Fieldwork in Suriname 2013

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Fieldwork took place in the Aucan village of Mooytaki (Tapanahoni) and the Saramaccan village of Jaw-jaw (Upper Suriname River) in 2013 by principal researcher Van Andel and three MSc students (two from Wageningen and one from Leiden University). Research focused on:

1. Crops that crossed the Middle Passage: the cultivation of Old World crops by Suriname Maroons.
Research questions include: Which landraces of African and other Old World crops are being cultuivated by Aucan and Saramaccan Maroons?
Are these "ancestor crops" needed to prepare traditional Maroon dishes?
Do these landraces correspond with those grown by ancestral tribes in Western Africa?
Which landraces are no longer cultivated and why?

2. Plants use for cultural-bound health concepts among Suriname Maroons.
Research questions include:
What plants do Aucan Maroons use for the cultural bound health issues like 'atita' and 'ogri ai', to close the fontanelles of babies and to stimulate children to walk early?
Do Suriname Maroons define these health concepts in the same way as people do in Ghana, Benin and Gabon?
Did Afro-Surinamers and Western Africans select taxonomically related plant taxa for these cultural-bound health issues?

Researchers cooperate with the National Herbarium of Suriname (BBS) and the Flora of the Guianas consortium.

Fieldwork in Suriname 2006.

From January to July 2006, we regularly visited places of business in Paramaribo that sold herbal medicine, including markets, street vendors, and several shops. We also visited rural markets in Albina, Nickerie, and Moengo and crossed the border into French Guiana to record the herbs that were sold by Surinamese Maroons in Saint Laurent du Maroni (Figure 1). The markets in Paramaribo were visited at least once a week during the 7-month fieldwork period, the Albina market was visited around 10 times and the other markets only once or twice. As this market survey was part of a larger ethnobotanical research project, we could accompany the market vendors to their harvesting sites and collect fertile vouchers for the majority of the medicinal species sold at the markets. Moreover, we questioned several vendors about the amount of plant material they harvested, bought, sold, and discarded per week, as well as the scarcity and popularity of the plants they traded. We set up a Prior Informed Consent contract with the Nature Conservation Division of the Suriname Forest Service (L.B.B.) that was signed by our principal informants.

In the first two months, we worked with several Maroon interpreters. After becoming familiar with most of the commercial species, their uses, and their vernacular names and after learning the local Sranantongo language and the basics of two Maroon dialects, we conducted a systematic quantitative survey of 46 market stalls in April-May 2006. Since we depended on the vendors’ willingness to participate, we could not draw a random sample of market stalls. We do not, however, feel that stand size, locality, the type of items sold, or the vendors’ ethnicity or ability to speak Dutch had any influence on the seller’s trust of foreigners and, as a result, biased our data. We are confident that the participants’ stalls and wares sufficiently represented the herbal stands found in the Paramaribo markets at the time of the survey. Similar to Williams et al. (2005), we produced a species-accumulation curve to ensure an adequate sampling effort. Per stand, we inventoried all of the plant products sold, the amount of local sales units per species in stock, the size of the stand, the vendor’s village of origin, ethnicity and gender. Depending on their stock size, the vendors received between $2 and $10 for their contribution. Unknown species were purchased and prepared as herbarium specimens. We recorded the prices and weighed the units in which the material was sold (bundle, bottle, bag, piece of wood/bark/root) for the majority of the species, and estimated the rest. In addition, we measured the total length of occupied herb stalls on both quiet and busy days to estimate marketed volumes. On several occasions, we visited the markets early on Monday mornings when the middlemen and wholesalers arrived with fresh plants from the interior forests. From these data, we could calculate the weight of plant material offered for sale per meter, and subsequently estimate the total annual sales per market.

Finally, we visited three shipping agents for information regarding the amount of herbal medicine exported annually. We also spoke to exporters and customs officers. A complete set of voucher specimens was deposited at both the National Herbarium of Suriname (BBS) and the Utrecht branch of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (U).