Summary of the content and discussion of the conference

Technology as Driver for Sustainable Agriculture, the case of Surinam

Delft, 8 februari 2018

The program set up started with the big picture of sustainability and entrepreneurship and focused increasingly on agriculture and then Surinam and Marowijne. Wayne Visser presented a specific conceptual approach of sustainable development that takes systemic influences and feedback loops between different areas into consideration. This is a step forward in comparison to the 16 development goals treated as separate elements. David Neven confirmed this systematic approach but now on the level of project assignment management. In his view it is important to take into account quite different elements that influence each other. For instance, increasing the produce of farmers doesn’t work if the local market is soon saturated and if export is not taken into consideration. Paul Ryan put forward his extensive experience with regional development in Ireland and elsewhere. Just to call a specific area and industrial zone doesn’t bring development. Just making plans without monitoring and being constantly on it with a number of people doesn’t work either. But if there is a coordinated effort what happened to Ireland can also happen to Surinam.

In the afternoon the focus was on Surinam. Rudi Darson and Otto Kroesen put forward an integrated approach of enhancing the entrepreneurial level of smallholder farmers. Small steps should be taken in the introduction of technology, small investments that can be dealt with by the farmer, and, importantly, a lot of emphasis on capacity training, that in turn provides relation of trust and confidence from the financial institutions involved. From there the bigger picture of growth in the region can be taken into consideration. Johan Walsche presented the outcomes of research after different communities in Surinam and their ways of living, building and using agriculture. In co-creation with the local population further steps need to be taken. The student team that just came back from Surinam told about their project, the building of the greenhouse, the design of an agricultural course, their negotiations and dealings with the school and other stakeholders regarding the question how modern agriculture for youngsters can be facilitated. The enthusiasm of a group of students and their commitment to the project sets an example and raises expectations.

An important conclusion of this conference day is that even when starting with little assets, which is the starting position of agriculture in Surinam nowadays, it is possible to make quick steps forward in a multilevel and focused approach. The participants in this conference day will take further actions and cooperate towards that goal.