The upper Suriname River area is home to about 60 Maroon villages which combined have about 15,000 people that depend on the surrounding forests for their livelihood. Additionally this forest provides other ecosystem services of great importance for Suriname, such as the potential to store carbon (that supports the national REDD+ strategy). Insufficiently planned economic development in the area, such as expansion of roads and mines, may be at the cost of local livelihoods, wildlife and ecosystem services.
Decision makers in Suriname lack the information to make land-use choices that optimize the delivery of goods and services from nature that sustain human life and enhance the economic potential of the country. Through this joint project developed by Tropenbos Suriname, WWF-Guianas, the Utrecht University, EU Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Association of Saramaka Authorities (VSG) decision makers will be assisted in identifying land-use scenarios. Using these scenarios, they can assess land-use changes and their effects on food, culture (e.g., aesthetic and recreation factors) and regulating services such as carbon sequestration and habitat provision. They can use this information to improve the planning of roads, dams, mines or areas for agriculture with reduced negative trade-offs in ecosystem services.
The identification of the scenarios will be done through mapping in close collaboration with the members of the local communities. The mapping exercise will give an insight of the acquaintance the villagers have with the provisioning services (e.g. food, raw materials, and natural medicines), cultural services (e.g. shelter and tourism) and regulating services (e.g. carbon sequestration and storage, and habitat function for biodiversity). The gathered data will be visualized both on a tri-dimensional map (model) and a bi-dimensional map. Furthermore, the mapping exercise and stakeholder consultations will clarify possible conflicting activities in the areas.
With the identified scenarios the provision and flow of ecosystem services changes will be modeled under different land use and management scenarios. These models will enable the identification of critical thresholds in the capacity of the landscape to provide ecosystem services.
Furthermore, the project will give an understanding of the interaction between land-use, ecosystem services and ecosystem service users and beneficiaries. It will become clear how local people’s lives can be affected by different land-uses. An important reason why the villagers collaborate with the project is because the generated maps are a tangible indication of the areas that are fundamental to their survival and welfare. So while Tropenbos Suriname will use the maps for modeling purposes, the villagers will use them for management plans for their territories and communication with the decision makers and other stakeholders.
July– December 2014