Governance: Strengthen Cultures and Increase Communities’ Self-Determination
Defenders of the forest need more than money to keep them on their land. Time and time again, we’ve found that communities best able to protect their forests are those with vibrant cultural traditions.
In many communities, traditions that have sustained local people over the centuries have crumbled because of outside influences. In our Governance initiatives, we assist in cultural recovery through education, knowledge transmission programs, and restoration of traditional healthcare systems. We encourage the formation of meaningful and effective institutions that strengthen the collective voice of the communities, so they may advocate for their own autonomy. We help our partners take charge of their initiatives, their forests, and their future.
Governance: Stories and Survival in the Forest
Along the Saramacca River of Suriname live the Matawai, descendants of Africans who escaped slavery by fleeing into the surrounding jungles. As we mapped their territories, we learned that Matawai elders have stories connected with over one hundred points on the map.
What do stories have to do with survival?
Rainforest survival depends on memory. Place-based stories can help a people remember where food or water can be found, or where dangers lie hidden. More importantly for the Matawai, the stories reinforce their cultural and spiritual connection to their territory, which makes them want to safeguard it. But the stories are in danger of dying out.
We work with communities to ensure that knowledge transmission continues. This is an important component of Governance. We’ve trained local youth to record the stories of their elders on audio and video, and together we are producing an interactive map of the Matawai territory. The stories of the Matawai will be connected to their places on the map, preserving their rich and illuminating cultural and biological information.