Saramaccan chief Godfried Adjako was sharing their experience on Thursday with an audience at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2014, during a seminar on Participatory 3D Mapping (P3DM), led by Giacomo Rambaldi of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) and Rudi van Kanten of Trobenpos International.
Speaking through an interpreter, Debora Linga, Adjako told the audience that Trobenpos' intervention earlier this year to encourage the Saramaccan people to produce a P3D map of their territory had brought hope to a people who had lost all their lands. They were forcibly resettled after the Surinamese government built the Afobaka Dam in the 1960s, which created the Brokopondo Reservoir, flooding miles of rainforest where they had formerly lived and forcing them to move to other Saramaccan villages.
Linga said this forcible resettlement "on a daily basis...still affects our lives. Saramaccan people talk about it very often."
The P3D map, work on which was co-sponsored by CTA and completed last month, is based on the indigenous people's knowledge of their territory. It clearly plots all important points of interest, using creeks and rivers as the main markers and showing where things like hunting grounds, farms, roads, villages, forests and other infrastructure of the Saramaccan are located. It is not a scientific map but based on local, traditional knowledge.
Van Kanten explained that this map was then "geo-referenced and digitized so that it can be used in decision making." He said the map explains the Saramaccan's use of the forest to others and provides information which can then be used for planning local development, including the introduction of electricity, running water, medical posts and schools. It also serves as a means of transferring knowledge to the younger generation of Saramaccans about their people's history and traditions.
The map "models the impact of change on ecosystem goods and services and the forest livelihood," he added, which can help government officials when they are considering plans for economic development of the region.
Rambaldi is a pioneer of P3D mapping. He introduced it to the CTA where he now works and has used it in various regions around the world. Rambaldi told the audience the model mapping is increasingly used in climate change adaptation planning among SIDS. It is also used in disaster risk reduction, and the management and amelioration of territorial conflicts. It also helps indigenous people enjoy self-determination with regard to their lands.
Nevertheless, the map does not contain all important information pertaining to the Saramaccan people. Adjako explained that sacred burial grounds are not included on the map. Linga added that the location of gold reserves in the area are likewise not mapped.
She explained that the Saramaccan people thought it wise to withhold some sensitive information even though they wish to make the map widely available to others interested in the area to use. Rambaldi pointed out that in the Philippines, where some indigenous people had given full disclosure of all data available on their 3D map, they had suffered losses to thieves and others with bad intentions. "It is important to decide what information should be made public or kept confidential," he said.