In August 2018, I embarked on my first international fieldwork as a research assistant on the Sa’amaka Rice Project with Dr. Erika Styger. The Sa’amaka are a sovereign people whose ancestors escaped enslavement in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our project focused on describing rice diversity grown by the Sa’amaka with the ultimate goal of improving collaborative in situ conservation of their unique landraces. In Suriname, Dr. Styger and I visited 14 different farmers (nearly all women) in their remote fields and collected 441 accessions representing over 50 varieties.
I created a bilingual poster that showcases twenty Sa’amaka varieties, encouraging their continued cultivation for future generations. At the request of the Gaama (paramount chief), the poster was displayed in 91 villages, several regional health centers, and a popular boating dock as a celebration of Sa’amaka agricultural heritage.
This project continues as a collaboration between Cornell, The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), and the Sa'amaka people. Updates can be found at the Cornell Climate-Resilient Farming Systems webpage.
Image: poster highlighting 20 Sa'amaka rice varieties. Text in Sa'amaka tongo reads " Our mothers and our ancestors planted many beautiful varieties of rice. These are a few, but there are many more. Let's continue to plant them, take pleasure in them, and keep them for our children and grandchildren."