Suriname’s beautiful, dense rainforest, which allows it to have a near-negative carbon footprint, is easily visible from anywhere, even from the outskirts of the capital, Paramaribo, where areas are located bustling market and cultural center.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres Witness firsthand the Surinamese commitment to preserving natural treasures and ancestral knowledge.
“The rainforest is a precious gift to humanity. That is why from here in Suriname, I want to send a message to the world: We must honor and preserve the gift of the rainforest because this is not a gift that will continue to be given,” Guterres told reporters during a joint press conference with President Chan Santokhi at the end of his first day in the country.
The head of the United Nations also issued a stark warning: “If we continue to see [current] The scale of destruction across the world’s rainforests, we’re not just biting the hand that feeds us – we’re tearing it to pieces.”
Mr. Guterres willaddress that rampant deforestation and increasingly severe climate impacts are increasing wildfires and droughts.
“This is infuriating and shameful. It is global suicide in slow motion,” he said, adding that such devastation should be a global wake-up call to save the lungs of our planet.
UN Photo / Evan Schneider
A call from the indigenous people of Surinam
Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General visited the indigenous village of Pierre Kondre – Redi Doti, 67 km south of the capital, surrounded by 9,000 hectares of forest and home to about 100 residents.
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) July 2, 2022
After driving through the iron-rich countryside, characterized by red soil, Mr. Guterres was received by Captain Lloyd Read of the peoples of Kaliña, along with female and male members of the singing and wearing community. their traditional dress with the dominant red color. .
“Challenges [we face] to protect Mother Earth and the Amazon rainforest are undervalued and pose threats to our lives,” lamented Mr Lloyd, adding that his people – through no fault of their own – are now are threatened by the exploitation of natural resources and the consequences of climate. changes such as heavy and continuous rainfall and flooding.
He says mercury pollution – mainly caused by illegal mining activities – is also threatening the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.
“In the South, life is ruined by Mercury. No fish, no meat and no clean water to drink. Even extremely high levels of this metal have been found in the hair of our natives,” he said.
Secretary General, noting the concerns and asking Mr. Lloyd for further details, promise to be the ‘speaker’ of the community in his subsequent meeting with the Government.
“This is a visit of solidarity with indigenous communities in Suriname and around the world. When we see that we are still losing the battle on climate change, when you see biodiversity increasingly threatened everywhere, when you see pollution all over the world, It is very important to recognize that indigenous communities are demonstrating wisdom, resilience and the will to be in nature,” he told people gathered in the village.
Pineapple for sustainable development
The village of Redi Doti, located partly in the savanna belt of Surinam, an area of white silicate sand mostly of degraded soil, manages to grow pineapple, passion fruit and cassava, the main sources of livelihood of the community.
Today’s visit coincides with mineInternational Cooperative Dayand Mr. Guterres were able to view the work of two cooperatives supported by the UN and its agencies, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as the European Union.
One such cooperative, led by local women, creates products derived from organic pineapples, such as jams, juices and fruit cups. Another cooperative dealing with the farming process is trying to turn the pineapple harvest into a full-year production instead of a seasonal one.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the inclusion of indigenous and tribal communities in economic prosperity is critical. While they represent only 4% of the total population, their rights to the land cover more than 80% of Suriname’s territory, but they are not officially recognized by national law.
Before leaving the community, Captain Lloyd Read told the Secretary General that he would ask for the almighty Tamushi [the great spirit God], to give him the strength and power to go further, in a world threatened by climate change and war.
Singing a beautiful prayer in Kaliña’s native language, he said goodbye and told him that he hoped he would remember them.
“Indigenous peoples have not contributed to climate change, but they are among the most affected. At the same time, they have solutions from which the world can learn a lot. They are the proud defenders of the planet’s indispensable biodiversity and they need support to do so,” the UN chief emphasized later in a press conference.
UNDP Suriname / Pelu Vidal
Planting hope with mangroves
From the woods, the Secretary-General headed out to the beach, where he could see the devastating effects of climate change, increasing shoreline erosion, flooding and sea level rise.
The Weg Naar Zee, an easily accessible coastal area of approximately 10,000 acres located northwest of Paramaribo and part of the 386 km2 of Suriname’s mostly muddy coast, has suffered severe erosion resulting in severe erosion. no soft mud, a preferred feeding habitat for coastal birds.
Since 2016, the UN has supported the country’s efforts, led by academics and students, to strengthen conservation, nature restoration and mangrove restoration. One such project, led by Anton de Kom University in Suriname, installs sediment-trapping structures along the coast and plants to repair the damage.
Walking along the muddy bank with Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Albert Ramchand Ramdin, Mr. Guterres planted a young mangrove tree.
“Nature-based solutions – such as the conservation of mangroves, rainforests and other essential ecosystems – are crucial. The world needs more of such initiatives“He told the press.
Earlier, the Secretary-General said that mangroves had a special meaning to him, because the first book he read as a child was about dense, unique and beneficial trees and shrubs.
Mangroves play an essential role in the fight against climate change, as they can capture and store large amounts of carbon in their roots and even in the soil in which they grow.
They are also extremely important to our environment and coastal habitats and are home to many different species of organisms. They are known as the ‘kidneys of the coast’ because of their role in nutrient cycling in coastal environments.
UNDP Suriname / Pelu Vidal
A special example
“What I have seen here in Suriname gives me hope and inspiration. But what we are seeing globally is a cause of deep shock and anger,” Guterres added in an interview late in the day.
The UN chief stressed that, unfortunately, Suriname stands out as an exception in a world headed in the wrong direction.
“Across the world, we are seeing the failure of climate leadership and the rise of catastrophic climate disruption… To achieve the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030.However, current national climate commitments will lead to a 14% increase in emissions by 2030,” he warned.
Guterres stressed that major emitters have a special responsibility, noting that Caribbean nations are on the front lines of the climate crisis and have always shown unwavering leadership.
“As I saw today, we have the tools and the know-how. Our world needs political will and solidarity to make the difference it needs. Suriname and the Caribbean region are leading the way forward. We must follow that lead – for people, for posterity and for our planet,” he concluded.
The Secretary-General will be in Surinam until Sunday, when he will attend the opening of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).