Rice Hidden By Women Fleeing Slavery In The 1700s Could Help Descendants

"Suriname’s Saamaka Maroons still grow rice from seeds an ancestor escaping from a plantation carried in her hair. Now a gene bank seeks to widen use of the rare species to help fight the climate crisis".

"When enslaved Africans escaped the Surinamese plantations overseen by Dutch colonists from the 17th to the 19th century, several women ingeniously hid rice grains in their hair to grow when they found refuge deep in the Amazon rainforest. Now, centuries later, a gene bank is working to save Suriname’s rare rice species while also preparing communities to be more resilient to the climate crisis.

In Suriname’s hinterlands, near the town of Brokopondo, Albertina Adjako, a descendant of those Africans – who became known as Maroons – carefully walks in her flip-flops through her rice seedlings. “We are worried because we had a long period of drought,” she says, inspecting her plants.

As the impacts of the climate crisis are felt globally, rural farming communities are exceptionally vulnerable to extreme climate events, such as dry spells and heavy rainfall.

A 2021 World Bank study found that Suriname was “particularly prone to major threats posed by flooding, drought and high winds during extreme weather events”. Maintaining a variety of crop species and seeds can assist these communities in meeting their food needs."

Bram Ebus reports for the Guardian January 29, 2024.

Source: Guardian, 01/30/2024