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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