessions with our coach Alejandro Escobar, helped us to develop the written story as a basis for a short video. We contracted a camera crew and discussed what we wanted. In October, we were allowed to travel, and spoke first to the local authorities about our plans. At the end of November, we returned with the camera crew for filming, involving some tough journeys through the village and forest to shoot specific scenes.
The people we wanted to interview were nervous in the beginning, but they opened up quickly when filming began. On the last day of the shoot, we showed them the raw footage – and the expressions on their faces was a film in itself! Their happiness in seeing themselves on film made us forget the 15 km journey we made through the village and forest in 36 hours on foot. After seeing their interviews, they felt much more motivated to continue their individual tasks in the village and to collectively work together towards creating new opportunities for their community.
The scenes are currently being edited and a first draft of the video will be ready before the end of December.