Bron: Suriname Herald
Publicatiedatum: 2 november 2023 om 06:20
Title: Climate Change Threatens Food Security and Indigenous Knowledge in Suriname
Dijon Koemapu, a resident of Apetina, a Wayana indigenous village in southeastern Suriname, wears a somber expression. The reason behind this gloom is the failure of the cassava crop. The ongoing drought has caused the cassava planting to fail, and this is a shared concern for many families in Apetina. Cassava holds a pivotal place in the diets of numerous indigenous and tribal communities, and the prolonged dry spells resulting from climate change have exacerbated the challenges they face. The repercussions of these changes extend beyond food security, affecting traditions and practices deeply rooted in indigenous culture.
Cassava, the main source of sustenance for many indigenous and tribal populations, takes approximately one and a half years to grow and be ready for harvest. Unfortunately, the prolonged periods of extreme heat, attributed to climate change, have led to dwindling cassava yields. Consequently, food security in these communities is at risk. Koemapu shares that the cassava planting had already failed two years ago due to the inundation of the farmlands. Now, extreme drought conditions have rendered the soil infertile. The shortage of cassava also jeopardizes the production of Kasiri, an alcoholic beverage consumed on special occasions by indigenous communities. Kasiri is prepared by grating and soaking the cassava plant’s roots in water. The mixture is then pressed through a matapi, a woven tube, to extract the juice. The extracted juice is boiled to remove toxins and then fermented and strained to produce the final product. Additionally, the preparation of cassava bread is also at risk. The remaining cassava meal in the matapi is used to bake cassava bread, a daily staple often enjoyed with Pepre Watra, a traditional beverage.
The Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Knowledge
According to the United Nations, 80 percent of the world’s total biodiversity can be found in indigenous communities. Koemapu laments that it is disheartening to see indigenous people suffering the consequences of climate change, as they have been the stewards of the environment for generations. “We have lived in harmony with the forest since the dawn of humanity. We contribute the least to climate change, yet we are among the groups most severely affected,” expresses Koemapu. He explains that they are now forced to seek alternative locations for farmland. Drawing on their ancestral knowledge, they had identified fertile lands for centuries. However, these lands are now submerged or rendered infertile due to climate change. “We must now search for lands that are often kilometers away from what we are accustomed to,” he explains.
The changing weather patterns have disrupted traditional wisdom. Koemapu recounts how Wayana people used to rely on specific sounds from nature to anticipate seasonal changes. For instance, they would listen for the sound of a bell-like insect to signify the onset of the dry season in July or August. This indicated the need to weed and clear the farmland. Similarly, another type of sound would signal the beginning of the wet season, such as the minor rainy season in December. However, these patterns have been disrupted due to shifting weather conditions. Koemapu also highlights changes in river water levels. He notes that this year, there is a significant difference in water levels compared to the same period in the previous year. The water level is notably lower this year, and the intensity of the sun’s heat surpasses that of the previous year.
This article is published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.