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Saamaka rice ‘… for our children and our grandchildren.’

From Plant Sciences Major Rosemary Glos ‘20:

rice poster

Poster text: Our mothers and our ancestors planted many beautiful varieties of rice. These are a few, but there are many more. Let’s continue to plant them, take pleasure in them, and keep them for our children and grandchildren.

This poster depicts 20 of the unique rice varieties grown by the Saamaka people of Suriname.

Rice is a staple crop among the Saamaka, a culturally, politically, and economically independent maroon people from the upper Suriname River. Rice cultivation and consumption are intimately linked to Saamaka cultural identity and oral history dating back to their escape from slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Traditional rice cultivation may be under threat from a variety of environmental and cultural factors, including land degradation, rising population, and loss of rice-growing knowledge. Saamaka farmers, all of them women, grow an impressive array of rice varieties on small slash and burn plots.

In July of 2018, Dr. Erika Styger and I traveled to Suriname, where we documented over 50 distinct cultivars, interviewed farmers, and collected seeds for export. Back in Ithaca, we are obtaining genetic data in collaboration with professors Susan McCouch and Chelsea Specht and postdoc Jacob Landis.

We hope to work with Saamaka farmers to improve yields, preserve genetic diversity in situ, and encourage farming systems that replenish the soil and minimize deforestation.


  1. Linda Yannone says:

    Lovely variability.

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