Fifty years ago, some 5000 Saramaccan people of Suriname had to leave their traditional lands along the Suriname River due to the construction of a major dam. The wounds of this transmigration are still felt today. Meanwhile, the Saramaccans who live in the Upper Suriname River area face new challenges since their territorial rights are not yet officially recognized and road infrastructure to access the area is improving. Creating a 3D model of the area that tells the inside story of their traditions and land use can help them to overcome their sense of being misunderstood by decision-makers and rediscover their voice.
The 15 min video production "The enabling power of participatory 3D mapping among the Saramaccan People of Suriname" has been launched on October 9 at the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture in Paramaribo. The launch occurred during the session "Maps as media in policy processes: Bringing the 3rd dimension to the negotiating table" in the presence of representatives from the Saramaccan community.
The launch was followed by reflections done by Saramaccan representatives Mr Godfried Adjako, one of the captains of the village of Kaajapati, and Ms Debora Linga who spent her infancy with her grandparents on their farm on the shores of the Brokopondo Reservoir and later on kept visiting them in Ginginston village along the banks of the Upper Suriname River.
Mr Godfried Adjako recalled that in the process of populating the 3D model the community, especially the youth, learned a lot from the elders. "The map now shows our life, the Earth we live on, the Earth we walk on, the Earth without which we cannot live."
"We can use the map to take decisions on where to locate future developments", he added. Both men and women contributed to the map. "Women know a lot about the surrounding of the villages, while men who use to go hunting, know the most about far away areas."
Mr Adjako stated that when developing the legend ahead of the mapping exercise, the community decided to omit sensitive and confidential information. Therefore the data contained in the model and currently being digitised by Tropenbos international Suriname should be considered as publicly available.
The P3DM process has been a discovery journey for young Debora. "In the 60's my grandparents had to resettle because their village had been submerged by the rising waters of the Brokopondo Reservoir . They resettled along the Upper Suriname River in a village called Ginginston where I grew up. I could not understand the reason why my grandfather kept on navigating a long way along the river to reach the shores of the lake where he was growing watermelon" she said. "I discovered the reason while chatting with an elder who explained to me that transmigrating families were welcome by Saramaccan villages uphill the lake, but were granted limited access to resources. In fact they were sort of borrowing the land from people who occupied it for generations. Thus they only had access to small farming areas. In Saramaccan this is how you feel: they were living on somebody else's land."