Saamaka community prepares for good governance through strategic meeting

Saamaka community prepares for good governance through strategic meeting

Suriname - 16 November, 2022

Start: 11 November 2022
End: 11 November 2022

From November 16-18, a strategic meeting was organized at the Menimi resort in the Upper Suriname river area by the Association of Saamaka Authorities (VSG) and Tropenbos Suriname.

This meeting was attended by representatives from the 12 tribes (Lo's) of the Saamaka community, representatives of the VSG, Saamaka youth, a platform of traditional leaders from Brokopondo, representatives of KAMPOS and representatives of the Sara creek.
The meeting was formally opened through a cultural performance by a local Seketi group. This was followed by a speech of consultant Hugo Jabini who emphasized the purpose of the meeting (with support from TBS and TBI). He also highlighted the knowledge obtained from a Regional Exchange that took place in Colombia in August 2022* 80%94+the+saamaka+tribe+in+suriname+learns+from+indigenous+communities+from+bolivia+and+colombia

The head of Captains, Wazen Eduards, expressed his gratitude to attendees who gathered from different villages to stimulate development for their habitat. 'Guests have come over who will teach us about the right way to achieve the goals. Let us be open to receive this knowledge.'
Captain Stiefen Petrusi, chairman of the VSG Foundation Office, put forward the following: 'As a Saamaka community, we want our collective
'As a Saamaka community we want to see our collective land rights recognized. In the past agreements were made verbally and now we have learned to record things in writing. Together, young and old, men and women, we must work towards realizing our collective land use rights.'

Joost van Montfort, the new director of Tropenbos International, emphasizes the importance of climate change on the forest. It is important that good solutions are suggested from the target group. Through the efforts of the Tropenbos Suriname team, Tropenbos International wants to support these solution models.
To raise awareness about the right steps to take to obtain land use rights, a presentation was given by Pablo Ramos of the Pontifícia Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá, Colombia. The presentation highlighted, among other things, the stage of the process that Suriname is in compared to other South American countries.

In Colombia, 34.1% of indigenous land rights have been recognized versus 5.1% of African Colombians' rights. Although there is progress in this development, little land is available and there is still a long way to go. A common problem is that a small group owns a lot of land compared to the Indigenous and Afro-Colombians this group. If one wants to have collective property (rights to land) in Colombia, a well-developed development plan must be offered for the area.
In such a development plan, the laws that support the acquisition of land rights must be included. To get the land and usage rights allocated, a sustainable approach focused on climate-smart practices should be pursued.

Decreto 1745 de 1995.jpg

For Colombia, the Decreto 1745 was ratified in the year 1995. This means that under Chapter III of Act 70 of 1993, the procedure for recognizing the right to collective property of 'Lands of the Black Communities' has been adopted whereby other provisions (predetermined land decisions, agreements and/or licenses granted) are issued.

Compared to Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador, Suriname is in a favorable position with regard to the recognition of land rights for African descendants. In the aforementioned countries, the discussion has not even started yet.

La Ruta.jpg

La Ruta - the roadmap to collective land rights

Pablo Ramos outlined the different steps to arrive at a structure for achieving land rights allocation. In order to develop their own roadmap, the participants were divided into four groups consisting of traditional leadership (including female leaders), Saamaka youth and a mentor for assistance. After the brainstorming sessions, the groups presented their results, highlighting various core values ​​such as: unity and good mutual understanding, recording agreements, improved dialogue with the government, support for the VSG and the involvement of women and young people.



An interesting part of the programme was a presentation from Mr. Patricia Meulenhof on the status of the draft law on land rights. The first draft law was forwarded to the Office of the President after discussions with Saamaka and Indigenous communities and a review by a team of lawyers. A second draft law has been worked on and the difference with the first is that the composition of culture, the traditional roles in the second draft has been omitted due to technical considerations. The current draft law takes into account the diversity and decision-making of the traditional authority . The collective property rights (the use of natural resources) are different from those included in the law in relation to the 2015 Saamaka verdict, Kaliña verdict and the Moiwana verdict - 1986).

"In Suriname, the procedure for legislation is very complex because many things have to be taken into account when developing laws. The second draft law has been submitted to the Council of Ministers and forwarded to the President. Once approved by the President, this will be forwarded to the State Council which will review the pros and cons of the communities in relation to the law. Gaining institutional strengthening from both the government and the communities to build a good foundation for the passage of the Land Rights Act is the way forward.
Awareness raising about land use rights (application of Free Prior Informed Consent-FPIC) should be continued so that it can be broadly supported by the community. To support this, it must be clear: what is the role of the traditional authority, and what is the difference between traditions and customs within the decision-making process with regard to the use of the area by third parties.


After the presentation of Mr. Meulenhof proceeded to group sessions to develop a step-by-step plan based on the information obtained. These were presented immediately.
Rudi van Kanten, director of Tropenbos Suriname, noted that the brainstorming sessions showed that many things for arriving at a roadmap are already in place. TBS will continue the work from the working landscape program with the support of its partners.

To conclude the three-day activity, Head Captain Wazen Eduards, also chairman of the VSG, motivated the community to prepare now in the run-up to the approval of the law. ' We have the vision that this law will be approved in 2023, so preparations must take place now. Thanks to everyone, including those who traveled from afar to participate in this voluminous program.'