Young forest rangers protecting the Amazon forest in Suriname
Hovering above the immense canopy of Suriname’s Amazon forest, a drone captures bird’s-eye images of a group of young people as they prepare to enter the trees. Domitsio, Fransje, Fernando and Priscilla have all grown up in the nearby village of Pusugrunu on the Saramacca river, and they know this area well.
Now the four friends - who have all been trained as Forest Rangers - are using their local knowledge to help protect the rainforest. Today they will spend their time inspecting, measuring, and collecting data on logging in the forest. Johan, their trainer, gives them last details before they drive into the forest using the skills and the equipment they’ve acquired during their training.
The Forest Rangers are young men and women trained by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) through the EU’s flagship climate change programme GCCA+. ACT aims to establish a conservation rangers programme across the Matawai Maroon territory to improve local monitoring and data collection.
Before leaving the village to go into the forest, the rangers make a stop at the local school where Fransje shows the students a documentary film about the traditions and lands of the Matawai people. The Matawai Maroons of Suriname, descendants of formerly enslaved Africans who fled into the rain forest, have lived in their ancestral territory for hundreds of years.
Then it’s into the pickup trucks and the dense Amazon forest, where felled tree trunks can be seen on the side of the road, cut down by the logging companies working in this part of the forest. Fernando and Domitsio inspect, measure, and record the trees cleared to make a new road, while Priscilla writes down the data.
The youngsters come across a tree which has been cut down and pushed to one side by a logging company to create what’s known as a ‘skid trail’ - a temporary road to give access to new timber clearing sites. The rangers are effectively the eyes and ears of the community’s leaders, helping them to act more quickly when crises arise, such as illegal incursions by miners or loggers. Documenting the number, type and location of the felled trees is an important part of the Forest Rangers’ training.
The ACT training programme aims to strengthen the government’s capacity to collect data and monitor logging on the ground, and thus protect the remaining forest landscapes.
The Forest Rangers conduct regular reconnaissance and monitoring expeditions in the forest to understand Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) principles, protect biodiversity, deter incursions, and prevent environmentally destructive practices. Training local people taps into the communities’ desire for sustainable development, income generation and food security. Once the training programme is complete, at least a third of the Forest Rangers will be young women like Fransje and Priscilla.
At the end of a long day in the forest, Priscilla heads back to Pusugrunu to be with her young children. Tomorrow the rangers will meet up again to discuss and review the data that they collected - and plan their next field trip.