ACT and the Matawai Maroon Community Formalize Partnership
On February 5, 2016, during a meeting at the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT)-Suriname Office, the granman (chieftain) of Suriname’s Matawai Maroon community, Leslie Valentijn, signed an official memorandum of understanding of collaboration with ACT. In that moment, ACT was formally welcomed to the area as a partner.
During the gathering, both parties committed to actively pursue projects within the framework of conservation and sustainable community development in the Upper Saramacca River region across ten villages. At the time of the signing, the granman of the Trio indigenous community, Asongo Alalaparu, and ACT’s Senior Director of Program Operations, Liliana Madrigal were also present, along with the famous Dutch-Surinamese soccer player Edgar Davids. The collaboration stems from an earlier initiative by the local Avittiemauw Foundation, which introduced ACT to the area.
All parties present emphasized that mutual respect and good communication are important conditions for fruitful cooperation. Granman Valentijn additionally expressed his belief in the value of ongoing traditional healthcare promotion and cultural preservation work, in addition to the potential for income generation projects. Ms. Madrigal stated that for her, it was extraordinary to have two granmans present at the same table, and said that she looks forward to seeing the close relationship between ACT and the Matawai develop. Mr. Davids, meanwhile, gave his commitment to support Surinamese initiatives to prevent pollution and improve education and healthcare, as well as to identify sporting talents and support local footballing infrastructure.
At the gathering’s close, the Matawai granman was presented with a high quality map of the Matawai territory produced by ACT, including inset maps of the ten villages along the upper Saramacca River, made with high resolution satellite imagery courtesy of ACT partner DigitalGlobe.
Conveying her greetings through the Avittiemauw Foundation, ACT Suriname Program Director Minu Parahoe thanked the Matawai for their hospitality and acceptance, and expressed her happiness that a strong and productive relationship had been built in a relatively short time.