The Kostgrondje Dynamics

A kostgrondje

Slash-and-burn agriculture is a method of land use widely adopted in the tropical areas of Americas, especially among traditional communities. It has shown to be suitable for those regions since it’s a good alternative for low fertility soils and small communal agricultural systems. It consists, roughly, of burning and then cutting the forest cover of a small area (often less than 0.5 hectares), cultivating it for around 2 years and leaving it for recovering itself for more 15-30 years. It is mostly applied at secondary forest regions that have been historically used for this activity, so being the most important factor in tropical forest dynamics at landscape level in the regions where it is practiced.

            Kostgrondjes is how surinamese people name the small agricultural areas established by the slash-and-burn method. Ricanau Mofo, one of the Maroon communities I visited in the end of 2012, rely most of its goods production on the creation of this kind of agricultural plots, having a significant percentage of its traditional land occupied by it or by its recovering areas. They plant crops for their own consumption and also for selling at Paramaribo market and Saint Laurant in Franch Guyana, thus, each year, local and national demands lead the choice of crops at their kostgrondjes. Species like papaya, maize, pumpkin, cucumber, sapropo, kouseband are mainly cultivated for the community needs while national price fluctuations regulate the choice for market cultures. For example, rice were widely planted in the past, but due to its devaluation, the community is now considering to rise their cassava production, since it showed to provide a more stable profit at the moment.

            Every family on the community, generally composed by a couple with six to eight children, has the right of cultivating a piece of land, consisting of an average area of 0,35ha. The choice of areas to be slashed and burned is made after the community’s approval and by taking into account its accessibility, soil characteristics and size and number of the families that will depend on its production. Besides all these factors, like aforesaid, a new kostgrondje can be created only in secondary forest areas, as to say, forested lands that had been used for this activity years before and then abandoned to recover its natural vegetation and consequently its soil’s nutrients and productivity. Thus, managing kostgrondje‘s productivity and rotation time is a good option not only for the improvement of communities welfare but also for increasing ecosystem stability, since it implies, for example, on reduction of clean-cut areas and their longer recovering periods.

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  1. A (very) brief Maroon ethnography | Science Without Boundaries - November 17, 2013

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