Despite being one of South America's smallest nations, Suriname has one of the most ethnically varied populations in the continent. Its economy is reliant on its abundant natural resources, particularly bauxite, of which it is one of the world's leading producers. Almost the whole southern quarter of the nation is covered in beautiful tropical rainforest.
Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guiana, became independent on November 25, 1975 after serving as a plantation colony for the Netherlands. The nation was ruled by a series of military governments from 1980 until 1987. In 1987, a new civil constitution was approved. 1990 saw yet another military takeover, but the following year saw a return to civilian authority. On the Suriname River, the nation's capital, Paramaribo, is about 9 miles (15 km) from the Atlantic Ocean.
Suriname is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Guyana on the western edges. As a result of colonial control, Suriname is embroiled in territorial disputes with both Guyana and French Guiana. The New River Triangle, a 6,000 square mile (15,600 square km) region in southern Guyana between two tributaries of the Courantyne River, is the focal point of the dispute with Guyana. Along with claiming the New River Triangle, Suriname also disputes its border with Guyana along the Courantyne.
Suriname asserts control over the entire river and regards its west bank as the border, but Guyana asserts that the thalweg, or deepest channel of the river, is the border. Another lengthy border dispute between the two nations was resolved in 2007 by a United Nations international tribunal, and Suriname was given one-third of the disputed Caribbean Sea region. The 5,000 square mile (13,000 square km) region in French Guiana's southwest between the Itany and Marouini rivers is the area that is in dispute with that country.
The 226 miles (364 km) long, narrow coastal zone is made up of mudbanks and sandbanks that have been deposited by southern equatorial currents from the region around the mouth of the Amazon River (located to the east of Suriname, in Brazil). The New Coastal Plain, which was likewise created using sand and clay from the entrance of the Amazon, begins south of the mudbanks. Swampland makes up the majority of the area, which is about 6,600 square miles (17,000 square km) in size. The marshes' soil is clay, and a lot of peat has grown there. Sandy ridges that follow the coastline cut through the area. The 1,550 square mile Old Coastal Plain lies south of the New Coastal Plain (4,000 square km).
It has a range of topographies, including old ridges, clay flats, and swamps, and is primarily composed of fine clays and sands. The Zanderij formation, a region of undulating hills measuring 40 miles (64 km) in width, is located south of the Old Coastal Plain. This formation is supported by quartz-rich layers of bleached sand. Tropical rainforest covers the majority of the area, but marshes and savanna grassland are also present. A big tropical rainforest covers these highlands, which lie further to the south and border Brazil. This region is mostly made up of a major mountain range, its many branches, and isolated hilly places. Juliana Top in the Wilhelmina Mountains has a height of 4,035 feet (1,230 meters), making it the highest summit. The Sipaliwini Plain, another savanna region, is located in the southwest, close to the Brazilian border.
Soils and Drainage
Major rivers of Suriname pour into the Atlantic from the north. The Maroni, which forms part of the border with French Guiana, the Coppename, the Suriname, and the Courantyne, which is part of the border with Guyana, are among them. The most productive soils in Suriname are found in the flooded areas that have been reclaimed by diking and drainage (polders), which are mostly on the New Coastal Plain.
Suriname experiences tropical climate. A minor rainy season runs from early December to early February, a minor dry season from early February to late April, a major rainy season runs from late April to mid-August, and a major dry season runs from mid-August to early December. In Paramaribo, daytime temperatures typically vary from 70 to 90 °F (21 to 32 °C). Interior temperature extremes can fluctuate by up to 20 degrees during the day. However, there is only a 3 degree difference in average temperature between the warmest month, September, and the coldest, January. The country's middle and southeast regions experience the most rainfall. In the west, annual rainfall is on average 75 inches (1,900 mm), whereas in Paramaribo it is 95 inches (2,400 mm).
Animal and Plant Life
More people are familiar with the coastline region's vegetation than the interior. It has a great variety of mosses, weeds, and mildews along with about 4,000 types of ferns and seed plants. A heterogeneous forest made up of more than 1,000 different tree species covers over 90% of Suriname. Plywood is produced from the baboen (Virola surinamensis), a plant that grows along the ocean. The kapok (Ceiba pentandra) towers above 150 feet in height (45 meters). In west-central Suriname, the almost 3,950,000-acre (1,600,000-hectare) Central Suriname Nature Reserve was created in June 1998. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 and is one of the largest rainforest protected areas in the world.
There are about 150 different types of mammals, including anteaters, sloths, armadillos, jaguars, ocelots, wild pigs, deer, and monkeys. The largest terrestrial mammal is the tapir. Caimans, iguanas, and the boa constrictor are examples of reptiles. Marine turtles, which are legally protected, use the beaches along the eastern portion of the coast as a nesting habitat. There are 650 known species of birds, including vultures, parrots, and hummingbirds. There are about 350 different fish species in inland and coastal waters.
The economy of Suriname is reliant on mineral resources, particularly oil, gold, and bauxite, which is used to produce alumina, which is used in the smelting of aluminum metal. Agriculture and remittances, primarily from the Netherlands, French Guiana, and the United States, are the main sources of revenue in addition to natural resources. Suriname includes Caribbean Community, an association of nations and dependent territories in the Caribbean.
Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture
About half of Suriname's land is cultivated, and less than 1% of it is arable. The New Coastal Plain contains the majority of the farming. Due to an abundance of precipitation in this area, drainage is required for the most of the year. During dry spells, evaporation outweighs precipitation, necessitating irrigation.
The primary crop and staple food in Suriname, rice, is grown on more than half of the country's arable land. Every year, there are two rice harvests, the main crop is harvested in the spring, and a second crop is harvested in the autumn. In addition to bananas, citrus fruits, coconuts, and palm oil, some rice is also exported. Formerly significant export commodities like sugar, coffee, and cocoa are now primarily produced for domestic use.
Great timber resources are present in Suriname because more than 90% of the country is covered in forests, although they have not yet been fully utilized. Timber and plywood are exported. Shrimp are exported to North America by a tiny fishing sector based in Paramaribo.
Power and Resources
The main mineral of Suriname is bauxite, which is mined close to Paranam and Overdacht. The value of gold mining has increased. Suriname also has reserves of chromium, clay, copper, diamonds, iron ore, manganese, nickel, platinum, and tin.
Production activities at the nearby Calcutta field started in 2006, and the State Oil Company of Suriname (Staatsolie) produces a substantial amount of oil from wells in the Tambaredjo region, from which some crude oil is exported. In the 1990s, a minor refinery was built there. Since the maritime border dispute with Guyana was resolved, offshore oil exploration in the Guyana-Suriname Basin has resumed.
Electricity for the bauxite-refining operations at Paranam is produced by the Brokopondo Dam and a hydroelectric power plant on the Suriname River. The dam creates W.J. van Blommestein Lake, which covers 1,550 square kilometers and 600 square miles.
Administration and Society
According to the constitution of 1987, the 51-member National Assembly, which is chosen by the people, has legislative authority. The National Assembly also chooses a president and vice president. Members of the National Assembly, the Vice President, and the President each have a five-year tenure. A non-elective, military-influenced Council of State, whose head is the president, oversees the government's adherence to the law. It has the authority under the Constitution to revoke laws passed by the National Assembly. A Court of Justice and cantonal courts make up the legal system. The Caribbean Court of Justice, the last resort court for people from the Caribbean Community, has Suriname as a member.
In 1987, Suriname formed local government. Districts and ressorten (sub districts) make up its divisions. An executive branch of government and a representation are present in every district. District Raden (district councils) are in charge of the former, while districtsbestuur (district administrations) are in charge of the latter. There is only one representative branch run by ressort raad (subdistrict councils) at the subdistrict level. At the nation's general elections, which are held every five years, the district and sub district councils are chosen.
The right to vote for all Surinamese citizens, regardless of age, was established in 1948. Political activism and party membership have developed along clear ethnic lines. Javanese, Creoles, and South Asians have all contributed significantly to the growth of the nation's constitutional democracy. The Suriname National Party (Nationale Partij Suriname; NPS) was created by Creoles, the Progressive Reform Party (Vooruitstrvende Hervormde Partij; VHP) is a significant Hindu party, and the Pendawa Lima ("Five Sons of King Pandu") is mostly a Javanese party.
In order to topple the existing government, the Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), also known as the Jungle Commando and primarily made up of Maroons, was founded in 1986. The National Army attacked Maroon settlements in reprisal. Many Maroons fled to French Guiana as a result of the killing and detention of numerous individuals. Most of them moved back to Suriname, where they have economic control over the use of their lands, following the signing of a formal peace accord in 1992.
Suriname is a multicultural society with peaceful cultural interaction between its ethnic groupings. Since independence, the works of artists from many ethnic groups have gained increasing attention. Fine arts, such as painting and sculpture, were typically middle-class concerns controlled by Western cultural ideals. Culinary traditions transcend ethnic boundaries, as Chinese, South Asian, Javanese, Creole, and Western African flavors are frequently combined.
The artistic traditions of Suriname come from various ethnic groups. For instance, people of Javanese descent fund several gamelan (Indonesian orchestra) ensembles. Indians and Maroons in Suriname established a robust handicrafts sector that produced vibrant fabrics, baskets, and wood carvings for export.
The languages used the most in Surinamese writing are Dutch, Sranan, and Hindi. Albert Helman, whose published works include numerous volumes of fiction and plays, Martinus Haridat Luchtman, who writes under the pen name Shrinivasi and has authored several poetry books, Astrid Roemer, a well-known novelist, and Cynthia McLeod, a writer of historical fiction with a number of historical novels that have found a large audience in both Suriname and the Netherlands.
Musicians from Paramaribo that combine indigenous genres of kaseko (dance music incorporating Western march, jazz, and calypso), kawina (a type of Creole pop music), and winti (ritual music) to create a distinctively Surinamese brand of Afro-Caribbean jazz are examples of Surinamese musical groups. Western African musicians have joined forces with groups from Suriname in recent years, adding talking drums and thumb pianos (lamellaphones) to their equipment.