Walking along the muddy shore with Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Albert Ramchand Ramdin, Mr. Guterres planted a young mangrove tree.Suriname’s beautiful, dense rainforest, which allows it to have a near-negative carbon footprint, can be seen easily from just about anywhere, even from the outskirts of the capital, Paramaribo, which itself is dotted with bustling markets and cultural centres.
Singing a beautiful prayer in his native language Kaliña, he said goodbye and told him he hoped he would remember them.
Before leaving the community, Captain Lloyd Read told the Secretary-General that he would ask Tamushi the all-mighty [the great spirit God], to give him the strength and power to go further, in a world threatened by climate change and war.
The UN chief also delivered a stark warning: “If we keep seeing the [current] scale of destruction across the world’s rainforests, we are not just biting the hand that feeds us – we are tearing it to shreds”.
After driving through iron-rich countryside, characterized by its reddish soil, Mr. Guterres was received by the Captain Lloyd Read of the Kaliña peoples, along with women and men members of the community singing and dressed in their traditional clothes with a dominant red colour.
A call from the indigenous peoples of Surinam
Earlier, the Secretary-General said that mangroves held a special meaning for him, because the first book he read as a child was about those hardy, uniquely beneficial trees and shrubs.Underlining that the big emissions emitters have a particular responsibility, Guterres highlighted that Caribbean nations are on the front lines of the climate crisis and have consistently shown steadfast leadership.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) July 2, 2022
I am happy to mark #CoopsDay in Suriname with members of agricultural cooperatives led by indigenous women & men, supported by the @UN.
They are also extremely important to our coastal environments and habitats and nursery havens for a diverse array of species. They are called the ‘kidneys of the coasts’ because of the role that they play in nutrient cycling within the coastal environment.
“This is a visit of solidarity with the indigenous communities in Suriname and around the world. When we witness that we are still losing the battle of climate change, when you see biodiversity more and more threatened everywhere, when you see pollution around the world it is very important to recognize that indigenous communities are showing the wisdom, the resilience and the will to be in peace with nature”, he told those gathered in the village.
He said that mercury contamination – mainly caused by illegal extractive activities – is also threatening indigenous lives and livelihoods.
Mangroves play an essential part in the fight against climate change, as they can capture and store huge quantities of carbon in the roots and even in the soils in which they grow.
Redi Doti village, partially nestled within Surinam’s savanna belt, an area of white silicate sand that is mostly infertile, manages to cultivate pineapples, passion fruit and cassava, which represent the community’s main source of livelihood.
Pineapples for sustainable development
Mr. Guterres stressed that rampant deforestation and worsening climate impacts are increasing forest fires and droughts.
“The challenge [we face] to protect Mother Earth and the Amazon rainforest is not appreciated and poses threats to our lives,” Mr. Lloyd lamented, adding that his people – through no fault of their own – are currently endangered by the exploitation of natural resources and the consequences of climate change such as large and sustained rainfall and flooding.
Weg Naar Zee, an easily accessible coastal area of about 10,000 acres situated north-west of Paramaribo and part of the 386 kms of the mainly muddy coastal zone of Suriname, has suffered from extreme erosion which has resulted in an absence of soft sling mud, a preferred foraging habitat for shorebirds.
The Secretary-General, noting the concerns and asking Mr. Lloyd for more details, promised to be the ‘spokesperson’ of the community during his later meeting with the Government.