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Kwamalasamutu

Kwamalasamutu is a Trio Indian village in the Sipaliwini District in southern Suriname. It is located close to the Brazilian border. Literally, Kwamalasamutu means ´bamboo sand´, reflecting its position next to the sandy banks of the Sipaliwini River, where it was founded. The village is home to the Paramount Chief of the northern Trios.

The region consists of vast tracts of northern Amazon rainforest that is renowned for its rich and unique biodiversity. The village of Kwamalasamutu is remote and quite isolated. It is not connected to other places by roads. However, nowadays a number of flights arrive every week from the capital city of Suriname Paramaribo. Traditionally, the Trio Indians used the rivers to move from one village to another. When the population of one village grew too big for the environment, some families moved away upriver to settle somewhere else. In Kwamalasamutu however, people now tend to stay more permanently. Over the years, families of several different Indian tribes have settled here. Currently, the population has grown over 1000 people. This is now resulting in the overexploitation of fish and wildlife stocks. With this development, the dependency on products being brought in from Paramaribo is growing.

Inhabitants of the village have been living here mainly from fishing, hunting and small scale agriculture. A variety of crops such as cassava, banana and sweet potatoes are being cultivated on small crop fields, the so-called ‘kostgrondjes’. These crop fields are located close to the village. As in many Trio communities, cassava is the staple food. It is widely grown and processed into cassava bread, meal and wine. Usually the women carry the harvested cassavas from the fields back the village and process it. Men are in charge of hunting and fishing. They hunt on mammals such as deer, tapir, peccary, agoutis, monkeys and also on a number of forest birds. Except for chicken, the community does not keep and breed livestock.

The traditional way of life in Kwamalasamutu is being influenced by the arrival of a number of modern day facilities such as gasoline powered boat engines, solar panels, a central generator, a medical clinic and a large primary school. Besides this, many of the young people move out of the village in order to study in Paramaribo or find jobs elsewhere. The village chief admits that the traditional Trio culture and even the local language are gradually disappearing in Kwamalasamutu. Efforts to restore the historical proud are very much appreciated. This is one of the reasons why project COBRA has been welcomed here. Another reason is the participatory way in which COBRA operates. It is mainly the indigenous people themselves exchanging knowledge and expertise and thereby motivating each other to find and share best practices in terms of sustainable resource management.

In Kwamalasamutu COBRA hopes to play a significant role in recognising the importance of conserving community traditions and learning from the way Trio Indians have been able to sustainably manage this region without depleting its valuable resources. Using a system viability approach, COBRA intends to provide better insight in the threats faced by the village of Kwamalasamutu and the opportunities villagers have to respond to emerging challenges.

QUICK DOWNLOAD: Check out the English version of the COBRA Handbook for Practitioners.