Mapping the Livelihoods of the Saamaka People

Mapping the Livelihoods of the Saamaka People

Suriname - 15 July, 2015

The Saamaka people live at the Upper Suriname River in the hinterlands of Suriname, an area which provides ecosystem goods and services for their livelihoods. In 2014, a participatory three dimensional mapping (P3DM) project was carried out together with 14 villages (about 5,000 people) in the northern part of the area to identify and map the geographic characteristics of the landscape and the different land uses. On 18 June 2015, a follow up to this project has been launched during an inception workshop at the village of Pikin Slee.

The new phase of the P3DM project will include 10 villages that compromise around 10.000 people. At the end of the project in April 2016, the local Saamaka people will have a 3D model as well as detailed maps of their area, accompanied with a narrative report about the way how they use the area and the present condition of the ecosystem services. They will be able to better understand their living area and explain this to outsiders. All stakeholders involved with the area will have an instrument for coordinated, sound land-use planning. This will favor biodiversity conservation and offer a basis for sustainable development.

During the inception workshop three participants of the first phase of the P3DM shared their experiences with the 68 attendees and highlighted the project benefits. Mr. Harry Linga said that the map is helping him to oversee his hunting area and serves for orientation if he wants to travel from his village Lespansi to the Afobaka Lake. He said: “You will not receive money for your presence but the project will serve meals. They organize transport, and overnight stay when necessary. At the end of the project each village and each school get a map (to teach schoolchildren). All of the villagers who participate will also receive a smaller version of the map.” Mrs. Merona Godlieb of the village of Pokigron told the attendees that they can use the map when they have to deal with people from the capital Paramaribo, or project developers: “We can now show them where our agricultural plots are and where the school is situated.” The model also serves as a platform to negotiate with other people and to show them tangible information. It also serves for spatial planning, for example when the electricity company has to locate electricity poles.

The Association of Saamaka Authorities (VSG) is the grantee of the project financed by the UNDP – Small Grants Program Suriname. Tropenbos Suriname manages the project and will carry out the work together with the Saamaka people.