Our Story, By Us
< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
In this piece, written especially for DevSur, former STINASU Director Muriel Held, reflects on Brownsberg and how her heart bleeds at the destruction caused by gold miners who penetrated this pristine nature park in District Brokopondo.
- Realization of the objectives set for the Suriname nature reserves, based on the nature conservation law.
- Support the Suriname Government in their efforts to protect, preserve, conserve and manage objects and areas, which are eligible for, or require protection based on nature protection legislation, incl. the nature conservation law and the Game Law.
STINASU can realize these goals with finances generated through e.g.:
- Government subsidies
- Putting to economic yet ecologic use the nature reserves of Suriname.
In reality this is translated in: Organizing environmental friendly activities (incl. nature/eco tourism) in the nature protected areas to generate funds for their development and design.
Areas of Focus are: Education and Public Awareness, Research, Nature/eco tourism.
History of the Brownsberg.
In 1970 a major part of the Brownsberg, totaling 8.418 -ha minus the Suralco concession of about 2.000 ha- was leased by the Government to STINASU for 75 years. The plateau where the lodges are located and a major part of the area, intersected by hiking trails are concession of the bauxite company Suralco. Suralco did not consider the bauxite deposits of commercial value and has given STINASU permission to exploit their concession as a Nature Park.
All their buildings -the main building, the lodges for the workers and the machine shed-, one jeep and the trail system were donated to STINASU. Suralco has since then supported STINASU in many ways and very significantly in the early days of renovation after the internal strife.
Brownsberg is considered a sacred place for the Saramaccaners. In special times, and for special rituals game and plants are hunted and collected here. When, for instance a granman dies, the Saramaccaners hunt in the area for food to be used during their gatherings and gather plants to be used during their sacred rites.
In the early years of the gold rush (18th century) until the early years of the establishment of the Park individuals were searching for gold with a batté in and around the Brownsberg. During the gold rush in the early 18th century expeditions were organized by the Government and private companies, to explore the general area of the Brownsberg. Geological research during the latter part of the 19th century indicated that gold could be found on and around the Brownsberg.
At least two mining companies were active in the area where the Park is now namely: The Montana Mine active in 1885 and at the end under ownership of John Brown, an American after whom the mountain was named and the Dutch Toeval Company, which bought the concession from the earlier exploiters of the north end of the mountain. The Toeval meer, which was named after this company and was in fact nothing more than a water-filled, abandoned open mining pit, does not exist anymore due to the merciless environment destroying activities of illegal gold-diggers, also called pork knockers.
Machines and instruments were not sophisticated enough for exploitation in the 18th and 19th century, but nowadays vast areas of tropical forested areas are converted in gruesome waste lands.
The Brownsberg Nature Park is situated in the district of Brokopondo, about 130 km south of Paramaribo. With the road paved until the intersection to Pokigron, the park entrance can be reached in about one and a half hour. In about half an hour a laterite (bauxite) road overshadowed by high tropical rainforest trees, takes you along breath taking views of valleys and ravines up to the Mazaroni Plateau from where one can have a great view of the Prof. dr. Ir. J. van Blomensteyn stuwmeer, often called Brokopondo lake, and the villages of Brownsweg at the foot of the Mountain.
Because of the geology, geography and high rate of biodiversity Brownsberg is a precursor of the mountainous forested hinterland of Suriname, making the area an excellent location for nature studies, nature education and public awareness activities and of course nature tourism.
Around 10.000 people, including tourists and nationals, students and researchers, visit the Park annually for recreation, flora and fauna observation such as bird watching, sports, conferences etc. The main attractions of the Park are the waterfalls, which don’t have enough water anymore to entertain the visitors.
The wild-west actions of the pork knockers have dramatically changed the course of creeks and streams and practically irreparable damage have been brought to the environment and the habitat of flora and fauna species in the Park.
Although the area is leased to STINASU the management has no authority to give permission for the exploitation of minerals. This is the sole prerequisite of the Government of Suriname. If the pork knockers were permitted by the management of STINASU, this organization – which was one of the first of its kind in South America, combining nature conservation with tourism – will lose all its credibility in a time where nature conservation and environmental issues are high on the international agenda of sustainable development.
Paramaribo, 21 April 2012
Muriel Held is a former Director of STINASU