Forestry & Agriculture in Suriname: hardly regulated mining, lumber and agriculture activities cause environmental deforestation and degradation of ecosystems

Approximately 90% of Suriname’s land area is covered by (primary and secondary) forests. Due to this abundance, many people would say that deforestation does not pose a heavy threat to Suriname. As of yet, I would say! The ever growing exploitation of natural resources, especially of bauxite and gold mining, as well as urbanization are both causing continuous deforestation. Since no law obliges neither the mining companies nor the small-scale miners to engage in reforestation and mining site rehabilitation after mining operations, mining sites are usually left in horrifying states of destruction with soil and waterways degraded. (Only the multinational companies would follow their own – voluntary! – Corporate social responsibility programs, standards and objectives. How or if nature will reclaim its original state in decades to come, or if professional eco-engineering will be required, remains to be seen.

Degraded area after small-scale mining operations (Source: WWF Guianas)

Mining is causing deforestation in many areas of Suriname  (Image Source: WWF Guianas)

Lumber industry is a growing business, since Suriname’s forests are home to many exotic wood species quite demanded in the developed world. But even less valuable wood has been exported a lot in order to produce simple pallets. Many Chinese companies have opened wood factories and export companies. Wood has been exported (especially to Europe and Asia) for a long time in logs only, but recent changes in regulation by the government have increased prices for wood exploitation and give thus incentives to process wood in Suriname rather than to just export logs.

Trees in Suriname

Trees in Suriname

Despite its large territory and favorable climate, Suriname produces little agricultural produce and is thus far from achieving food sovereignty. The most fertile areas are found on the coastal plains, particularly in the West around Nickerie. Rice is the dominant crop followed by bananas as well as other perennial and semi- perennial crops (palm oil, sugar, citrus fruits, etc). Use of pesticides and fertilizers is not regulated. In Nickerie I have been told about huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the fields, making it impossible to grow any other vegetables in the vicinity.

One of many, many rice paddies in Nickerie, Western Suriname

One of many, many rice paddies in Nickerie, Western Suriname

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Organic tea farm “Pikin Sranan”, Lelydorp, Suriname

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My first visit and interview for my blog brought me to the organic farm (“biofarm” in Dutch) and beautiful gardens of Mr. Dennis Tauwnaar and his organisation “Pikin Sranan” (which means “Little Suriname” in Sranan Tongo, besides Dutch probably the most spoken language in Suriname). Here in this little paradise, about 45 minutes south of Paramaribo, Dennis- with the help of two other women – is growing a large variety of tea trees and is processing their leaves into several kinds of organic tea.

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In order to give interested people the opportunity to visit his farm, Dennis regularly offers a guided tour through his farm, followed by a healthy, local lunch. On this morning I am thus listening to the explanations and stories of Dennis, surrounded by 16 other women (who are part of a women’s group from Paramaribo) that are as curious as I am to know more about Dennis’ work and the positive effects of the plants and trees in his garden.
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In his garden one can find the following tee trees and other fruits or vegetable species such as:
– Moringa Olifeira (a tree species originally from North India)
– Marva green tea
– Montji cherry
– Papaya
– Bittermelon
– Soursop
– among others
out of which he makes delicious, organic tea.
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To do so, he cuts and dries the leaves as well as small stems (see picture): for the drying process nothing more is needed than a few hours of Surinamese sunshine, provided every day for free by the sun over Suriname.
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Drink good, feel good
!

All of the teas in Dennis’ garden have special properties and health benefits, e.g. are full of antioxidants (that today’s health addicts are all craving for), are beneficial against hyper tension or diabetes.
As Dennis explains to this morning’s visitors, Moringa can be counted as one of the ‘super foods’, since it possesses more than 81 different antioxidants, all of the existing eight amino acids and is a real vitamins boost.
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After hearing this I am suddenly enjoying even more the tea offered by Dennis!

Besides tea, he is also selling 100% organic coconut oil and Moringa powder , which can also be used for cooking (I personally sprinkle it over my oatmeal in the morning).

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The fruits and vegetables growing in his garden, Dennis uses for his and his team’s own consumption as well as ingredients for the lunch offered to his visitors.
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All of his products are sold under the brand “Bun Sani”, either directly at his farm, in Paramaribo city or is even exported to Holland via the fair trade network.

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A “food rebel”

Dennis definitely is a “one in a kind”. He is 59 years old and still full of rebellious ideas that challenge the current agricultural production system as well as consumption patterns of people in Suriname today.
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In an interview with Parbode magazine (May 2014 edition), he said that people “eat trash” – due to today’s food culture that promotes a lot of unhealthy food, but that we nevertheless find very tasty or more convenient.

We have become slaves of the supermarkets.

Examples for this are easy to find: fast food and other processed foods with high sugar or salt content. In his opinion we have become “slaves of the supermarkets”: addicted to food that is easy to obtain and to prepare, while we often do not even know what’s inside of what we eat.

Food transparency

Since the sale and use of pesticides is legal in Suriname, but no regulation has been put in place to force producers to declare those pesticides as part of the ingredients list, he is lobbying for full food transparency and he himself is not using any pesticides at all (at least during his part of the production chain).
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