With proper waste management, indigenous communities in Suriname safeguard their home, the Amazon

September 7, 2022
Galibi representatives gathered for a planning meeting. Credit: VIDS

In the Surinamese Amazon, the Christiaankondre and Langamankondre indigenous communities of the Kali'na people live in harmony. Historically, they have protected the environmental wealth of the territory where for hundreds of years they have lived in communion with nature.

To ensure their interests are being represented before government institutions, the international community and local and regional dialogue spaces, the communities formed Galibi, an organization that works for the well-being of local inhabitants, pursuing projects to improve health, governance, management of natural resources and livelihoods. Galibi is a local partner in Strengthening the Capacities of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon (SCIOA), a development project led by Pact and funded by USAID.

Galibi is located within a nature reserve, and its territory is part of a sandbank, a natural barrier of stones and rocks along the coastline. To reach Galibi, visitors must travel by boat along the Maroni River (or Marowijne in Dutch). ATVs are the only means of transport within the reserve.

The area’s remoteness has helped to preserve its flora and fauna, and in general the Amazon biome where Galibi is located. But this also poses difficulties, such as in waste management, as it is complicated and expensive to move waste to where it can be properly managed.

For this reason, the government of Suriname donated to Galibi a garbage incinerator. When Galibi leaders realized they also needed supplies and training for its operation, they did not sit idly by. Together with the community, they identified the need to develop a comprehensive waste management system. As protectors of the ecosystem and defenders of nature, it was time for the organization to lead a sustainable management system that would support a common goal: to safeguard their home, the Amazon rainforest.

With support from SCIOA, Galibi has organized for a better future for local indigenous communities.

The coast of the Galibi reserve. Credit: Pact

With support from SCIOA, in partnership with the Green Heritage Fund Suriname (GHFS) and with technical guidance from VIDS (Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname), Galibi designed and launched a waste management system to complement the incineration of garbage. The system includes manuals and procedures to provide waste collection and treatment services in the reserve. It also incorporates a component of mobilization and building awareness about the importance of caring for the environment.

This effort is innovative within management systems in indigenous organizations and, in this case, the product of a collective initiative for the preservation of the Amazonian ecosystem in which two communities coexist, strengthening their ties as they learn by doing.

Thanks to its waste management system, Galibi continues to strengthen its leadership and position itself locally as a benchmark indigenous organization in the fight against climate change and for sustainability in the Amazon.