article-07082013-1dWT photo / Stefano Tull - Participants of the biodiversity congress during a press conference on Monday. Second from right is congress chair Marten Schalkwijk.Paramaribo - Suriname needs a greater awareness on the importance of biodiversity for the country and the people, says Marten Schalkwijk, chair of the Third International Congress on Biodiversity of the Guyana Shield. The four-day conference is hosted in Ballroom Torarica. Former Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo is keynote speaker.

Schalkwijk admits that people are not fully aware how important biodiversity is and that it might be gone once they understand it. Preservation of biodiversity of the countries on the Guyana Shield is important for multiple reasons. By law Suriname has allocated 15 percent of its territory as protected area, but in reality not much is done to put this protection into effect.

Barely research

There is barely research to medicinal plants which could be of importance to the global healthcare. Protected areas could earn the country revenues through scientific research, but also as sustainably managed areas for eco-tourism. Schalkwijk says that the entire population should work on building the awareness.


Traditional communities have been invited to participate in the congress and to hold presentations. Workshops and training sessions aim at making the issue more interesting to policy makers in order to draft policy. So far, ignorance has kept authorities to deal with this issue in a sound manner. Schalkwijk hopes the congress will help boost awareness among the Surinamese population.